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Antoine Bethea-Donte Whitner contract comparison

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We break down the contracts for Antoine Bethea and Donte Whitner, and compare the notable differences.

@49ers on Vine

The San Francisco 49ers were quick to swap out their strong safeties on Day 1 of free agency. They saw Donte Whitner depart for the Cleveland Browns, and they quickly signed Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea. Whitner departed for a 4-year, $28 million contract. Bethea departed for a 4-year deal as well, but it took two days to sort through exactly how much he was earning. What was initially reported as $26 million, ended up closer to $22 million.

Given that Bethea and Whitner are actually not all that different as safeties, the big question was how their contracts compared. We've got all their numbers, with Bethea's courtesy of Jason Hurley, and Whitner's courtesy of Over The Cap.

Antoine Bethea Donte Whitner
Signing Bonus $5,000,000 $9,000,000
2014 Base $1,250,000 $2,000,000
Roster Bonus $400,000 $0
Workout Bonus $100,000 $0
Pro-rated SB $1,250,000 $2,250,000
2014 Cap Figure $3,000,000 $4,250,000
2015 Base $3,000,000 $4,500,000
Roster Bonus $400,000 $0
Workout Bonus $100,000 $0
Escalator $250,000 $0
Pro-rated SB $1,250,000 $2,250,000
2015 Cap Figure $4,750,000 $6,750,000
2016 Base $4,500,000 $6,200,000
Roster Bonus $400,000 $0
Workout Bonus $100,000 $0
Escalator $250,000 $0
Pro-rated SB $1,250,000 $2,250,000
2016 Cap Figure $6,250,000 $8,450,000
2017 Base $5,250,000 $6,300,000
Roster Bonus $400,000 $0
Workout Bonus $100,000 $0
Escalator $250,000 $0
Pro-rated SB $1,250,000 $2,250,000
Roster Incentive $250,000 $0
2017 Cap Figure $7,000,000 $8,550,000

The most notable aspect of the contracts that is not listed on the table is the total guaranteed money. Bethea's contract includes $6.25 million in full guarantees. That includes the $5 million signing bonus, and the $1.25 million base salary for 2014. The $3 million base salary for 2015 is guaranteed for injury, and becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster April 1, 2015.

Donte Whitner's contract reportedly includes $11 million in full guarantees. That includes his $9 million signing bonus, and his $2 million base salary for 2014. He has another $2 million in guarantees if he is on the Browns roster 5 days after Super Bowl XLIX.

In looking at the two contracts, the Browns are counting on more than the 49ers. As we discussed previously, Bethea's contract looks more like a two-year deal that gives the 49ers some flexibility to find young talent in the draft. While they could get out of it before then, the dead money from the signing bonus ($1.25 million each year), removes a little bit of flexibility next year. After two seasons on this deal, the team would be "only" be facing $2.5 million in dead money.

The thing is, that would be the most they've had from a single player in quite some time. The 49ers draft strategy in May will give us some clue as to where this thing is going. If they invest in a safety in the first two days, maybe they'd be prepared to unload Bethea early. If they wait until later on Day 3 to grab a safety, maybe they are prepared for Bethea to slowly transition down the road.

Either way, the 49ers have more flexibility with this deal than the Browns do with Whitner. Bethea is a year older than Whitner, so that makes sense, but it's still nice to have that kind of flexibility.