We reported earlier today, via a brief update to the item regarding Jimmy Clausen’s contract with the Panthers, that Clausen’s deal contains a fourth-year escalator worth up to $2.85 million.
A league source with no connection to the Panthers or Clausen’s camp contacted us to point out that the development represents a sea change for second-round contracts.
Previously, players taken in round two simply didn’t get escalator clauses for the fourth year of their contracts. Even quarterbacks were shut out of the process, notwithstanding the notion that the position entitles them to somewhat different treatment. With Clausen possibly earning $2.85 million in 2013, it’s possible that the rules will now be different, at least as it relates to quarterbacks.
That said, a rookie wage scale could wipe out all current rules, making the development moot. Moreover, the reality is that, if Clausen gets enough playing time and production to unlock the bulk of the multi-trigger escalator, he’ll likely get a new contract before the escalator ever is paid.
Making the move even more remarkable is the fact that Carolina G.M. Marty Hurney somehow convinced owner Jerry Richardson, among the hardest of the hard-line, union-busting owners, to agree to break ranks regarding a matter on which the teams had for years been unified.
The league has avoided escalators for second-round picks because the players already get fairly large signing bonuses on contracts with a maximum length of four years. The teams have been reluctant to give a bunch of extra money in the fourth year of the deal to a guy who could walk away as an unrestricted free agent after cashing the checks.
The uncertainty regarding the future rules relating to free agency likely made the Panthers willing to chance it. With plenty of league insiders thinking that a five-year path to free agency will be adopted in the next labor deal, the Panthers already may have Clausen’s rights for five years, anyway.
Either way, the team and the player worked diligently to ensure that Clausen would have a chance, unlike big-name quarterbacks who have held out in the past, to actually earn the extra money. Now, the question becomes whether Clausen can overcome Matt Moore on the depth chart.