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.