Guaranteed contracts are a slippery slope for NFL teams

Photo courtesy of @Vikings, Twitter

The Minnesota Vikings made history on Thursday, March 15, as quarterback Kirk Cousins signed a 3-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed contract, the largest ever signed by an NFL player.

A fully-guaranteed contract ensures that players will receive the amount in which they signed for in full regardless of whether or not they remain healthy and can play and regardless of whether they are still with the team or not, as the money is guaranteed even if said player were to be released.

According to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport, Cousins received a $3 million signing bonus and will be paid $22.5 million for the 2018 season, $27.5 million for the 2019 season, and $29.5 million for the 2020 season, which would be the final season of his contract.

In each season, Cousins will receive a $500,000 workout bonus to round out the $84 million contract. This move made by Minnesota could possibly forever change the demands of other star quarterbacks in the NFL.

It is worth mentioning that Kirk Cousins will have averaged more money per season than any other player in history at the end of the 2018 season. His $28 million per season average just beating out Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions at $27.5 and $27 million respectively, according to the NFL.

In regard to other offseason shake-ups, the Oakland Raiders signed Jordy Nelson, former Packers receiver, to a 2-year deal worth $15 million, with $13 million guaranteed, according to the Chicago Sun Times. Nelson’s contract is not fully guaranteed most likely due to salary cap concerns, as RaidersWire reports that Nelson will account for $7.36 against the team’s cap.

While NFL teams have been historically hesitant to offer players guaranteed amounts of money, Cousins may have started a trend amongst high-profile players in the NFL and at the very least, quarterbacks. While these star players are certainly entitled to the money in their contracts, teams should steer away from guaranteeing players money as that can only hurt teams financially in the long run.

While one may present the argument that an injured player deserves compensation, as they were most likely injured on the field, there should be a strict set of guidelines outlined in each contract that allots a certain amount of money to be provided should a player have to retire for medical reasons.

Teams should look to offer their top players either less guaranteed money or shorter contracts with a higher average per year, as the average span of a player’s career in the NFL is considerably shorter than that of a professional baseball or basketball player.

With that being said, teams will in the long run save millions that they would have had to pay a player that they had released for underperforming or violating team rules had the money been guaranteed.

While we may start to see an increase in players asking for guaranteed money, teams should take time to consider the financial risks long-term before agreeing. At the end of the day, you never know who will be worth the investment until a player calls it a career.