Certain aspects of Crabtree contract raise eyebrows

More details are emerging regarding the contract signed on Wednesday by 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.

Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that Crabtree’s contract represents over the first five years a 72-percent increase over the deal signed in 2008 by the tenth overall pick in the draft, Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo (which, frankly, says more about the quality of Mayo’s deal than it does about the quality of Crabtree’s).

And Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, who mercilessly criticized agent Alvin Keels for the contract signed by tackle Andre Smith, characterizes the Crabtree deal as “not terrible.”  (I tried that phrase once in describing the quality of a meal that my wife cooked.  The scar looks a little bit like Weeb Ewbank.)

Certain aspects of the deal arguably are terrible.  Schefter and Cole’s analysis focuses only on raw numbers.  There are other terms of the deal that have left multiple league insiders scratching their heads.

We’ve previously discussed the sixth year of the deal, and the very high bar that Crabtree must reach in order to reduce the term from six years to five.  As Cole points out, of the 19 receivers picked in round one from 2002 through 2005, only Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have achieved in the first four years of their careers the triggers that Crabtree must reach in order to transform the contract from a six-year, $32 million deal into a five-year, $28 million package. 

In this regard, Crabtree is at a built-in disadvantage because, unlike the rest of the first-round wideouts, he has missed all of the offseason workouts due to injury, and all of training camp, the preseason, and four regular-season games due to his holdout.

Also, another source pointed out that the “superstar” incentive package, which would push the contract to a six-year, $40 million deal, is essentially a phony term.  Though the performance trigger for the extra $8 million to be paid out in the sixth year of the contract is different than the performance trigger that would void the contract from six years to five, it’s highly unlikely — as a practical matter — that Crabtree would earn the “superstar” package without also successfully voiding the sixth year of the deal.

So, in other words, it will be a six-year, $32 million deal or a five-year, $28 million deal, but it most likely will never be a six-year, $40 million deal.

Another problem arises from the guaranteed money.  The $17 million figure fits the slot as long as Crabtree is able to void the sixth year.  If that sixth year doesn’t void, the guaranteed money actually falls below the slot, based on the per-year average.  To fit the slot on a six-year deal, the guaranteed money would need to be in the range of $20 million.

We’ve previously explained that, in lieu of an option bonus, the 49ers used the “discretionary salary advance” concept, which funnels money to the player in a way that allows the team to pursue reimbursement in the event of a suspension, holdout, or other default.  (Option bonuses and roster bonuses cannot be recovered.)  But the major, glaring problem with the salary advance device used in Crabtree’s contract is that it contains no language that would penalize the 49ers for choosing not to make the salary advance. 

As two different sources have explained, that’s a major omission in the deal.

The deal also contains what one source is calling the “diva clause.”  Per the source, millions in base salary escalators factored are tied to full participation in all mandatory functions and 90 percent attendance in all voluntary activities.  If Crabtree fails to comply, the escalators can be wiped out by the team. 

The thinking in some circles is that the 49ers pushed for this language because of Crabtree’s protracted holdout and other activities that prompted some to regard him as, yes, a diva.  So why did agent Eugene Parker agree to it?  By all appearances, Parker wanted to get the deal done quickly, and either he missed the significance of the term or he opted to agree in order to expedite the process.  (As we’ll explain in a subsequent posting, we think it’s the latter.)

So while some think that Crabtree essentially got the same financial package he would have obtained in July if Parker and Crabtree had opted not to wait for the 49ers to jump the slotting process by three levels, it could be that the deal is actually worse, given the inclusion of a sixth year, the high bar to void it, the guarantee based on a five-year deal, the absence of a language compelling the 49ers to pay the discretionary salary advance, and the diva clause.

Jason Cole called the contract Alvin Keels negotiated on behalf of Andre Smith a potential “career stopper.”  One national media source similarly described the contract Parker negotiated for Crabtree as a “career killer.” 

One league source with whom we spoke was more realistic.  “Parker will be fine,” the source said.  “Nothing ever sticks to him, and this contract won’t stick to him, either.”

But Crabtree is now stuck with the deal, probably for six full years.

32 responses to “Certain aspects of Crabtree contract raise eyebrows

  1. To sum it up: Crabtree got a few months off and the stick in his butt only got shoved in further, only involuntarily this time.
    Diva clause and discretionary salary advance are great ideas by the 49ers. If teams have to shell out millions to unproven players they need some insurance.

