A Nice Contract For A Top Cornerback

Adam Shefter reported that the Packers have re-signed Jaire Alexander. The details are up on over the cap, which did not credit Shefter, so I infer that they have different sources. The extension reduces Alexander’s cap number from $13,294 million to $7,076 million, thereby generating a cap savings of $6,218 million.

There are no surprises in the terms. Many people, including me, predicted that Alexander would get $21 or $22 million per year plus the $13.29 million he was due in 2022 on his fifth year option for a 5-year deal in the area of ​​$97.3 to $102.3 million. Alexander will earn $98,076 million over the next five years. That’s $21 million a year in new money. The average over five years is $19,615 million if Alexander plays out the full term of the contract. As is normal in the NFL, the Packers did not rip up the fifth-year extension term; instead the team just tacked four years onto it.

The structure is the same as the Packers normally use. There is a $30 million signing bonus (a record for a defensive back) paired with a $1,076 million base salary, which is almost the minimum. [No, I don’t know why the base was not the actual minimum of $1.035 million.] However, the signing bonus is the only fully guaranteed money. Other top cornerbacks have been able to secure larger amounts of fully guaranteed money plus partially guaranteed money. That said, that has been the modus operandi of the Packers for many years. Let’s look to see pros and cons of this structure.

CASH FLOW:

YR Alexander Howard Lattimore Ramsey Ward
1 $31.07M/31.68% $18.25M/20.27% $17.74M/16.45% $26.29M/23.1% $21.03M/18.26%
2 $45.07M/45.96% $36.5M/40.55% $41.85M/38.80% $43.79M/38.48% $44.07M/38.47%
3 $61.07M/62.27% $55.0M/61.1% $56.35M/52.25% $58.79M/51.66% $60.07M/52.43%
4 $78.57M/79.61% $71.75M/79.72% $71.35M/66.16% $75.79M/66.61% $74.07M/64.65%
5 $98.07M/100% $90.0M/100% $89.35M/82.85% $94.79M/83.30% $94.07M/82.11%
6 $104.85M/100% $113.79M/100% $114.57M/100%

The cash flow is always good in year one for the Packers since they use such large signing bonuses. The only good comparison is with Howard (not on the dollar amount so much as on the percentages) because Howard’s deal is also paid out over five years. Alexander’s deal is strong as usual through year two, but then settles into the standard percentages for year three and beyond.

I previously wrote an article about cash flow (Extending Adams† In that article, I showed the cash flow percentages for my proposed extension of Davante Adams at $20,959 million per year ($22M AAV in new money). As it happens, that deal proposed reducing Adams’ base of $13.25 million to the minimum, which is similar to reducing Alexander’s fifth year option of $13.294 million to the minimum. The proposed cash flow for Adams was $13%, 47%, 61.6%, 79.6%, and 100%. The dollar amounts were very similar and other than year one, the cash flow were very similar to the deal Alexander just signed.

Guaranteed Money:

I also previously wrote an article (Avoiding The Albatross) in which I discussed the high signing bonuses used by the Packers in comparison to the Bears, Vikings and Lions while simultaneously fully guaranteeing less as a percent of the total contract value than those teams. The Packers fully guaranteed 30.59% for Alexander. Here is that table reprinted below (SB% = the signing bonus as a percentage of the total value of the contract; FG = Fully Guaranteed Percentage):

player SB % player SB % FG% player SB % FG %
Rodgers 37.87 Fuller 32.14 GB Cousins 100 100
Graham 36.66 goldman 26.19 26.19 Kendricks 21.00 23.28
bakh 33.33 Mack 24.11 42.55 Hunter 20.83 23.47
Williams 32.50 Burton 21.87 56.25 Diggs 20.83 23.47
Linsley 31.37 Trevathan 26.86 48.21 Smith 19.51 29.81
perry 31.09 hicks 15.62 45.83 Reiff 18.72 44.77
Adams 31.03 Gabriel 15.38 53.85 Rudolph 17.81 34.63
Taylor 30.30 Robinson 14.29 42.86 Rhodes 17.12 28.56
Daniels 29.26 leno 12.16 37.02 Joseph 12.00 22.30
bulaga 23.70 amukama 11.11 66.67 griffen 03.45 32.41

