By now, anyone who regularly visits this site (and thank you if you do) knows how the process of reporting on certain player contracts goes. The reporter who gets the scoop returns the favor by passing along generalized information about the value of the contract, which often makes the deal seem much better than it really is.
This offseason, the most glaring example of that dynamic came when multiple reporters rushed to Twitter with ridiculously overstated terms given by the Broncos to tackle Russell Okung. It has has happened in past years with contracts like the one given by the 49ers to quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
The truth is that the truth about all deals eventually comes out. But those who benefit from creating the perception that a deal is worth more than it is don’t care about that, because by the time the truth comes out the inaccurate reports about the deal will have been set like cement or, perhaps more accurately, printed off and laminated by the agents who negotiated the contract.
The issue has become relevant again at this relatively late stage of free agency, with the signing of cornerback Josh Norman by Washington. Reported as a five-year, $75 million deal with $50 million guaranteed, the initial reports have not specified the most important facts about the deal: (1) the amount of the signing bonus; (2) the amount that is fully guaranteed at signing; and (3) the amount that will be paid out over the first three years of the deal.
Those details are critical in this case: (1) because Norman turns 29 in December; (2) because he wanted $16 million per year from Carolina; and (3) because he could have had $13.95 million fully guaranteed in 2016 with the stroke of a pen — plus either a clear shot at the open market in March or $16.74 million fully guaranteed in 2017.
In every case, there’s a temptation to embellish contracts. In this specific case, the temptation is particularly strong, because Norman will want to create the impression that he didn’t make a major mistake by either failing to do the best deal that was available in Carolina or refusing to pounce on the franchise tender.
Eventually, the truth will come out. Chances are that the full guarantee at signing is significantly lower than $50 million. By then, however, few will notice and even fewer will care.