- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Cornerback Champ Bailey has at least nine points of contention with the Washington Redskins’ proposal to extend his contract, sources familiar with negotiations have said in recent days.

The points, ranging from large issues like the overall value to details like the presence of workout bonuses, illustrate the complexity of talks and why no deal will be consummated soon.

People who work with contracts in the NFL — on both the teams’ side and the players’ side — generally acknowledged the legitimacy of Bailey’s points without necessarily agreeing whether he should win each one.

The debate in the public arena so far has been much more simplistic. Public attention, as it often does in contract discussions, has focused on the proposed “signing bonus” for Bailey. The $14.7million bonus would, in fact, make Bailey the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback by that measure.

But by average annual value, the nine-year, $55million contract would make him the fifth highest-paid cornerback. And a more realistic figure on the average value (see below) would rank him even lower.

The Redskins’ proposed signing bonus actually is a combination of a true signing bonus, an option bonus and a roster bonus. To call it all a signing bonus is a bit misleading, because some of the money is restructured from Bailey’s existing contract. But for better or worse, that is how past contract extensions generally have been reported.

Bailey’s camp is scheduled to respond to the Redskins in coming days, and sources said that response will point out problems with the proposal. His camp will not make a counterproposal, waiting to see if there is a next stage of discussions and what form it takes.

If negotiations ultimately intensify, they would center around such points:

1. The $14.7million “signing bonus.” Most people on the players’ side of the debate consider Bailey an elite player because of his three Pro Bowls in four NFL seasons.

They say elite players transcend positional rankings and command deals based on those for the game’s top players. Thus the $19million signing bonus of Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis (also a somewhat misleading term referring to his combined guaranteed money) would be a benchmark more consistent with Bailey’s thinking.

However, most people who work on the team side think it is dangerous for a club to acknowledge the idea of elite players.

2. The $6.1million annual average. The top three cornerbacks are all above $7million in annual average. Bailey expects to be at those levels.

Those on both sides of the debate seem to acknowledge this as a key argument. The consensus seems to be that Washington’s deal has a nice signing bonus for public consumption but that its substance is a bit lacking.

3. The deal’s nine years. The current benchmark for large NFL deals is seven years, based on the maximum proration allowed for signing bonuses. The Redskins added eighth and ninth years that serve no purpose other than to inflate the average annual value. By removing those two years, the team would be forced to increase earlier years even more to get the right average.

As an example, the average of Washington’s proposal if it were chopped to six years instead of nine would be $5.3million. One person on the team side said the $6.1million figure should be thrown out because the proposal’s length makes comparisons to other contracts meaningless.

4. Ty Law’s deal is dated. The New England corner currently has the benchmark deal at Bailey’s position, but it was signed four years ago. People on both sides of NFL contracts concede that the contract’s relevancy has declined.

5. The balance of true signing bonus and option bonus. Washington’s proposed signing bonus is $7.4million, with a $6million option bonus. Bailey, if he even agreed with the sum of those figures, would want a greater percentage in the first bonus. That’s because there’s a slim chance he could sustain a major injury and never see the second bonus.

6. The fact that there’s an option bonus at all. Washington doesn’t have salary cap trouble this year — the reason option bonuses were invented. Theoretically, the Redskins could put all the money into a true signing bonus.

However, it is fairly common for bonuses of this size to be two-tiered. So a team could argue that Bailey has to expect a tiered bonus.

7. The presence of workout bonuses. Bailey doesn’t live in the Washington area during the offseason and doesn’t want part of his contract tied to where he makes his offseason home.

One person on the team side, though, vehemently disputed that argument. He said a player who gets paid that much money should be expected to be around all offseason.

8. An insurance policy at Bailey’s expense that would benefit the club. Such policies are becoming increasingly common for big-money extensions like these. But they aren’t the industry standard. Lewis’ deal, for example, doesn’t have such a policy, while Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher’s does.

Essentially, the Redskins want Bailey to spend his own money to buy insurance in case he gets injured. But he wouldn’t be the beneficiary of the policy — the Redskins would. Bailey could, however, negotiate a higher signing bonus to help offset the cost of the premium.

9. The deal’s relatively low present value. Washington has structured the contract to pay relatively little money up front. This has nothing to do with the salary cap, but is just for cash flow purposes. Although the money remains guaranteed, the player has less incentive to skip free agency in the spring.

This is an increasingly common approach in the NFL, and it is status quo with the Redskins. Still, a player can decide that the relatively small difference in short-term cash flow isn’t worth waiting for a bigger payday in March.

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