One of the hardest things for the average fan to comprehend is how NFL contracts work and how they apply to a team’s salary cap. There are many complicated elements, rules, and exceptions that can be hard to sort out. In this series, my goal is to help you better understand how this whole system works, plus what it means to the Green Bay Packers’ current salary cap and contract concerns.
Before reading, make sure to check out the previous article(s) in the series:
- Part 1: An Introduction to the Basics
- Part 2: A.J. Hawk and Contract Restructuring
- Part 3: Jermichael Finley and the Two-Year Deal
- Part 4: Clay Matthews and Incentives
Our fifth article focuses on B.J. Raji and the use of “escalators” in contract negotiations. Yesterday we detailed how “incentives” work, and there are some similarities between those and escalators. However, there is a major difference that gives teams a lot of financial power when it comes to future roster decisions.
As should be common knowledge, B.J. Raji was drafted in the same year as Clay Matthews (2009), though Raji was a higher first-round pick. If you compare his contract to Matthews’ from yesterday, you’ll notice some obvious differences outside of the generally larger dollar amounts. The difference I want to note today is how Raji’s contract is boosted with escalators, while Matthews is boosted with incentives. Take a look:
B.J. Raji’s base salaries in 2012 and 2013 have the possibility of being escalated by $1.2 million and $2.35 million, respectively. So what exactly is an escalator? It’s a clause in the contract that, when triggered, increases the salary of the player. The triggers can be anything from playing time to performance/statistics-based benchmarks. In this case, it is very much like an incentive. If Player A accomplishes X, then he gets paid more.
The big difference, though, is that escalated money goes into effect in a future year, while the incentive gets paid out immediately. So in B.J. Raji’s case, his escalator of $1.2 million had to be triggered prior to 2012, but the money wasn’t added to his salary until that year.