There is real acrimony in the NFL when it comes to the Cleveland Browns and the five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract the organization gave to Deshaun Watson after trading a king’s ransom for the embattled signal-caller, who recently settled 20 of the 24 civil cases against him over allegations of sexual misconduct.
More than the moral hurdles Cleveland has to find a way over in the court of public opinion, the re-setting of the quarterback market is what those in the business of football are shaking their heads at.
Even if you magically wiped clean any off-the-field issues with Watson, he’s still coming off a year in mothballs and the last time he was playing the talented Clemson product could squeeze only four wins out of an admittedly talent-deficient Houston Texans team.
Contracts, of course, are all about timing and circumstance and the next in line at QB are Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and then the two emerging superstars from the 2020 draft: Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and the LA Chargers’ Justin Herbert, who are eligible for extensions after the 2022 season is completed.
As you can imagine, any agent worth their salt is going to start negotiations asking for more than the new template, which is Watson’s fully-guaranteed deal.
That’s an issue for some teams because of the so-called escrow rule in that when you guarantee money in the NFL, the structure allows you to pay in installments but the entire portion of the guarantee not paid when pen is put to paper has to be placed in escrow when the contract is signed.
For Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam, who has a net worth estimated at just under $4 billion, it’s an easy step to pay close to $50M upfront and put another $180M off to the side for future payments. Same thing for Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, a Philadelphia native who is worth almost $6 billion, so while the Ravens’ top dog might be upset about what he has to pay Jackson now, at least he can do it.
There are levels of rich, though, in the league, and for the duo in the hole on the merry-go-round, the Bengals and Chargers, both are family-owned businesses and may not have the financial clout to scrape close to $250M in liquidity at the drop of the hat without loans coming into play.
And that’s a competitive advantage situation that the salary cap is there to alleviate.
According to Andrew Brandt, the former long-time Packers executive, and consultant for the Eagles, Philadelphia also upset some others when they traded for A.J. Brown and tacked on a massive $100 million extension with an average annual value of $25M
While most point to Jacksonville overpaying Christian Kirk as the impetus of the so-called WR explosion that helped re-set the market that Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill cashed in on after trades to Las Vegas and Miami, respectively. The Eagles are also now in the crosshairs for being early birds.
“There are a lot of teams cursing the Eagles right now because it’s one thing for Devante and Tyreek to get those massive extensions. A.J. Brown was only in a rookie deal and that’s different,” Brandt explained when talking with JAKIB Sports.
In many ways, however, the Eagles took their in-house philosophy — identifying the young talent they want to build around early and getting extensions done proactively — outside the building with Brown due to their own missteps in drafting wideouts in recent years.
Think of it last way: last year the Eagles got extensions done with stalwarts of their 2018 draft class like Jordan Mailata, Josh Sweat, Avonve Maddox, and Dallas Goedert, with the span being days before the season for Mailata and Nov. 19 for Goedert, who seemed to be willing to bet on himself and drive up the price.
If the Eagles had drafted Brown in 2019 and got a deal done the day before the regular season started like Mailata last September, few would be complaining.
The penalty of misevaluating the position and needing Brown for the Eagles was essentially the first-round pick it took to get him and 4 1/2 months from a contract standpoint because the extension would have been there.
So if other teams are upset, perhaps the angst would be better served in a more productive fashion.
A.J. Brown on playing with Jalen Hurts #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/D86UHiWWwI
— JAKIB Sports (@JAKIBSports) June 23, 2022
-John McMullen is the managing editor of JAKIBSports.com and covers the Eagles and the NFL for JAKIB Sports. You can reach him on Twitter at @JFMcMullen or at JMcMullen44@gmail.com.