Initial Graham numbers don’t say much

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The early numbers are in on the Jimmy Graham contract.  As usual, the early numbers don’t tell us all that much.

The best news for Jimmy Graham could be that he has committed for only four years.  Since teams aren’t really committed for the full length of a contract, it’s often better for the player to have a shorter-term deal.

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Graham will make $40 million over those four years, which gets Graham to the long-coveted $10 million average.  That’s a $500,000 annual increase over the $9.5 million that the Saints had on the table.  And it means that, once the real numbers come out, it will make sense to scrutinize them for any smoke and/or mirrors that artificially pushes the contract to a $10 million average.

For example, the contract could (not “will” but “could”) pay out $28.5 million over three years (that’s $9.5 million annually), with a final year at $11.5 million that automatically voids if Graham reaches certain performance or playing-time triggers.  Technically, the deal would be worth $10 million per year.  As a practical matter, it would be worth $9.5 million per year over three years.

Would a three-year, $28.5 million deal be a bad thing for Graham?  No.  But it wouldn’t make it a four-year, $40 million deal.

Then there’s the matter of guaranteed money.  Schefter reports that Graham will earn $21 million guaranteed.  That doesn’t tell us how much will be fully guaranteed at signing, and how much is guaranteed for injury only until some date in the future when the Saints decide to keep Graham around.

The only true guarantee is the money guaranteed to be paid no matter what when the contract is signed.  At some point in the past decade, agents and reporters have blurred a line that should never have been blurred, treating money guaranteed only in the event of a catastrophic injury as being truly guaranteed when it isn’t.

Also, keep in mind the possibility that Graham will have to buy a pricey disability policy that would pay big money to the Saints if Graham suffers the kind of serious injury that would trigger Graham’s injury-only guarantee.  Maybe that’s the concession Graham made to get the average to $10 million per year.

Regardless, we won’t know the true contours of the deal until the true deal comes out.

33 responses to “Initial Graham numbers don’t say much

  1. Now that Graham has “only gotten TE money”, I will be remiss to see what would have happened if he won his appeal and got paid like a WR. Would he expect to be voted on for Hall of Fame as a Tight End?

    Could he have had his cake and ate it too? We may never know….

  2. I don’t understand how some teams like the Saints seem to pay big money to everyone, but other teams have salary cap trouble every year

  3. hakunamangata says: Jul 15, 2014 9:59 AM

    Do the Saints have monopoly money? Is the salary cap about as real as drinking in moderation in New Orleans?


    Part of being a good GM is managing the money and arranging contracts to work together to take the most advantage of the salary cap.

    There was a lot of garbage about the Saints being cheap and folks not wanting to go there but the truth is that the Saints are pretty generous and are able to work the cap to pay out as much to players as possible.

  4. Saints don’t have monopoly money. Graham was already sitting on the books for $7 million because of the franchise tag. Now the Saints can figure out whether they want to front load or back load the deal for cap purposes. Tired of people not understanding how the salary cap works and then crying when the Saints sign somebody. Sorry that Mickey Loomis is really good at his job…

  5. So, who’s getting cut to make room for this contract? I thought the Saints were already tight against the cap?

  6. hakunamangata says:
    Jul 15, 2014 9:59 AM
    Do the Saints have monopoly money? Is the salary cap about as real as drinking in moderation in New Orleans?
    If your team had a genius for a GM like we have in Loomis maybe you wouldn’t be complaining about another teams affairs…

  7. I know one thing, strategypervert, Graham is better than all the tight ends in the history of the Detroit Lions combined.

  8. More drama in the coverage than the actual situation has merited.

    Football, please come back already.

  9. bradyisyourdaddy says:
    Jul 15, 2014 10:06 AM
    Rob Gronkowski > Jimmy Graham

    If gronk could ever stay healthy this would be a good debate but if we go by the numbers and the facts, Jimmy is better. #gronkisoverrated

  10. “Part of being a good GM is managing the money and arranging contracts to work together to take the most advantage of the salary cap.”

    That and bugging your opponents locker room.

  11. If your team had a genius for a GM like we have in Loomis maybe you wouldn’t be complaining about another teams affairs…

    Same genius who trades players without so much as a phone call?

    Or the one who loads up on free agents and is going to be 20 million over the cap next season?

    That genius?

  12. bradyisyourdaddy Rob Gronkowski > Jimmy Graham lol Not even if Gronk can stay healthy. He just lost $11 million of his $15 million because of injuries & may get cut after the season.

  13. Saints don’t have any more monopoly money than any other team. The reality is this: what some claim is Mickey Loomis wizardry is really just mortgaging the future for the present.

