Crabtree: Inside the details

After reviewing the terms of the just-signed contract between Michael Crabtree and the San Francisco 49ers and talking with sources on both sides, the deal looks like a fair one, albeit a month late. Here is a summary:


The contract is for six years. It will void to five years upon the occurrence of the following:

(1) Crabtree makes one Pro Bowl in the first four years of the contract AND in the first five years of the contract, in a year other than the year he makes the Pro Bowl, Crabtree plays in 80% of the team’s offensive plays and the team makes the playoffs in that year;


(2) Crabtree makes one Pro Bowl in the first four years of the contract AND in the first five years of the contract, in a year other than the year he makes the Pro Bowl, is named All-NFL and the team makes the playoffs in that year;


(3) Crabtree makes two Pro Bowls in the first five years of the contract.

Thus, the six-year contract becomes a five-year contract in any of the three ways above.

Analysis: The 49ers are more likely than not to own rights to Crabtree through 2014, a year where Crabtree makes a pre-escalator salary of $4M. The void conditions require Crabtree to perform at a high level, although not Jerry Rice-like. The term is surprising given recent deals by Eugene Parker, but offset by other issues.

Total Guarantee


Analysis: $17M is 700,000 below the total guarantee for the pick before Crabtree, B.J. Raji of the Packers, although Raji negotiated a five-year deal. The 49ers can certainly feel good about this slotted number.

Cash Flow

The following comparison shows how much money will be made over the relevant time frames between Raji and Crabtree (in millions):

Raji Crabtree
3-Year 18.16 19
4-Year 20.53 23
5-Year 23 28

Analysis: This is where Parker and Crabtree were able to score, figuring that it was more important to have strong three, four and five-year cash flow rather than guarantee and term. Although the total guarantee number is certainly a benchmark for agents and players, the fact that Crabtree will receive the above amounts in years where he very unlikely to be released, especially prior to playing three or four years, is significant.

Escalator Package


Analysis: The $8M package does require some hard-to-earn levels of performance, especially in an offense that may not prove to be receiver-friendly.


The 49ers were also able to negotiate a “salary advance” structure to give them protection and forfeiture ability.

Analysis: The salary advance structure, in theory, gives the team some recovery ability compared to option bonuses due to the Ashley Lelie decision. A few teams -- Carolina and Denver among them -- have used this structure. As to whether there would be an arbitrator who would allow recovery -- and there would be money to recover -- that is speculative at this point.

First-Year Payout

The 49ers will pay Crabtree a full seventeen-week salary over fourteen weeks. In other words, Crabtree was going to get $1.83M in salary for 2009 in the 49ers offer in July. Crabtree is still going to get $1.83M in salary. The contract will read $2.39M with $1.83M guaranteed, as 13/17 of the $2.39M is $1.83M.

Analysis: Though relatively small in an amount, Crabtree suffered no penalty for his holdout in terms of first-year payout. That is a testament to the respect the team has for Parker and the feeling that the holdout was not only the fault of one side. Kudos to the 49ers for agreeing to this and kudos to Parker for securing it.

The Wait: The offer on the table for Parker and Crabtree of a couple days ago was:

Five years, $20M, $16M guaranteed.

The final deal is:

Six years, $32M ($28M over the first five), $17M guaranteed.

Analysis: Many have speculated that Crabtree took the same deal he was being offered for weeks, if not months, by the team. Parker and Crabtree may have made $8M over the next five years with their trip to San Francisco yesterday.

Hopefully the above data points out the strengths and weaknesses of this deal from both sides. It was a win for the team on some things and a win for the player on others, a deal that neither side feels great about. That usually means it is a good deal for both sides.

This was quite a saga, with a final face-to-face meeting spurred by a chance meeting between 49ers president and owner Jed York and MC Hammer at a social function. Only in the NFL....

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