What could a C.J. Gardner-Johnson contract extension look like?

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A new subplot kicked off at New Orleans Saints training camp this week with news of C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s quasi-hold-in in pursuit of a new contract before the end of his four-year rookie deal. So what would an extension look like? To make a good guess, we did some research. It’s Aug. 4. Let’s compare some recent summertime Saints contract extensions and their guarantees:

  • RT Ryan Ramczyk: signed on July 1, receiving $60 million of $96 million in guarantees (62.5%)

  • WR Michael Thomas: signed on July 31, receiving $35.64 million of $96.25 million in guarantees (37.0%)

  • RB Alvin Kamara: signed on Sept. 12, receiving $33.83 million of $75 million in guarantees (45.1%)

  • LB Demario Davis: signed on Sept. 12, receiving $14.75 million of $27 million in guarantees (54.6%)

  • CB Marshon Lattimore: signed on Sept. 13, receiving $44.34 million of $97 million in guarantees (45.75%)

That’s an average of 48.9% in guarantees, which lines up well with the 51.7% average that top slot defenders around the league are seeing. Here are the five defensive backs who have, like Gardner-Johnson, logged 400-plus slot snaps last season and are playing on multiyear, double-digit deals:

  • Kenny Moore: signed for four years, $33.3 million ($8.33 million per year) with $13.25 million guaranteed (39.8%)

  • Taron Johnson: signed for three years, $24 million ($8 million per year), with $13.95 million guaranteed (58.1%)

  • Avonte Maddox: signed for three years, $22.5 million ($7.5 million per year), with $14.17 million guaranteed (63.0%)

  • Mike Hilton: signed for four years, $24 million ($6 million per year), with $6 million guaranteed (25.0%)

  • Jourdan Lewis: signed for three years, $13.5 million ($4.5 million per year), with $7.75 million guaranteed (57.4%)

So there are some clear outliers here, like the small guarantees Hilton received and the low per-year value in Lewis’ deal. Take those two out of the equation and you’ll get this proposal: three years, $26.6 million ($7.94 million per year) with $15.46 million guaranteed (58.6%). That’s heavier in guarantees than the Saints typically like to agree to, but the length and per-year salary may be to their liking. It leaves room for flexibility with a couple of void years to be tacked onto the end for accounting purposes, future roster bonuses that could be restructured, and actual negotiations would go more in-depth for how those guarantees are distributed (for example, Moore received just $9 million in guarantees at signing with injury vesting guarantees conveying later on).

So let’s say that Harley, Loomis and the Saints work down to lower guarantees in exchange for a slightly higher per-year salary, which resets the market for slot specialists while giving the team opportunities to restructure in a year or two and retain cap flexibility. Our revised proposal: four years, $34 million ($8.5 million per year) with $16.8 million in guarantees (49.4%). That gives Gardner-Johnson what he’s earned, as well as some bragging rights with the NFL’s highest per-year salary for a slot defender (ranking 24th among all cornerbacks and 20th among safeties), while the Saints can navigate the salary cap as needed and maybe get out of this contract after about two years without much penalty if need be. But Gardner-Johnson has only seen his star rise with New Orleans so there’s a real chance he sees every penny in this deal.

Things will no doubt be more complicated once Gardner-Johnson’s representatives sit down with the Saints’ brass. This is just a starting point from the outside looking in. But it feels like fair compensation for what Gardner-Johnson brings to the team and how he compares to his peers across the league. With the salary cap about to go to the moon once new broadcasting rights contracts inject higher revenue to the NFL’s coffers, players like Gardner-Johnson are well-positioned to cash in.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire