The headline, as it usually does, focused on the “new money.” And with $100 million of it, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has joined an exclusive club for NFL players.
But the details of the contract remain unclear. Whatever they are, Watt opted to take the package and commit to the team through 2021 — a year longer than the maligned contract signed by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick’s deal has turned the player’s name into a bargaining-table verb not because of the duration but because of a low amount of fully guaranteed money and a structure that gives the team an extended opportunity to walk away after any given year of the contract. Which makes the $61 million in supposedly “guaranteed” money hardly that.
For Watt, whose deal has $51.876 million in generically guaranteed money, the question becomes how much of it is truly guaranteed at signing, and when the rest of any money guaranteed for injury only will become fully guaranteed. For now, those details haven’t been divulged. Which could be a hint that the fully guaranteed money isn’t anywhere close to $51.876 miliion.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, who broke the news of the deal, reports that Watt will receive $10 million to sign, along with base salaries of $907,385 in 2014 and $9.969 million in 2015. If those salaries are fully guaranteed, that’s a shade over $20 million that counts as fully guaranteed at signing.
Watt was due to make $1.9 million this year and $6.9 million in 2015, under the fifth-year option to his rookie contract. So he replaced $8.8 million with $20.8 million, a $12 million increase over what he was due to earn.
The official details, which undoubtedly will leak once the contract is finalized, will show what else, if anything, Watt received as fully guaranteed money in exchange for committing to the team through 2021. There’s a very good chance that the real number will be a lot lower than $51.876 million.