Conflicting reports on value of T.J. Ward deal

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When it comes to disseminating information about the value of NFL player contracts, an awkward dance still occurs, to the beat of half-truths and flat-out falsehoods perpetrated by those who want the deals to look better than they are. That same-old song may be playing when it comes to the contract given to former Broncos safety — and new Buccaneers safety — T.J. Ward.

The initial report from ESPN was that it’s a one-year, $5 million deal. Presumably, that’s how Ward or his agent or someone else on the inside characterized the value of the contract. And that’s an important number because Ward was supposed to make $4.5 million this year in Denver.

The perception that Ward will make more in Tampa creates the impression that the Broncos screwed up. More importantly, it begins the process of repairing the damage done to Ward’s ego.

The problem is, however, that someone may have overstated the deal. NFL Media says the contract is worth “up to” $5 million. Which implies that the base value is lower than that (likely lower than $4.5 million), and that Ward will make the full $5 million only if he hits whatever incentives have been loaded into the deal.

When it comes to incentives, sometimes they’re easily earned and sometimes they require Herculean efforts, like winning a Super Bowl or being named defensive player of the year. With Ward, the details aren’t known. They possibly won’t be known until the contract is filed with the NFL Players Association.

For those who push inflated numbers to the media, the thinking is that, by the time the truth comes out, everyone will have moved on. But not everyone; the fact that the truth wasn’t told should impact the credibility of the source in the future.

Of course, for that to mean anything reporters would have to be willing to jeopardize the opportunity to get the next scoop from the source by taking a stand against the last scoop that was misleading. Some will instead leverage the lie told on the last scoop as a way to get the next scoop.