It’s still hard to fathom that the Tennessee Titans traded star wide receiver A.J. Brown for the 19th and 101st overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. For as much talk about Deebo Samuel potentially on the move, it was another second-round wideout who not only moved teams but received a contract extension first.
Brown’s four-year, $100 million contract with $57 million guaranteed gave us a hint at what a potential Deebo extension would look like, but getting an idea of how the Eagles front or backloaded the contract and made Brown’s yearly salary cap would tell the real story.
Here’s a look at Brown’s salary cap hit in each season for the Eagles under his contract extension:
Philly also gave Brown a $23.23 million signing bonus. Brown is “only” guaranteed $40 million (tied for fifth-highest among wide receivers)at the time of the signing. That number is worth noting as some feared Samuel would receive closer to the ballpark of Tyreek Hill’s number at the time of signing, which was $52 million.
The two biggest factors are that Brown has yet to play a full season in the NFL during his three-year career. And both he and Samuel share the same agent, Torry Dandy.
If you’re Samuel, after an All-Pro season, you’re asking for more than top-5 guaranteed money. The 49ers could dress Samuel’s contract up by giving him more fully guaranteed money, maybe in the $43-$45 million range, which would put him at third.
By guaranteeing the salary in the first three years of Deebo’s contract, something the team has done with the likes of Trent Williams, George Kittle, and Fred Warner, you can add non-guaranteed years at the end of the contract so Samuel can puff his chest out and say, “I’m the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL.”
When in reality, like in Brown’s contract, it’s a 3-year, $57.2 million. But on the surface, a four-year, $100 million contract at $25 million sounds a whole lot better than getting $19 million a year when it’s time to argue about who makes what.
This is Paarage Marathe’s specialty. The 49ers have found ways to get creative with contracts to spread the cap hit out over multiple years while ensuring the first year stays relatively low.
Warner’s contract is a perfect example. The 49ers are paying an All-Pro player a base salary of $2.5 million in 2022. They had him for even cheaper during the 2021 season. The Niners' $12.68 million option bonus for Warner starts in 2022 and adds up to the 2026 year. So, it won’t be until next year when the 49ers see a significant rise in Warner’s base salary.
So, when John Lynch says the team can “foot the bill” for Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract, it’s because it’s unlikely Samuel, or Nick Bosa, for that matter, would see their 2022 base salaries affected.
Don’t be alarmed by the big dollar signs at the end of Brown’s contract. That’s funny money. Williams, Kittle, and Warner all have numbers that are ballooned at the end of their deals. So, when a Samuel deal gets done, assuming both sides come to an agreement, expect it to look a lot like Brown’s. Deebo’s should be slightly higher since he’s getting paid after Brown.