Pittsburgh Steelers, take note. The Dallas Cowboys have shown you and the rest of the league how to properly structure a long-term deal for a player who is restricted by the franchise tag.
With $20.56 million on the books for 2019 — and a chance to make $29.6 million under a third franchise tag in 2020 — Lawrence swapped the tag in the hand for a long-term deal that made sense for both sides.
Albert Breer of SI.com has posted the cash flow generated by the new long-term deal. And the key comes from the first two years: Lawrence gets $31.1 million in 2019 and $16.9 million in 2020, fully guaranteed.
That’s $48 million over two years. While $2.1 million less than the $50.1 million he would have made under the franchise tag over the next two years, it’s also more than the franchise tag/transition tag two-step that the Cowboys could have attempted, which would have resulted in $20.56 million in 2019 and $24.672 million in 2020, for a total of $45.23 million.
Lawrence also has $17 million in 2021 that is guaranteed for injury at signing, and that amount becomes fully guaranteed in March of 2020 — not March of 2021. This means that he’ll either get $65 million for three years or $48 million for one year, and a trip to the open market.
To get that security, Lawrence had to agree to a pair of non-guaranteed years on the back and, at $19 million in 2022 and $21 million in 2023. There’s a chance that increases in the salary cap, along with other contracts signed in the interim, will make those numbers seem pedestrian by then. There’s also a chance the Cowboys won’t honor the non-guaranteed years. Regardless, he’s getting either $48 million for one year or $65 million for three, which makes it worth the risk that he’ll either be underpaid or cut loose in 2022.
And if the Steelers were willing (they’re definitely able) to structure contracts this way, running back Le'Veon Bell would still be on the team. But because Pittsburgh stubbornly refuses to fully guarantee money beyond the first year of a contract, it never made sense for Bell to trade in a one-year fully-guaranteed franchise tender for a long-term deal with no clear commitment beyond the first season.