On the surface, it would appear the Buffalo Bills made Tyrod Taylor the quarterback of their future with a deal being reported as a six-year deal for $92 million. However, that is far from the truth.
As with most things, “the devil is in the details”. That certainly can be said for NFL contracts that when reported include all sorts of inflated numbers for overall compensation and guaranteed money.
Take, for example, when the Bills signed Percy Harvin to a “three-year deal” last year which was technically true but it was structured to be a one-year, $6 million deal. The Bills could opt out of the deal after the end of the season which they did.
So what are the details of Tyrod Taylor’s contract and what does it mean for the team? Not all the details are fully disclosed but we sourced as much information that we could from notable NFL sources including NFL.com, USA Today and Spotrac.com in order to give you an early indication of what this contract means for the team and for Tyrod. First, let’s start with the basics.
The Overall Structure
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The contract was reported for six years and $92 million. Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports that it could be up to $112 million with incentives. That means we are looking at an average salary of between $15.33 million to $18.67 million if Taylor were to play out his entire deal.
According to OverTheCap.com, that average salary range would mean he would make less than Colin Kaepernick ($19M) but more than Ryan Fitzpatrick ($12M). The quarterbacks that fall in that average salary range are Jay Cutler, Brock Osweiler, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, and Andy Dalton. That seems like an appropriate range of his peers in the NFL.
Throw in the fact that the average cap hit of the top 32 quarterbacks in the league has gone up 69.9% since 2013. All the sudden, having a contract structured to keep Tyrod Taylor around for six years at an average between $15-$19 million seems like a pretty good bargain.
The Length of the Deal
Is this six-year deal really a six-year deal? The answer, of course, is no. It’s structured as a one-year deal worth $9.63 million with the Bills option after the end of the season. This protects the Bills in case Tyrod does a Ryan Fitzpatrick impression and fails to live up to the hype after signing a big deal with Buffalo. That was an extremely crafty maneuver by general manager Doug Whaley and salary cap guru Jim Overdorf.
Taylor’s agent Adisa Bakari didn’t get worked over either, though. He was able to negotiate much more money for Tyrod Taylor this year than he was scheduled to make even when the Bills held all the cards. On top of that, he was able to get his salary in the first year of the deal fully guaranteed. We mentioned that there was a team option at the end of this season. What does that look like?
This is where the details start to get a bit murky but several sites are confirming the same information. If the Bills elect to pick up the team option it drastically increases the chances that Taylor plays out the entire deal in Buffalo if it doesn’t get restructured at some point.
This was important to Tyrod’s camp because while he is on a one-year fully guaranteed prove it deal, if he does prove it, he is going to get a big payday from the team in 2017. If the team picks up the option Tyrod Taylor will get paid $27.5 million in 2017. $12 million of that is his 2017 base salary and $15.5 million as an option bonus.
For salary cap purposes that option bonus can be spread across the length of the deal. This is why Spotrac.com estimates his cap hit to be $15.2 million in 2017 and $16.1 million in 2018 if the option is picked up. His cap hit went up in 2018 because his base pay would bump up to $13 million that season.
It’s not clear what his base salary would be after that. There have also been reports of a second team option in this deal which would complicate matters. Based on the figures above and a $92 million deal, I’ve estimated that there would be about $40.8 million left on the contract. That means over the final three years of the deal his average base salary would come out to $13.6 million and his cap hit around $16.7 million. But what’s guaranteed?
Why did we wait this long to get to the most important detail which is guaranteed money? In order to under the guarantees on this deal, you need to understand the structure of the contract. Now that you better understand the structure let’s look at what’s guaranteed which can range anywhere from $9.6 million to $50 million based on my current understanding of the deal.
The Bills guaranteed Taylor’s base salary for this year and his $133,000 signing bonus which amounts to $9.6 million total. This money cannot be taken away from him if he is cut or injured and that is the minimum guarantee on the deal.
According to USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, if the Bills exercise the option on the contract the $27.5 million that Taylor is due in 2017 between his option bonus of $15.5 million and his base salary of $12 million becomes injury guaranteed immediately at signing bumping up the potential guaranteed money on the deal to over $37 million.
If Tom Pelissero is correct this is a big victory for the Bills. An injury guarantee is not nearly as good as a full guarantee. All an injury guarantee prevents is the team from cutting Tyrod if he got injured. They could still release him for performance reasons.
Taylor’s agent most likely counteracted that part of the contract with the $13 million of fully guaranteed money. Tyrod would get that money in March 2018 if he is still under contract. If he were to receive that and all the injury guarantees that would push his total guaranteed money on the deal to over $50 million. Confusing right? Let’s summarize:
Definitely Guaranteed: $9.6 million
Potential Fully Guaranteed Money: $22.6 million (2016 base and 2018 base salary).
Potential Injury Guaranteed Money: $27.5 million (2017 base and 2017 option)
Total Potential Guarantees: $50.1 million
Reports are that there is no guaranteed money after 2018 on the deal. Now that we have a better understanding of the details let’s recap why this is such a good deal for both sides and why it is really quite “genius.”
What the Bills got
The Bills wanted a deal that protected them against a significant injury to Tyrod Taylor or a regression in his performance. They were able to negotiate a one-year deal with Taylor for $9.6 million which protects them financially against injury or poor performance.
They were able to give him an increase while still paying him less than Ryan Fitzpatrick who will earn $12 million this season. That’s a pretty good price for Taylor for one year.
The Bills didn’t have to negotiate but they wanted to instill confidence in Tyrod that they believe he is their leader and the face of the franchise. By giving him a significant pay increase in 2016 they showed him that they respected him and wanted to do right by him. That type of goodwill goes a long way. It also shows the rest of the players on the team that they are willing to do right by their own.
The Bills essentially crafted a contract which causes Tyrod Taylor to earn his keep. It will also pay him a significant amount of money if he does perform the way that they hope. The best part about it for the team is that significant amount of money may appear cheap in several years as quarterback salaries continue to balloon. But this wasn’t just a one-sided deal, Tyrod got plenty out of it too.
What Tyrod Taylor Got
Tyrod Taylor also won in this deal and that is why it was truly “genius”. Taylor was scheduled to make $2 million in base salary this year. The Bills could have franchise tagged him at the end of the year thus preventing him from leaving Buffalo. They held all the cards yet he was still able to negotiate a 475 percent pay increase to $9.5 million in base salary this year despite starting in only 14 NFL games.
He didn’t get a ton of outright guaranteed money because he is essentially on a one-year contract. However, the fact that he can unlock over $50 million in guarantees by 2018 is very significant for a player who has earned just under $3.3 million dollars in his career according to Spotrac.com.
The Bills and Taylor were able to get creative and structure a deal that accurately reflects the risk associated with a mobile quarterback who has injury potential while still building in appropriate incentives that will pay him a fair salary relative to his peers if he is able to remain upright and if he continues to perform well on the field.
This deal is a win, win, win deal. It’s a win for the Buffalo Bills, it’s a win for Tyrod Tyrod and it’s a huge win for every single Bills fan who has longed to see them lock up a potential franchise quarterback but while doing so with a fiscally responsible contract that will force the player to earn it.