Saturday I looked at how the contract extension Lane Johnson agreed to with the Philadelphia Eagles could play in to Germain Ifedi’s contract situation when free agency arrives next spring, however, Ifedi is not the only tackle on the Seattle Seahawks roster slated to be a free agent. In addition to Ifedi, George Fant is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent come March, though his situation is a lot more uncertain.
Fant, of course, wasn’t a three year starter on the offensive line for a Power-5 conference team like Ifedi was, nor was he a first round draft pick. Rather, Fant showed enough as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2016 to earn the starting nod when left tackle Bradley Sowell went down with a knee injury against the Arizona Cardinals. Fant, though overmatched and undersized, understandably struggled as a rookie, but has begun to show what proper weight training and the use of technique can do for a player.
He’s far from an All Pro, but in the spring the question will certainly be asked the key question: How much should an NFL team be willing to pay Fant?
Obviously, any contract he signs is likely to be backloaded in order to make the risk any deal would carry acceptable. In short, a team will pay an upfront premium for the right to essentially have option years on the contract, very similar to the contract Chris Hubbard signed with the Cleveland Browns prior to the 2018 season. Hubbard comped out very similarly to Fant in terms of athleticism and experience, so looking at Hubbard’s contract seems fitting.
Thus, in order to get right to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible, here is how Hubbard’s contract looks on OverTheCap.com.
It’s a fairly straight forward, five-year, $36.5M contract. The deal has $9M guaranteed at signing, with that money coming in three parts:
- 2018 salary (fully guaranteed at signing) $2.5M
- Signing bonus (fully guaranteed at signing) $4M
- Roster bonus (fully guaranteed at signing) $2.5M
Once past the first year, there were some additional injury guarantees built in to protect Hubbard, but those are not the focus for now. Specifically, Hubbard’s contract carried very little dead money if he had been cut after just on season, only $3.2M, and very, very little dead money if he is cut after just two ($2.4M) or three seasons ($1.6M).
Effectively, when the Browns signed Hubbard to his contract, they paid $9M up front for a contract that they could get out of at almost any time, and this is exactly the type of contract I expect George Fant to look for in free agency next spring. Such a structure will allow him to earn more money up front than he has made in his entire career, while also carrying the upside of significant future earnings should he be able to deliver on the field.
As far as the team is concerned, it’s a larger up front payment for the ability to be able to walk away if Fant doesn’t develop as they hope.
In short, expect some team to sign Fant to a four or five year contract in the $9M-10M annual range, but on a backloaded contract on which he’d have to play well in order for the contract to actually pay him anywhere near that average. The exact structure of his deal will depend on the team with which he signs and their cap needs, but something like an $10M signing bonus on a five year contract, with base salaries of $1M, $8M, $9M, $10M and $12M over the life of the contract is likely somewhere in the ballpark, or at least standing in one of the ticket lines outside the ballpark.
We won’t know for certain for several months when free agency opens, unless the Hawks decide to extend Fant prior to then, however, the team has extended very few players who were not full time starters this late in the process. Thus, the odds of an extension being announced soon seem low, but this is the Seahawks and their front office always has the potential to surprise.