    Y’all need to remember that cap hits for bonuses are prorated over the life of a contract, whereas actual salary is not. So Graham’s hypothetical 4-year deal could look something like this (example only):

    $20M signing bonus
    $3M salary year 1
    $5M salary year 2
    $10M salary year 3
    $2M salary year 4

    In that model, his cap hits would be:

    Year 1: 8M
    Year 2: 10M
    Year 3: 15M
    Year 4: 7M

    Now let’s say that before Year 3, Graham extends his deal, adding two more years for $23M in new money, and converts that $10M year 3 salary into a bonus, plus receives another $10M of his additional $23M as a bonus. His cap hits then look like this:

    Year 3: 8.6M (3.6M from the original bonus [now prorated over 6 years], plus 2.5M from the year 3 salary he converted into a bonus, plus 2.5M from the new bonus)
    Year 4: 10.6M (8.6M bonus as in year 3, plus his 2M salary from the old deal)
    Year 5: 15.6M (7M new salary plus 8.6M bonus proration)
    Year 6: 14.6M (6M new salary plus 6.1M bonus proration)

    Now, those year 5/6 cap hits are high, but manageable, UNLESS Graham gets cut/traded.

    Let’s say that after Year 4, the Saints decide to go into rebuild mode and want to release Graham. To do so, they need to accelerate the entirety of his remaining bonus (unless a 6/1 designation) into the next season.

    With all of the bonus proration, in order to cut Graham after Year 4, the Saints would need to eat a cap charge of 14.7M just to cut him, and that’s assuming that NONE of his additional salary in his new deal was guaranteed. Any additional guaranteed money gets added to that 14.7M cap charge.

    That’s how this works. The Broncos and Patriots are doing similar work, accelerating cap hits further and further into the future, when presumably their aging All-World QBs retire and they can endure a few seasons of cap-hell-induced suckitude.

    You always have to pay the piper. GMs just get to decide when that happens.

  14. Keep in mind that Graham was badly hurt starting in Pats game. His numbers the first 5 weeks were off the charts, then he could not jump well or run as fast consistently as he had in previous years because of a foot injury that was never going to be healed until off season.

    That is the main reason Graham had a few bad games and his first 5 weeks avg blew away the rest of the season.

    If he is injury free this year, at least not dealing with season long nagging injury, then Graham will have his best year ever and even be able to match up against the top CBs in NFL when those match ups happen (and also free up Colston and other WRs to not have that CB on them).

    Hall of Famer and already top 5 TE of all time. May be the best TE of all time when its all said and done. Even if you are not a Saints fan, just sit back and enjoy the show. I know I enjoyed some other teams’ hall of fame QB to TE or WR batteries in years and decades past. Brees to Graham is as good as anything we have seen before in the football world.

  15. why does anyone really care how much he makes? whether 9.5M or 10M, why should I care? not my business, nor anyone else’s. good for him

  16. The answer to all your questions regarding the salary cap and how the Saints do it…his name is Mickey Loomis. He is arguably the best GM in football…your team doesn’t have him so your team struggles year in and year out to stay under the cap.

    The Saints will domiate the NFC this year and most teams that face them will get completely destroyed…you’ll see soon enough.

  17. Funny how many people claim to be couch gms and some think it’s a conspiracy. Well the truth is is Loomis is a great gm. Their window is not necessarily closing but brees can’t olay forever so why not do as much as u can while you have a hot qb and super bowl caliber team while u can. Eventually all teams rebuild. That day will come but not as soon as some idiotic fans think. Truth is yes look is has mortgaged some of the future. But that can all be erased by great drafting and planning g. Also what helps is the growth of the salary cap year after year which will be happening. The sky is not falling which everyone thinks. Saints will be scary.

  18. Do the Saints have monopoly money? Is the salary cap about as real as drinking in moderation in New Orleans?
    That’s about as funny as Minnesota Vikings

  19. If the truth be told New Orleans Saints is the best team in the NFL, with the less support only support they have is the WHO DAT NATION they fans. They are a team that every other team fears when they hit the field lets keep it real, they have a GM/ who can work the numbers, Head Coach/ who knows what he are looking for in a player, also knows how to stay in the contenders & playoffs divisions. Defensive Cord./ who knows what plays to threw out on opponents to keep them pending down. They are a team that has that qualifications & skill set to run the field.

  20. AS I recall, the patriots, Brady and Belicheck, had to come from behind with time running out to win, in their own stadium in Foxboro. No, the patriots don’t strike fear in every one.

  21. Also, the Pats had to get an obvious non-call to go their way as Jr Galette was straddled by a HEAD LOCK when Brady threw the game winner….

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