Now that NBC has produced and aired a commercial that makes us look a lot better at this than we really are, we need to periodically put something up here that justifies the characterization.
So here’s one to consider.
Many of you have wondered how and why the Miami Dolphins could have made Brandon Marshall the highest-paid receiver in NFL history. The easy answer, as we pointed out the other day, is that they didn’t — his widely-reported four-year, $47.5 million extension fairly should be regarded at best as a five-year, $50 million contract, giving Marshall a $10 million annual average that matches the yearly total paid to Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Now for the truth.
For starters, the full contract is worth $47.3 million over five years. It contains a phony $2.7 million roster bonus payable in 2014 — but only if Marshall participates in 95 percent or more of the Dolphins’ special teams plays in 2010.
Why would this be included? To allow Marshall and his agent to characterize the contract as a package worth $10 million per year. Truth be told, it’s worth $9.46 million annually.
(That may not seem like much of a difference, but the phantom roster bonus allows Marshall and his agent, Kennard McGuire, to claim with a straight face that Marshall is getting $10 million per year.)
Then there’s the notion that the Dolphins would pay $24 million in guaranteed money to a guy with a history of off-field incidents. Surely, V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells hasn’t lost his mind, right?
He hasn’t. (Or, more accurately, if he has, this isn’t proof of it.)
With the 2009 decision in the Plaxico Burress grievance that signing bonus money can be recovered only if the player holds out or retires, a $20 million signing bonus would have been untouchable, even if Marshall had been suspended for a year or longer. So the Dolphins instead have paid out a signing bonus of $5.5 million. Coupled with a guaranteed base salary (for skill and injury) of $4 million in 2010, Marshall’s contract has a minimum value of $9.5 million over one year.
Here’s the kicker. If the Dolphins decide before April 2, 2011 that Marshall isn’t who they thought he was, they can walk away, possibly without paying Marshall another penny. Prior to April 2, 2011, he has only $3 million in future guaranteed money that already has been unlocked. But the contract contains offset language; if they cut him and someone else pays him $3 million in 2011, the Dolphins are off the hook for the balance of the contract.
And even if the Dolphins pay a $3 million option bonus due on April 2, 2011, guaranteed base salaries of $6.5 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012 (he also has $3 million in non-guaranteed base pay in 2012) can be nullified if Marshall is suspended by the league.
So, for now, the only guaranteed money is $12.5 million, with an offset for up to $3 million. If the Dolphins decided to keep him past April 2, 2011, another $9.5 million in guaranteed base salaries will be available — as long as Marshall stays out of trouble.
These facts are another reason why it’s always dangerous to accept at face value the numbers that the player’s camp begins to parrot as soon as the deal is signed.
The problem is that the agent has an incentive to get a skewed version of the contract into the media, the team rarely is willing to say anything that would dampen the “highest paid player!” parade, and the reporter who gets the information often is so determined to be first that the question of whether or not the information is accurate often gets lost in the shuffle. (And, yes, we’ve done that once or twice — and we hope that we have learned from it.)