We pointed out earlier today the latest example of what Rosenthal calls “ESPN-on-ESPN crime.” On Monday, ESPN’s Michael Smith reported that Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb’s new deal includes $40 million in guaranteed money. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal includes only $3.5 million guaranteed.
ESPN has made no attempt to reconcile the inherently conflicting reports, and Smith has defended his report on Twitter. “There’s injury guarantees in his deal that become fully guaranteed when/if he’s on the roster,” Smith wrote earlier today. “Besides, only thing truly guaranteed in NFL is signing bonus. Oh and Skins have a 10 mil ‘non-exercise fee’ next year FYI.”
For starters, Smith should have provided these additional facts on Monday, instead of reporting without further explanation that the deal includes $40 million in guaranteed money. Without any such explanation or qualification, the audience is entitled to conclude that $40 million guaranteed means $40 million guaranteed.
Also, while Smith’s assertion regarding the “non-exercise fee” as to the $10 million option bonus is accurate, the “non-exercise fee” goes away if the player is cut. Indeed, agent Fletcher Smith tells Jason La Canfora of NFL Network that the Redskins indeed have the option to cut McNabb after the 2010 season with no further money due to McNabb.
La Canfora also reports that it’s “virtually certain” that the Redskins won’t release McNabb. And we agree with La Canfora.
If anything, the Redskins would trade McNabb. He’s under contract for 2011 at $12.5 million, which is far less than the expected value of the franchise tag for the position.
So by giving him an extra $3.5 million now, the Redskins were able to close the books on the ugliness of the past two weeks and purchase the exclusive ability to decide whether to keep McNabb or to trade him.
The primary unknown factor in this regard is the trigger for the payment of the option bonus. Many contracts negotiated in 2010 with option bonuses due in 2011 extend the period from the first day of the league year until the day after the first regular-season game. If McNabb’s new deal contains that language, the Redskins would have plenty of time to swing a deal — and also plenty of time to figure out an alternative plan for the quarterback position.