On Sunday, we passed along an item from Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange regarding the question of whether and to what extent so-called “offset” language applicable to guaranteed salaries was impacting the negotiations for the first eight players taken in the 2012 draft.
In short, the presence of an offset requirement saves the team money, if the player is released and signs with a new team. Without offset language, the player gets his guaranteed salary, and keeps anything else he earns from his next team, if he’s cut before his four-year rookie contract expires.
It looked at first blush like a genuine sticking point, especially since the Panthers at No. 9 omitted offset language from linebacker Luke Kuechly’s contract. Inspection of the contracts given to first-round picks in 2011, however, reveals that only a handful of first-round picks escaped the offset obligation.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the first overall pick, had no offset language on his fully-guaranteed contract. Rams defensive end Robert Quinn had no offset language for three of his four years of compensation: 2011, 2012, and 2014. And a mere $79,000 of the money to be earned in 2014 by Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara, the 19th overall pick, is not subject to offset language.
Other players taken in later rounds had portions of guarantees not subject to the offset duty, including Raiders guard Stefan Wisniewski in round two, Vikings defensive tackle Christian Ballard in round four, Vikings cornerback Brandon Burton in round five, Vikings tackle DeMarcus Love in round six, Vikings safety Mistral Raymond in round six, Vikings center Brandon Fusco in round six, Vikings linebacker Ross Homan in round six, Vikings defensive end De’Aundre Reed in round seven, and Vikings receiver Stephen Burton in round seven.
This year, other than Kuechly, only one player obtained any “no offset” language included in his deal. Steelers fourth-round defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu has $19,980 of his 2013 base salary fully guaranteed, with no offset language.
And so the pendulum seems to have swung away from dropping the offset language, notwithstanding the Panthers’ decision, for the second straight year, to give their first-round pick a fully-guaranteed four-year deal without any possible offset. The problem for the other eight teams is that the agents for the players taken before Kuechly can now try to push the absence of offset language all the way to the top of the board. The fact that Kuechly is represented by the same firm (CAA) that represents four of the top eight picks (Robert Griffin, III; Trent Richardson; Matt Kalil; and Mark Barron) could prompt the agents to dig in their heels.
Still, the only unsigned player in the top eight with a compelling argument for no offset language is quarterback Andrew Luck, given that the first pick enjoyed that perk in 2011. Picks No. 2 through No. 8 didn’t escape the offset language in 2011, and the fact that Kuechly finagled it in 2012 shouldn’t tie the hands of the other seven teams.
So the teams appear to have the better argument on this point. Still, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong but who’ll blink. Since, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a major term, it would be foolish for anyone to take a hard-line position on this issue.