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The completely risk free nature of Mychal Kendricks’ contract with the Seahawks

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It has been less than a week since the Seattle Seahawks inked Mychal Kendricks to a one year contract, and that has led many observers to believe that it was an extremely good sign for his prospects for freedom. Terms of the contract have now been released, and it shows that the signing carries effectively no financial risk for the Hawks, as there is no guaranteed money.

Aaron Wilson, a beat reported for the Houston Texans who previously covered the Baltimore Ravens broke the details of the contract on Twitter Tuesday.

Breaking that down, the contract works out like this:

  • Signing bonus: $0
  • Base salary: $2,000,000
  • Training camp roster bonus: $250,000
  • 53 man roster bonus: $250,000 (at this point it is unclear if this is for his first game of the season or if he must be on the roster specifically for Week 1 to earn this bonus)
  • Per game roster bonus: $125,000
  • Playing time incentive: $1,000,000
  • Performance incentive for sacks (amount unknown, but based on previous reports of a maximum value of $5.3M, it would seem to be for up to $800,000)

So, in short, the Seahawks spent absolutely no money on Kendricks, and if he is in prison and unavailable they are obligated to spend absolutely no money whatsoever. In addition, if he is not on the roster for enough games, or for any games in 2019 for that matter, then the Hawks should hold his rights for 2020 (or 2021 or whenever).

Effectively, what the Hawks did was purchase a call option with no expiration date on the services of Kendricks at the rate of $250,000 plus $242,647.06 per regular season game for which he is healthy (and $117,647.06 per game for which he is on the roster, but not on the active 46, and for the bye week). Basically, if anyone felt the Hawks had inside information that Kendricks will be available to play during the 2019 season, this contract appears to demonstrate that his availability remains uncertain and that the team was not willing to wager any money on his actual availability.

In addition, for those who enjoyed the weekend article about the evolving structure of contracts which John Schneider has put to use this offseason compared to contracts of the past, the framework and the structure of Kendricks’ contract are nearly identical to the contract Richard Sherman signed with the San Francisco 49ers. The similarities between the Kendricks and Sherman contracts are as follows:

  • First year base salaries are identical ($2,000,000)
  • Per game roster bonuses ($125,000) are identical
  • Playing time incentive bonus amount ($1,000,000) is identical (though the threshold for the incentives could be different, as at this time we don’t know the threshold Kendricks must hit.)
  • Existence of a training camp roster bonus ($250,000 for Kendricks, $2,000,000 for Sherman)

The largest material difference between the two contracts is that Sherman’s contract contained a signing bonus ($3,000,000) while Kendricks’ contract contains a bonus for making the 53 man roster ($250,000). That difference is easily explained by the fact that Sherman would most certainly be available at some point during the three years of the contract, while the one year nature of the contract with Kendricks makes anticipating availability a little bit more risky.

In summary, the Kendricks deal and the first year of Sherman’s deal are about as close to identical in structure as one could expect two contracts to be. Thus, it seems as though Seattle fans might owe quite a bit of of thanks to Sherman, and specifically the agent who structured Sherman’s contract with San Francisco, in the coming years if the Hawks’ use of this structure proves fruitful for the organization.