L.J., Chiefs Grievance Focuses On Guaranteed Base Salaries

We’ve gotten a look at the Larry Johnson contract in the wake of Friday’s report from Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star that Johnson and the Chiefs will convene for a grievance hearing next week over $3.75 million in guaranteed money.
Of that amount, $3.5 million comes from a guaranteed base salary due to be paid in 2009.  The other $250,000 comes from a guaranteed base salary due to be paid in 2010.
Johnson otherwise is due to earn in 2009 an additional $1.05 million in base salary, for a total of $4.55 million.  He also is eligible for a $100,000 workout bonus, and a $1 million per-game roster bonus, paid out at a rate of $62,500 per game.
In 2010, Johnson is due to earn a total base salary of $5 million, along with another $100,000 workout bonus and another $1 million per-game roster bonus.  He also is due to receive a $1 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2010 league year.
His terms in 2011 are virtually identical, but without any guaranteed base salary and a total base salary of $5.3 million.
Ditto for 2012, with a base salary of $5.9 million.
Johnson received a $12.5 million signing bonus in 2007; it’s unclear whether and to what extent the Chiefs attempted to recover a portion of the signing bonus money based on Johnson’s one-game suspension in 2008.  Under the CBA, the team is eligible to claim 25 percent of the proration for a year in which the player commits a default (which includes a suspension), if the contract contains language permitting such a forfeiture.
The current dispute likely is unprecedented, under the current CBA.  Instead of trying to recover money already paid, the Chiefs are trying to block future guaranteed payments based on an argument that Johnson breached his contract.  On the surface, the Chiefs likely would have a tough time of it, since the 2006 CBA revisions were specifically intended to limit the situations in which a team could attack a player’s money.
If the Chiefs plan to dump Johnson upon prevailing on the grievance, the team would take a cap hit of $8.8 million.