The four-year extension that the Chargers gave receiver Keenan Allen carries a base value of $45 million over four years has an “up to” value of $49 million. Without knowing more about the triggers for the upside, it’s impossible to know whether Allen has a realistic shot at unlocking the amounts.
We now know the triggers for the upside. Per a source with knowledge of the deal, Allen has a $2 million escalator in each of the final two years of the contract. He earns $2 million for 2019 if he catches 90 passes and the team makes it to the playoffs or if he catches 100 passes and the team wins eight games in 2016, 2017, or 2018. He earns an extra $2 million for 2020 if, after unlocking the extra $2 million for 2019, he achieves the 90 catches/playoffs or 80 catches/eight wins before the 2020 season.
While Allen has never caught more than 77 passes in any of his three NFL seasons, he had 67 receptions in only eight games last year. So getting to 90 or 100 is extremely plausible. The question becomes whether the team achievements will be reached.
Beyond the escalators, Allen does indeed have $21.656 million fully guaranteed at signing, which includes the $1.656 million he was already due to earn in 2016. Because Allen is still only 23 (despite playing three NFL seasons), he’ll be 28 when his current deal expires, putting him in position for another significant payday in 2020, or sooner.