Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is up for a contract extension, and it’s potentially the last deal he could sign from an NFL team before his career is over.
Because of this, it’s likely that Roddy’s people will try to get as much money as they possibly can. At the same time, the Falcons will likely be attempting to pay the least amount of money possible given White’s age and the expected decline in production that will occur from this point forward. These two conflicting leverage points could hold up negotiations, although my expectations that they won’t be insurmountable obstacles for both parties to reach an agreement.
The issue that White faces is mainly his age. White will turn 33 in November and unless he signs an extension will be poised to become a free agent after the season. White only has to look at recent contracts signed by other receivers that were at similar ages to know that the market is not kind to older wide receivers.
In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts re-signed a then 33-year old Reggie Wayne to a three-year contract worth $17.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. This past offseason, a 34-year old Steve Smith signed with the Baltimore Ravens for a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with $3.5 million guaranteed. A 33-year old Anquan Boldin inked a two-year extension worth $12 million with $9 million guaranteed to remain with the San Francisco 49ers this past spring as well.
All three of those deals suggest the market value for a 33-year old wide receiver is no more than $6 million/yr. with less than $10 million in guaranteed money. Contrast that to deals signed by other wide receivers this offseason:
- DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins: 27 years old; four years, $32 million; $16 million guaranteed
- Eric Decker, New York Jets: 27 years old; five years, $36.25 million; $15 million guaranteed
- Golden Tate, Detroit Lions: 25 years old; five years, $31 million; $13.25 million guaranteed
White would be hard-pressed to get deals that approach those on the open market, which gives the Falcons a considerable amount of leverage.
But at the same time, it’s doubtful that the Falcons would significantly lowball White. White has been a fixture in Atlanta for a number of years, and I’m certain the team wants him to retire a Falcon, no different than recent players like Hines Ward in Pittsburgh or Donald Driver in Green Bay. The team has also made no secret their intention to give White a contract extension since last November.
Like the other older receivers, I suspect the Falcons won’t offer more than a three-year deal. Typically No. 1 receivers have a rapid decline in production after age 35 and thus a three-year deal would lock White up through 2016 when he turns 35.
Because of his past contributions, the Falcons might pad the deal with salaries north of $6 million per year, but it probably won’t exceed $7.5 million per year.
But the biggest key in the negotiation will be the guaranteed money. The Falcons could lower the total figure and just have more of it become guaranteed. I suspect White’s guaranteed money will be somewhere between Boldin’s total ($9 million) and Tate’s ($13.25 million).
Here’s one possible structure of the deal. I should note that this is merely a guess and I have no inside information about how White’s contract is being negotiated. This represents a three-year deal worth $18 million with $12 million guaranteed:
|Year||Base Salary||Prorated Signing Bonus||Roster Bonus||Guaranteed Payout||Cap Hit|
Per-game roster bonuses were included in Boldin’s deal, and have been a regular part of deals the Falcons have negotiated in recent seasons, including those for John Abraham and Corey Peters. Half a million seems to be a regular number used by teams. In the case of White however, since he only played in 13 games last season, only $406,250 (or 13 games-worth) will count against the team’s 2014 salary cap.
This hypothetical deal saves the Falcons nearly $2 million in cap space this year, which can potentially carry over into next season’s cap. In this deal, the Falcons will also guarantee $3 million of White’s 2015 base salary if he’s on the roster at the start of the 2015 league year in March. Assuming nothing catastrophic occurs this season, there is every reason to believe that White will be back next season and earn that guaranteed money. Thus White would have the opportunity to earn nearly all the $12 million in guarantees on his contract. And while his 2016 cap hit of $7.5 million would be fairly high, it should be palatable for the Falcons assuming White’s production over the next years is still fairly good and the possibility that the 2016 salary cap will be significantly higher than the current one.
When a deal for White gets struck is unknown at this time, as negotiations were tabled for much of the spring as White dealt with his family following the death of his brother. But given that the Falcons have had time to consider this for over six months, coupled with the market being fairly set for a wideout with White’s experience, I suspect a deal should get struck no later than the early part of August. It would not surprise me in the least, that a deal gets done before the HBO series, Hard Knocks, that will feature the Falcons in training camp first airs on August 5.