Darius Slay’s new deal makes him highest-paid corner, under new-money analysis

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Yes, there’s often a very real difference between the so-called new-money analysis and the valuation of a contract from signing. The top of the cornerback market illustrates this point, based on two recent deals.

Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal last month. With no existing years that were torn up and replaced, the deal has a value at signing, and a new-money average, of $16.5 million.

Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, after being traded by Detroit to Philadelphia, signed a new four-year deal. The four-year deal pays out $60.55 million. That’s an average per year of $15.13 million at signing, considerably less than the Jones deal. But the new money is $50 million over three years. That’s a new-money average of $16.66 million, slightly more than Jones’ average.

So Slay is technically the highest-paid cornerback in football based on the new-money analysis. Which is impressive. For various reasons, however, Jones has the better overall contract.

Jones is 27; Slay is 29. Slay already has gotten a second contract. Jones had just finished his rookie deal. Slay got his deal as part of a trade, which necessarily reduces what the Eagles will pay after giving up draft picks. The fact that Slay got more per year in new money than Jones is frankly amazing, especially given the quality of contracts gotten by older cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Chris Harris Jr.

The Jones deal has $54.375 million guaranteed, $46 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing, with with $40 million paid out in the first two years. Slay has $30.05 million guaranteed, $26 million of which is guaranteed at signing and paid out in the first two years.

Also, Jones’ full guarantee extends into 2022, with $6 million guaranteed at signing and another $8.375 million kicking in if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the 2022 league year.

Slay is committed for one less year, giving him a shot at getting back to the market sooner. And he was able to get the Lions to do something they didn’t have to do: Trade him to the Eagles so that he could get a new deal. A holdout, given the new CBA, simply wasn’t an option for Slay. His only way to get paid was to finagle a trade, and he did.

Slay may see only two years of the deal, given that it’s a bit backloaded, paying out $16.5 million in 2022 and $17.5 million in 2023 — a total of $34 million for the last two years after paying him $26.55 million for the first two.

Which means that Slay could end up making $13.275 million per year for two years while Jones makes $20 million per year for two years. Still, Slay technically is the highest-paid cornerback in football under the sometimes-screwy but universally accepted new-money analysis. Given the dramatically different circumstances between Slay and Jones, it’s surprising that he managed to leapfrog Jones.