If there's one thing we know about NFL contracts, it's that whatever the initial reported numbers are, there are back doors all over the place that can benefit both player and team. So, when you hear that Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb(notes) signs a five-year contract extension worth $40 million guaranteed, the best move is to digest the news without taking it entirely as gospel, and wait for the real numbers to come out.
So it is with McNabb, as first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. McNabb's contract is actually split into a series of decisions the Redskins must make along the way, and the first of those decisions could actually leave the team with a different quarterback in 2011 without severe financial penalty if they choose to go that way. McNabb is due a $2.5 million base salary and a $10 million option bonus would be added to that total if the Redskins choose to keep McNabb. If they cut or trade him after the 2010 season, they're only obligated to the $3.5 million signing bonus, plus the $250,000 bonus he's already attained for playing in at least eight games. McNabb has a $5 million base salary and $6.2 million roster bonus for 2010.
The deal is heavily back-loaded in base salary, which makes a long future between McNabb and the Redskins a bit less likely. Schefter reports that McNabb is scheduled to make $12.75 million base in 2012, $13M in 2013, $13.75M in 2014, and $13.55M in 2015. The option bonus and small base salary in 2011 makes this deal look a lot more like the typical "funny money" contracts given to older players. In reality, this could be thought of as an extension McNabb might never actually see, or a one-year extension worth $15.5 million if McNabb was active for all sixteen regular-season games, met the parameters for a $250,000 workout bonus, and met all of $2 million in possible playoff incentives. One would assume that this would include a Redskins trip to the Super Bowl, and even the most ardent Redskins homer would have to admit that Mike Shanahan's team is a long way from that particular destination right now.
So, there is a bit of good news in the face of that humiliating 59-28 defeat, Redskins fans. Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder didn't tie you to McNabb for five years with no way out -- instead, they gave the current franchise quarterback a deal that works in the short term and can be blown up before the financial ramifications become too ridiculous. And if McNabb starts to think that Minnesota or Arizona are more amenable destinations ... well, that's not out of the question, either.
The Washington Redskins getting smart with player contracts -- who'da thunk it?