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The exciting world of contracts, taxes and structure

NFL: Seattle Seahawks OTA Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With little over a week until members of the Seattle Seahawks report for training camp, it’s almost time for fans to get excited about actual football, as opposed to the offseason rumblings and grumblings of the rumor mill. For the Hawks, that means the first training camp without future Hall of Famers Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner on the roster.

However, Wilson and Wagner aren’t the only two big names who won’t be around when camp opens, as Duane Brown, Carlos Dunlap and a myriad of other noteworthy names either remain unsigned or are set to play for other teams.

Those roster changes have opened the door for a number of youngsters to step in and compete for starting spots. Whether that be players added from other teams, such as Artie Burns, Uchenna Nwosu, Noah Fant or Drew Lock or through the draft, there will be more new names and faces at training camp than any season in recent memory. Add in new names and new scheme on the defensive side of the ball, and there will be a whole lot of ‘new’ on the field for fans to enjoy this season.

However, it’s not just on the field that the team is doing things differently, as the front office has joined the act as well. Back in April the Seahawks exercised the fifth year option of new tight end Noah Fant, who remains very young and who could very easily put himself into the Seattle record books at tight end if he sticks around past the end of the end of his current contract.

In addition, this offseason the front office used a unique contract structure with at least one of its draft picks, Charles Cross. In order to understand what makes the Cross contract unique and why it would be structured in such a way, the best place to start is with a look at the breakdown of the contract from

What immediately jumps out to regular users of is that the base salary in all four years of the contract is the league minimum salary for that season and that rather than the per game roster bonuses that fans are used to seeing in the contracts of Seattle players, Cross’ contract contains annual roster bonuses that start in the second year of the contract. This is not a new structure for the league, as several teams often use lay out rookie contracts in this way. In particular, the rookie contract of Jamal Adams with the New York Jets was structured similarly.

There are multiple reasons to set things up this way, but at the end of the day it’s beneficial to both the team and player. From the perspective of the team, by making the roster bonuses payable in the first few days of training camp means that if the player holds out, they forfeit that money. The logical extension of this is that when discussing the trade for Adams in 2020, had the Hawks waited a couple of weeks and only pulled the trigger after the $2,765,292 became due, it would have saved the team $2.765M of cap space. That’s certainly not a ton of cap space, but it’s just one more of those little details about the trade that can be infuriating when realizing the Seahawks were likely only bidding against themselves.

In any case, getting back to the details of the Cross contract, NFL players are subject to Jock Taxes, which means they get taxed based on where games are played and not which team they play for. Thus, while there is no state income tax in Washington, that is irrelevant when the Seahawks travel to California a minimum of twice per year to play the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers because they pay California state income tax on the money earned there. Thus, it follows that if the players on the Seattle roster are able to make a larger part of their income Washington income and a smaller portion of their income subject to taxes in other states it would lower their tax bill.

Running some simple ballpark numbers on the Cross contract, structuring the deal in this manner allows him to save tens of thousands in taxes, potentially even six figures depending on which teams the Seahawks face on the road in the coming seasons. It’s certainly not going to be an amount that is likely to make or break him financially at any point, but free money is free money, and for Cross the way his contract is structured will leave him a little extra once all the greedy little state tax commissioners have put their hand in the pot.