  2. He’s due 17 million if he gets cut, but what would he be due if he played 6 years and missed every single opportunity to increase his salary (no escalators)?

  3. Wow. Looks like the Niners covered their arse and boxed Crabtree and Parker into a corner with that contract. Crabtree has nothing to worry about if he keeps his nose clean and plays football to his potential. Anything less and Crabtree loses. He should have signed in July. Parker should be tarred and feathered. There should be laws against an agent making a commission on one sided deals like that…

  4. mike could you do me a favor and dumb it down for me please,
    ya see mike the party of the first part is intellectually inept as to the verbage described in the aforementioned paragraph by the party of the second part thus voiding the clause of the …… ahhhh screw it……
    go giants

  5. One league source with whom we spoke was more realistic. “Parker will be fine,” the source said. “Nothing ever sticks to him, and this contract won’t stick to him, either.”
    You ever try gluing something to slime?
    At any rate, even if it is a substandard deal, should Crabtree actually go and perform close to his ego’s expectations, the contract likely will be reworked and extended in 3 or 4 years anyway.

  6. A well informed former NFL assistant coach and Sirius Radio host said with a chuckle that the 49’ers could stick him with the franchise tag in year 6, so they got him for 6 no matter what. That being Pat Kirwan.

  7. I would just like to mention that the sixth year of the contract is more or less moot. If Crabtree is as good as expected, he will have a new contract long before they even get to the sixth year. If he does not live up to expectations he will have been cut or traded long before the sixth year.

  8. Parker rushed to get this deal done before he got fired and in doing so missed critical language at the determinate of his client!

  9. Ok, it finally dawned on me. As much as I have enjoyed the banter and speculation on the Crabtree fiasco, the extensive coverage here of the minutae of contracts and slotted guaranteed salary expectations only go to illustrate that Florio is a frustrated sports agent.
    If I were in need of a sports agent, I would feel totally comfortable hiring Mike. I can’t say that I don’t appreciate his current career choice, but if you’re going to get into the agency biz Mike, this first in line rumor blog is probably not a bad way to make a name for yourself.
    All you need is a good name for the agency. How about ProFootballGroup?

  10. Just terrible Florio! Poor guy’s going to have to pinch his pennies until something good comes his way

  11. Smart of the 49ers to use his diva mentality against him by setting the triggers to “superstar” levels which Crabtree thinks he will have no problem reaching. Another strike is Singletary’s built a team around D and running, Fitz/AJ are on teams more apt to throwing the ball (mostly out of necessity) their entire careers. Could backfire once Crabtree does the math after say yr 2 and realizes he either needs to be getting the ball much, much more or decides he needs a new deal sooner rather than later.

  12. Crabtree has filed a complaint with the league offices against Florio for tampering, and for generally confusing reporting on contract terms.
    If Goodell’s investigation finds anything, Goodell will have both Florio and PFT.com destroyed, in case any other team were to get their hands on either one and gain a competitive advantage.

  13. What is so difficult to understand? Most likely the 49ers are getting Crabapple on the cheap in the final year. Plus they have the leverage if he acts up. The 49ers have included terms that can be paralled to how certain players in the league now have acted in the past. Basically they guarded themself against T.O., Randy Moss, Brandon Marshall like actions.
    On a non-related topic, I thought Obama’s response to getting the Nobel Peace Prize was perfect. He basically said, “I don’t deserve this but I appreciate it”. I agree with Rush Limbaugh though on one point. Rush said something to effect of, “This award was given to encourage Obama to pull out of the wars like he talked about. They are saying we love what you are doing, keep it up”. I don’t see how you can argue with that.

  14. Well Raye (the SF OC) mentioned that Crabtree only ran two routes in college. The fly route and the hitch. I think its safe to say he has a long way to go before he earns any of those bonuses.

  15. MF – So, in other words, it will be a six-year, $32 million deal or a five-year, $28 million deal, but it most likely will never be a six-year, $40 million deal. Another problem arises from the guaranteed money. The $17 million figure fits the slot as long as Crabtree is able to void the sixth year…
    Sharp stuff Florio.
    Except $17 million guaranteed is still $17 million guaranteed. Does Crabtree care how it slots? The Niners might. Crabtree, not so much. Not when $17 million remains $1 million more than the Niners were willing to guarantee in July.
    Also, it’s still apples to apples re 28/5 v. 20/5. As in, Crabtree got a bigger bite by waiting.
    Or have you actually examined or compared the 20/5 fine print (including escalators, incentives etc) tendered in July?

