We knew it.
When reports emerged of a six-year, $60 million extension with an eye-popping $34.8 million in guaranteed money, we knew that there was fluff in the new contract between the Jets and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
We just had no idea how much fluff was there.
We’ve obtained a copy of the contract, and we’ve studied it carefully. The contract constitutes, as a practical matter, a one-year, $5.3225 million arrangement with no other guaranteed money earned or vested through the end of the 2010 season.
The amount comes from a base salary of $622,500, a signing bonus of $1.6 million due within five days of July 15, 2010, and a roster bonus of $3.1 million due within five days of July 15, 2010.
That’s it. No other guarantees trigger unless and until Ferguson makes it through the 2010 season displaying adequate skill and, more importantly, not suffering serious injury.
If Ferguson endures a career-ending injury at any point this year (think LeCharles Bentley on the first day of training camp, 2006), Ferguson gets none of the rest of the money. If Ferguson simply suffers a serious but not career-ending injury at any point this year (think Leon Washington mimicking Joe Theismann against the Raiders in 2009), the Jets likely will terminate the contract and then try to re-sign Ferguson for a lesser amount — or watch him walk away.
And, amazingly, the contract contains no future guarantees based on injury. None. Not a penny.
If Ferguson is on the Jets’ 80-man roster on February 15, 2011, Ferguson’s 2011 base salary of $5.615 million becomes guaranteed only for skill. This means that, if the Jets thereafter decide that Ferguson stinks, they still have to pay him his 2011 base salary. As a practical matter, the money also is guaranteed for injury after he passes his offseason physical, since he’d be owed his entire base salary if he, for example, tears an ACL while at a minicamp practice.
On that same day, February 15, 2011, Ferguson’s $9.985 million base salary for 2012 becomes guaranteed, but again only for skill. So if he suffers a serious injury in 2011, the Jets can cut him before 2012 and avoid nearly $10 million in additional future expenses.
Finally, Ferguson’s base salary of $7.25 million for 2013 becomes guaranteed — again for skill — if he’s on the 80-man roster on the second day after the start of the waiver system for the 2012 season. So if he suffers a serious injury in 2012, the Jets can easily avoid that money due in 2013.
Ferguson also has a $3.9 million option bonus, but the Jets have an extended period within which to decide whether to pay it. The first possible date is the first day of the next league year, which if there’s labor peace will come in early March, 2011. The last day for exercising the option will be the day after the first regular-season game in the next league year. So they can cut him as late as September 2011 and avoid that $3.9 million payment.
None of those payments will be made if Ferguson endures a serious injury, or if his skills suddenly evaporate.
While some may brush this off as a cash-flow issue only, since future payments fully guaranteed for injury and skill must be funded immediately, the Jets could have guaranteed the full amount of the future guaranteed base salaries (which total $22.85 million) for injury now and skill later, like the Bears did with defensive end Julius Peppers. The Jets didn’t, and now Ferguson will bear the risk of that every time he laces up his cleats from now until the end of the 2010 season.
What has Ferguson gained? His base salary of $3.122 million in 2010 (the terms under his prior deal) has increased to a total payout of $5.3225 million.
So he picked up $2.2005 million now, with no guarantees moving forward. Though he’ll be in line for more than $22 million guaranteed if he gets through 2010 (and 2011) unscathed, he already was in line for at least $10 million guaranteed next year, the final year of his rookie deal.
Bottom line? As usual, the real terms of the contract fall far short of the amount initially reported.