On guard: the Evans deal

With so much NFL news in the last couple of weeks, it went with little to no notice that on May 5th a new financial standard was set for the offensive guard position. In the midst of some negativity from the lawsuit-turned-arbitration involving stolen Vicodin tablets, the New Orleans Saints consummated a major player signing.

The Saints came to terms with guard Jahri Evans on a seven-year contract worth an eye-opening 56.7M, a record 8.1M APY (average per year) for a position that many teams do not even consider paying top dollar.

Having made the Pro Bowl, won the Super Bowl and now signing a record-breaking contract, life is good for Evans, a Philadelphia kid from Bloomsburg who was the Saints’ 4th round pick in 2006.

The market

The guard market hit the 7M average mark in 2006 when Steve Hutchinson was pilfered from the Seahawks by the Vikings, with a seven-year, 49M deal with 16M guaranteed.

A year later in 2007, on the first weekend of free agency, two deals hit the market: the Browns signed former Bengals guard Eric Steinbach to another seven-year, 49M contract, with 17M guaranteed, and Leonard Davis left the Cardinals for the Cowboys for a seven-year, 49.6M contract with 18.75M guaranteed.

Then in 2008 the Giants extended the contract of Chris Snee, inking him to a six-year, 43.5M deal with 24M in the first three years of the deal.

The deal that truly jumped the guard market, however, was in March 2008 when Alan Faneca agreed with the Jets on a five-year, 40M deal with 21M guaranteed.

As we now know, the Jets’ treasure from two years ago recently became its trash as Faneca was released with 5.25M still left on that guarantee. Ironically, Faneca, who jumped the APY for a guard from 7M to 8M in one stroke of the pen, is making about that amount this year, now playing for the Cardinals for 2.5M to go along with the 5.25M from the Jets.

The two sides

Certainly, all of these comparables were in play in the negotiations between Evans and the Saints. As to the negotiating positions of the two sides, the Saints controlled Evans with a restricted free agent tender of 3.17M for the year due to the uncapped system we are in and potentially had him under a tender for next year and could have franchise-tagged him as well.

For Evans, he represented an ascending player who had been a priority for the team in their negotiations for some time. And, of course, timing is everything, as he was coming off a Super Bowl championship and there was the ugly matter of a lawsuit implicating the team’s coach and general manager. More than anything, though, Evans was clearly a priority for the Saints and that was expressed to him as soon as the last confetti was thrown from the Super Bowl win.

The deal

The contract is for seven years and totals 56.7M. With an 8.1M average, it surpasses Faneca by $100,000 as the highest APY for a guard. It contains 19M of guaranteed money, although no guaranteed money after this year. It has 25.6M in the all-important category of money over the first three years.

Positives for Evans

It is the highest average per year for a guard and the second-most guaranteed for a guard to Faneca, and Faneca was an unrestricted, first-day free agent with much more leverage.

The deal is over 14% higher in APY than the deals for Hutchinson, Steinbach and Davis, although those deals are a bit outdated, and almost 12% more than the average for Snee.

The best part of the deal for the player is that he will receive 19M in the next seven months. Evans will receive a guaranteed salary of 7M this year and a signing bonus of 12M paid as follows:

4M on May 15
6M on July 15
2M on January 15, 2011.

For a team that has previously complained about cash flow and has a crucial negotiation coming with Drew Brees (tied to what the Colts do with Peyton Manning), this was a strong point in Evans favor.

Positives for the Saints

They have their right guard under contract for the probably the rest of his career with an extremely valuable length of seven years. The top-of-market average for guards will certainly go up over the next few years while Evans remains under contract.

The guaranteed amount of the contract – 19M – is only through this year. The nonguaranteed salaries of 3M in both 2011 and 2012 are reasonable. The money beyond these three years, like all nonguaranteed contracts, is speculative.

Along with the re-signing of Darren Sharper, the Saints locked up two important members of their championship team. At a time where good news was needed, they got some.

Though I won’t use the dreaded phrase “win-win” (although I guess I just did) the deal seems like one both parties can feel good about, with takeaways for each side that justify its terms.

And somewhere in New England, Logan Mankins and the Patriots are watching closely.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt

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