  16. MikeFlorio’sSource1:
    It goes like this, Crabapple holds out for 4 games
    Niners Brass say, Since you held out, we want an extra year since this year is basically gone. So he signs a 6 year, which is actually a 5 3/4 year contract. If he reaches incentives in 4 3/4 years he voids the 5th. His guaranteed money is the respective slot amount ONLY if this last year is voided, otherwise he is getting less then a standard 6 year deal. In addition to that he also must participate in the actives described under the Diva Clause
    So in the end, If he reaches incentives, the Niners have an All Star receiver. If he does not, then the Niners got him for cheaper then the original contact offer.
    Florio just trys to spin it so it looks like league insiders are questioning the Niners contract language, when obviously any insider not named Matt Millen could see this is a huge win for the Niners brass. At the end of the day, you cannot deny that the Niners got much higher upside then risk going into the future baring injury. And basically Eugene Parker #$@%’d Crabapple with the deal, and at the press conference.

  17. Could a new CBA that includes a salary cap on draftees next year also be included as a reason Parker agreed to this contract?
    Me thinks Crabapple is going to pull a hammy in his first game.

  18. If Crabby Patty performs at a high level, he’ll probably get extended after the 4th or 5th year… if he turns into a bust he’ll get paid more than he deserves with this contract. Or maybe he’ll be average and be paid accordingly.
    But the point being, he’ll make what he deserves in due time.

  19. One league source with whom we spoke was more realistic. “Parker will be fine,” the source said. “Nothing ever sticks to him, and this contract won’t stick to him, either.”
    It might not stick but it still hurts.
    I don’t understand why any college kid would sign up with Parker after his role in Crabtree’s version of keeping up with the Joneses. Crabtree is a diva… but Parker did nothing but feed his snubbed uber-ego with the promise of a contract that is fitting for the no.1 WR in the draft. Now that the ink has dried I think we’ll see a lot of finger pointing…
    Unfortunately for Wormtongue Parker all those fingers will be pointing at him.

  20. Pretty good analysis, Mikey.
    So the two last hold-outs signed the two goofiest deals?
    Sounds about right to me.
    If you saw Keels on “Hard Knocks”, he looked like he was way in over his head.

  21. lord knows i beat florio up for his politics and some of his banter re website ops but this post is dead on. grego and hail are also correct. the niners have more offramps and options here.
    i forget the name of lavar arrington’s agent (poston)… but in that vein, did parker READ this thing? or did crabbypatty just run out of money for bling?
    also, parker may have gotten this out of the way to blunt all this sanders tampering talk. anyway, i dont think that talk is going away. even if deion was just talking to try to scare the niners on parker and crabbypatty’s behalf.
    diva clause? does he now wear a red suit and a fake beard and talk incessantly about 3 hos?

  22. year 5 and 6 don’t really matter. Does anyone think this dipshit isn’t going to demand a new contract after the 4th year?
    Best thing the 49s can do is use him for 3 years and trade his ass for whatever they can get for him after 3 years. No matter how good he is.
    Just ask anyone who had TO on their roster.

  23. Parker is a man of ideology, not practicality. When your ideology collapses, ideologues just walk away as if nothing happened.

  24. Here’s what’s going on folks. If Crabtree fails to perform, this deal is perfect.
    If he turns out to be the next Larry Fitzgerald, don’t plan him actually keeping this contract. While this contract was initially used to protect the 49ers in case of a bust, Paraag Marathe and the 49ers will reward him accordingly after around 4 years with a new contract to keep him happy, which isn’t a bad thing. That’s what happened with Gore and expect them to do the same with Willis.

  25. Here is the math:
    Pick 9: 28.5/5=5.7 18/5=3.6
    Pick 10: 28/5=5.6 17/5=3.4
    or: 32/6=5.33 17/6=2.8
    Pick 11: 25/5=5.0 15/5=3.0
    My opinion is that the 5 year deal would have been available if Parker had been willing to negotiate from a reasonable first offer from the 49ers.
    Parker failed Crabtree and was forced to accept a worse deal especially when one considers the 6th year and the other protection clauses.
    I can only admire the way the 49ers handled this situation and hope all college players recognize a bad agent when they see one.

  26. Well, if Crabtree ends up getting royally screwed, he really should sue Parker for negligence and misrepresentation (i.e., he represents himself as an agent FOR the player.)

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