The contracts given to Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray (and the one that will be signed, if ever, by Lamar Jackson) serve as potential prologue to a quarterback contract that finally achieves what others have tried unsuccessfully to obtain.
A set percentage of the salary cap.
It’s the best way to craft a long-term win-win. It gives the team cap certainty. It gives the player protection against his contract becoming obsolete as deals keep getting better, thanks to the cap continuing to go up.
And it’s perfectly permissible under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, the league (through the management council) has tried to keep teams from crossing that bridge.
Of course, the league didn’t want to see a veteran quarterback get a five-year, fully-guaranteed contract, either. Watson got one, because he had the leverage to get it.
As to Wilson, he’ll clearly have leverage to request whatever he wants. Even if he struggles (relative to expectations) in his first year with a new team, the Broncos already have prepared the blank check. And even if Wilson takes a step back as he gets up to speed with his new team, he already has had enough of an impact on the franchise in every way possible to justify the writing of his own ticket.
Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, surely knows about the cap-percentage dynamic. He surely would love to be the first agent to finagle it. Any agent would. For now, though, there are no talks toward a new deal, we’re told. That could change, if incoming ownership realizes that it will take less Wal-Mart money to sign Wilson now than to wait and sign him later. However, it wouldn’t be the best way for Rob Walton and Greg Penner to ingratiate themselves to the other members of Club Oligarch by making one of their first items of business the introduction of a contract formula that all other teams have resisted.
Besides, Wilson usually does four-year extensions. The shorter the deal, the less important a device for ensuring that the contract keeps up with the cap and the market will be.
Enter Burrow. The Bengals already know that they’ll have to surrender the keys to the Queen City to a player who has dramatically changed the franchise. They’re selling naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium, for crying out loud, in order to have the money to pay for Burrow and other key players they need to keep.
For the Bengals, who have a guaranteed stream of many multiple millions thanks to the TV deals, there could be some appeal in committing to Burrow a piece that remains the same size, relative to the rest of the pie.
There’s a certain basic appeal to thinking of it that way. Every year, the same size slice goes to the quarterback. The same amount, relative to the quarterback’s piece, is available for the rest of the team.
The fact that the rest of the league resists it could actually make it more appealing to Bengals owner Mike Brown, given a contrarian streak that has him voting against nearly every innovation that lands in the lap of ownership for an up or down referendum.
Ultimately, Brown has the best kind of bad problem to have. A franchise quarterback he wants to keep in Cincinnati for all of his career. A quarterback who has the confidence and moxie to, if need be, put in seven years in Cincinnati before picking his next team as a free agent. A quarterback who has the casual charisma to explain persuasively to reporters the simplicity of getting a set percentage of the cap instead of a Mahomes-style decade-long deal with hard dollars that eventually will make soft sense in comparison to contracts that come later.
One of these days, someone will get a cap percentage in his contract. If not Wilson or Burrow, it’ll happen. Of the quarterbacks currently in the league, Burrow becomes the most likely. In one fell swoop, the Bengals could secure Burrow for 10 years or longer, simply by agreeing to give him the same 15 or 16 or 17 cents of every cap dollar, allowing the Bengals to have 85 or 84 or 83 cents of every cap dollar to continue to put a competitive team around him.