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Patrick Willis deal uses two signing bonuses to circumvent 30 percent rule

When word broke earlier today (courtesy of Jay Glazer of FOX) that 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis had signed a five-year, $50 million extension, we immediately considered the much-discussed (but rarely understood) 30-percent rule, which severely limits the raises that can be paid to players with existing contracts in an uncapped year.

Under contract for two more years, the 49ers needed to find a way to pay Willis without dumping too much money into a first-year signing bonus.

They did it by giving him a relatively manageable signing bonus of $15.5 million, along with a second signing bonus (technically known as a “supersede signing bonus”) of $4.8 million in 2011.  Basically, a new contract kicks in next year, with a new signing bonus.  And none of the money counts against the 30-percent rule.

Other teams have used the supersede signing bonus, primarily in rookie deals.  It provides a vehicle for dealing with the CBA ruling that prevents teams from recovering any portion of an option bonus.  If the second balloon payment is a signing bonus, it’s subject to full or partial prorated recovery if the player holds out or retires.

Here’s the catch, as it relates to Willis.  The $4.8 million is guaranteed for injury only, in order to permit the 49ers to avoid the requirement of fully funding the payment now.

Our initial reaction to this news was to wonder whether the same device could be used to allow the Titans to re-sign running back Chris Johnson to a deal that he deems acceptable.  The problem is that, because Johnson’s cap number is significantly lower that Willis’s, even more money would have to be dumped into the signing bonus and the supersede signing bonus.  And teams are reluctant to commit so much money to players, even if the supersede signing bonus is guaranteed for injury only. 

So, in other words, the supersede signing bonus likely won’t provide an easy answer to the contractual conundrum that the Titans are facing with Chris Johnson.

Meanwhile, check back tomorrow morning for a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of the Patrick Willis deal.  It fairly can be described as a deal worth less than what Willis could have or should have gotten.  Under the circumstances, however, it also fairly can be characterized as a strong contract.

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14 Responses to “Patrick Willis deal uses two signing bonuses to circumvent 30 percent rule”
  1. CookieFlash says: May 4, 2010 10:05 PM

    What the hell good is a rule that is just circumvented anyhow?

  2. Phyxsius says: May 4, 2010 10:06 PM

    Is this something the Colts and Patriots could use to sign Manning and Brady to future cap friendly deals (assuming there will be a future cap)?

  3. nfcbeast says: May 4, 2010 10:08 PM

    Kolb Copy Cat!!!!

  4. youngtorice says: May 4, 2010 10:12 PM

    God florio is an ass hat!
    It fairly can be described as a deal worth less than what Willis could have or should have gotten. Under the circumstances, however, it also fairly can be characterized as a strong contract.
    5 years 50 million is hardly an unfair contract. Especially with so much being essentially guaranteed. That is a good contract for any middle linebacker. Even the best in the league. Circumstances are not, you can’t just contradict yourself with it’s less than it could’ve or should’ve been, and follow up but in this case it’s a strong contract.

  5. this class sucks says: May 4, 2010 10:23 PM

    I’m sure he will get another bigger deal in 3 years. If the 30% rule is still in place than obviously the number will be able to increase 3 years down the road.

  6. jamaltimore says: May 4, 2010 10:44 PM

    For a good middle linebacker, who can be a legendary 49er and HOF’er under Samuri Mike, you take a little less money unless you don’t really appreciate the game. Let’s hope it works out cause it would be good to watch!
    What number is Willis? #52 not 55. Why #1 Reason. GOAT

  7. thebirdofprey says: May 4, 2010 10:48 PM

    Chris Johnson needs to listen to this deal and talk to his agent right now.

  8. JoeSixPack says: May 4, 2010 11:30 PM

    NFL teams are taking a big risk when they demonstrate that they are smarter than Goodell.
    His ego can’t take it.
    Get ready for some sanctions.

  9. Pantherfan10 says: May 5, 2010 1:02 AM

    Fair deal, the guy is currently the best MLB in the game with Beason not being too far behind. Wonder what kinda of deal Beason will be recieving…

  10. savage riz says: May 5, 2010 2:20 AM

    The circumvention of the 30% rule is not as big a deal as some of you make it out to be. As it states in the article, it worked for Willis because the gap between current and new salary was small enough to make it work. They said it is not necessarily viable for Chris Johnson for this reason. This does not mean teams can start using the supersede bonus like crazy to get players signed. This was just a case where the numbers allowed it to work out for Willis and the Niners.

  11. rraider says: May 5, 2010 3:28 AM

    49ers… circumventing salary cap rules………….sounds familiar……….they might start winning again………………is Joey D secretly back in control????????

  12. Route36West says: May 5, 2010 5:54 AM

    ” It fairly can be described as a deal worth less than what Willis could have or should have gotten”
    How in the world is 10 million a year for a lb less then whats expected? Fitz got 10 million a year I would think thats the amount of money a guy like Willis would be expected to make a year. I dunno.
    ——————————————————
    “Our initial reaction to this news was to wonder whether the same device could be used to allow the Titans to re-sign running back Chris Johnson to a deal that he deems acceptable”
    I think that would be a horrible idea not only because of them not wanting to guarantee all money but because of the attitude Johnson has shown only after 2 years in the league. He has just signed a contract to years ago and is already threatening to sit out. What happens after he gets that huge signing bonus this year and the other one next and hes down to making around 1 million a year for the life of the contract?
    I think he has proven to everyone what he will do, and thats complain and threaten a hold out. The way he has acted almost guarantees he will not be given a deal like Willis. Why would anyone risk giving this guy that much money just to have him act like a “crybaby” as Desean would say.
    He would have been better off doing it like Desean did by saying he understands its hard to get a deal done now because of the 30 percent rule and he has no problem waiting. He still probably wouldnt have gotten the money but it would make the team more confident in him that when he does get paid he will be happy with it and not cause problems in the future.
    Theres only 2 ways these guys could of handled this like a man or a child. Desean decided to handle it like a man while CJ acted like a child.

  13. Krow says: May 5, 2010 7:51 AM

    The Niners have a history of salary cheating.

  14. SF Saints Fan says: May 5, 2010 9:30 AM

    I think one of the reasons the Niners did this with Patrick Willis is because he is a safe gamble. The guy is a beast on the field and a true professional. By all accounts he is a good guy and the chances of him doing something stupid are much lower than they are for some other players.
    In this case, being someone who appear to have his head on straight, Patrick Willis gets paid to knock some heads off of opposing players.
    The Niners can afford to pay him now and don’t have to worry much about possibly regretting it later.
    Way to go Niners and congrats to Patrick Willis.

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