Michael Vick, the Eagles and guaranteed money

Michael Vick is still an Eagle. To clarify and answer many reader questions about the roster bonus, there was no affirmative action the Eagles needed to take for Vick to remain with the team for the 2010 league year. He earns his roster bonus by, well, being on the roster, which he is as of today. It’s that simple. Contrary to reports, the Eagles have not “picked up his option”; they simply have not released or traded him from their roster prior to today.

So are the Eagles investing $2.5 million in Vick today? Well, maybe. They are certainly investing the $1.5-million roster bonus. As for the $1M guaranteed salary…well, not exactly, as you’ll see below.

The curious case of the Eagles and Michael Vick illustrates an aspect of “guaranteed money” in a league that has not been nearly as giving in this department as the NBA and Major League Baseball.

The Eagles negotiation

In August, Vick and his agent, with counsel from Tony Dungy, were looking for a team with a solid image and reputation, a secure and stable situation at starting quarterback and a one-year contract to ease back into football and rehabilitate his career.

They got two out of three.

As important as not having a second year on the deal was to Team Vick, it was equally or more important to the Eagles to have the rights to Vick in 2010. Why? To keep their options open, which is what every team tries to do, toward the use and/or trade of the player.

What was their investment? In 2009, it was pretty simple: about $100,000 per game, through a salary of a bit over $1.6M. That part of the negotiation was straightforward.

Like many negotiations, however, the key issue here was about future risk and reward rather than present money. The second year was the issue. Determined to hold on to potential free agency in 2010, Vick’s side fought hard for a one-year deal until it finally relented. Vick had options, but those teams, while willing to give him a one-year deal, had other flaws.

The 2010 guarantee commitment

Having lost that battle, the next discussion was the amount of commitment for the Eagles to retain Vick in 2010. Of course, the 2010 salary is irrelevant as the team could easily trade or release Vick way before that salary became realistic. The issue, of course, was how much would be committed in March and how much of that salary would be guaranteed. This is where the bulk of the negotiation was, with Vick wanting that number to reflect starting quarterback numbers. Ultimately, the sides agreed to the following settlement over the second year (2010):

Vick’s 2010 salary was to be $3.75M, with $1M guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year (today), the same day the Eagles were required pay him a roster bonus of $1.5M.

The offset

As with many contracts involving future guaranteed salary, there is offset language. This means that if Vick is released prior to the season and signs with another team, the $1M guaranteed amount would be reduced by the compensation received from the other team. This “offset” language is certainly valuable to the Eagles in this situation, assuming that Vick will be playing in the NFL in 2010, whether for them or another team.

All guarantees are not created equal (as we’ll see in looking at Jake Delhomme’s later this week).

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For a look at some of the best remaining free agents, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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