Usually, a reporter publishes a player’s “guaranteed” money in a new contract without explaining how much is fully guaranteed at signing, how much is guaranteed for injury only, and when injury-only guarantees convert to full guarantees in the future. For players like Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, the vague, incomplete information has initially come directly from them.
Peterson tweeted late Wednesday that he has signed a five-year, $70 million extension with $48 million guaranteed. (It’s actually $70.05 million over five, a small difference but also an important one.) Per a source with knowledge of the contract, only $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed. The full $48 million is guaranteed for injury only, for now.
The best guaranteed money in any NFL contract comes from the signing bonus. According to the source, Peterson gets $15.3 million from the Cardinals.
Then, by the fifth day of the 2015 waiver period (which comes the week after Super Bowl XLIX), a total of $27.8 million will have become fully guaranteed, for skill, injury, and cap.
By the fifth day of the 2016 waiver period, $42.619 million becomes fully guaranteed. By the fifth day of the 2017 waiver period, the rest of the $47.3 million becomes fully guaranteed. The last $700,000 never becomes fully guaranteed.
The formula gives the Cardinals three different opportunities to move on before the guarantees fully vest, but the triggers come very early in the offseason, forcing Arizona to make a quick decision in early 2015, 2016, and 2017. If/when they decide to move on, Peterson would the market more than a month before the start of free agency. (In contrast, the 49ers have until April 1 each year to make a decision on Colin Kaepernick, three weeks after the start of free agency.)
Again, Peterson finagled this contract with two years left on his rookie deal. He’s the first first-round pick in the rookie wage scale era to get a second contract. For the rest, it could be a while until deals start getting done.