[To refresh memories, the Packers’ signing bonus is the same as the percentage that is fully guaranteed (except for Rodgers).  For Chicago, Fuller signed an offer sheet submitted by Green Bay, so his deal used the Packers’ structure under which the signing bonus equaled the fully guaranteed percentage.  The Vikings generally did not fully guarantee much more than the Packers did (except for Cousins and Reiff), but they do use smaller signing while guaranteeing either a roster bonus or some of all of a base salary in year 2.  Chicago uses smaller signing bonuses but tended to guarantee significant amounts in year two by using guaranteed roster bonuses or base salaries.]

Alexander Howard Lattimore Ramsey Ward
SB% 30.59% 19.02% 7.1% 17.59% 17.46%
FG% 30.59% 40.33% 41.9% 38.4% 38.84%
PG% 30.59% 44.78% 64.57% 62.62% 62.19%
AAV $21.0M $18.0M $19.4M $20.0M $20M
By YR 19,615M $16.09M $17.641M $18.95M 19.1M
Total: $98,076M $96.56M $105.84M $113.7M $114.57M

Xavien Howard received a $17.115 million signing bonus, and his year one and two base salaries were fully guaranteed, bringing the amount fully guaranteed to $36.3 million. $4 million of his year three salary becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster in March of 2024 (2024 is year 3). That factor plus a $3 million roster bonus also due in March of 2024 means the team must decide his roster status that year quickly. Alexander’s deal has no such triggers for guaranteeing salary 6 months before the season starts. Like DeAndre Hopkins, Howard had three years remaining on his deal (so, $25 million per year in new money in agent-speak) but it is clear that the two sides ripped that old contract up and started fresh.

Lattimore received a $7.5 million signing bonus plus $9.254 million roster bonus that was treated as a signing bonus. Some base salaries in year two were fully guaranteed and more was guaranteed for injury-only at signing. Lattimore had $12 million in 2023 base salary that became fully guaranteed in 2022, and another $12 million of his base salary in 2024 that became fully guaranteed in 2023 (what I call rolling guarantees). Rolling guarantees are a great perquisite for a player, but there is nothing like that in Alexander’s deal. Lattimore signed in September or 2021.

Ramsey received $43 million fully guaranteed at signing and more $27.5M guaranteed for injury-only. Ramsey also has rolling guarantees under which if he is on the roster in year two, $7.5 million of his year 3 salary becomes fully guaranteed. This is repeated in year 3 for year 4, and again in year 4 for year 5. Those rolling guarantees convert $27.5 million in un-guaranteed salary to guaranteed salary. Ramsay signed in September or 2020.

Ward signed last month. He received $44.5 million fully guaranteed, $71.5 partially guaranteed, but he also has rolling guarantees in large amounts. If he is on the roster in 2023, $15 million of his 2024 salary will be fully guaranteed. If on the roster in 2024, $12 million of his 2025 salary will be fully guaranteed.

Conclusions:

Some readers are leery of paying another Packer the most money at his position. While that is true by several measures with regard to Jaire Alexander, I think the best contract from the player’s perspective is Ward’s deal. In fact, I would suggest that of the other contracts cited above, overall all of them are superior to the one Alexander just signed. Guaranteed money is king in the NFL: injury-only guarantees are significant, and rolling guarantees definitely are very attractive features for a player.

It is also possible that I have been projecting my own anxieties onto the Packers. I thought the market for top cornerbacks was extraordinarily well-defined, and wondered why there was a delay in signing Alexander. It is possible that a lot of wrangling went on, obviously. I wanted the Packers to generate some cap space by extending Alexander so they could acquire a veteran wide receiver, plus some help on the defensive line and in the secondary. I looked enviously at New England when they signed Devante Parker, but I cannot say that Parker would be more productive in Green Bay than Sammy Watkins, and Watkins has a lower cap number and did not cost a draft pick.

Finally, I have suggested that the Packers, even if they had no salary cap issues, would have extended Alexander using terms that generated at least $5 to $7M in cap savings. I do not think the structure or terms of this contract were driven by salary cap concerns.

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