Wednesday whys: Cassel deal good for both sides

Why is the Matt Cassel contract not exactly what it seems?

This contract, forecast by the National Football Post for some time, represents a fascinating look at valuation of contracts for franchise-level quarterbacks. Although the guaranteed portion of the contract has been reported at $28 million, a closer look reveals a bit different spin.

Cassel was due to make $14.65 million this season, fully guaranteed (he will still make about the same number, around $15M). Had he played out the year and been tagged with the franchise tender next year, a scenario that was not unlikely, he would have made 120 percent of that number in 2010, or $17.58M guaranteed. Thus, had Cassel not done an extension, he could have reasonably expected – barring injury or a dramatic drop in performance – to make $32.23M guaranteed over two years.

Instead of that $32.23M, Cassel will make $28M in guaranteed salary and roster bonus, all earned in the next two years. However, if he’s on the roster on the opening days of the 2011 league year, there is a $7.5M guaranteed option bonus in the third year of the deal, 2011, bringing the “functional guarantee” to $35.5M for the six-year, $63M contract.

I use the word “functional guarantee” because the $7.5M is not technically guaranteed, as Cassel has to be on the roster after two years to earn the bonus. For practical purposes, the chance of the Chiefs releasing Cassel after paying him $28M over the next two seasons is minimal at best.

Taking out the relative uncertainty of what he would have made next year, we know this year was set at $14.65M guaranteed. Thus, Cassel will make roughly another $20M in functionally guaranteed money over the remaining five years of the deal.

As to the $63M, it’s very similar to what Aaron Rodgers made from the Packers last fall ($65M) after starting seven games for the team. Rodgers, however, was playing for less than $1M. Cassel was playing for $14.65M.

At the end of the day, it appears to be a deal that works for both sides. It’s a strong deal for a player with one year as a starter under his belt and a good deal for the Chiefs to lock up one of the prime assets in the sport – a young and proven quarterback – in a time where, despite the economy, asset values of ascending young quarterbacks will only continue to rise. Somewhere, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler are watching with great interest.

Why can teams sign players from the supplemental draft after using their rookie cap room for the other players?

The supplemental draft takes place Thursday via conference call from the league office to all teams. The teams let the league know if they’re interested in any player in any round, and the league will award such player(s) to the appropriate teams.

The draft selection for supplemental picks will be forfeited the following year. So in the event a team uses, say, a fourth-round pick for a player in tomorrow’s draft, that pick will be forfeited from that team’s 2010 draft selections. Thus, a team needs to have the pick available next year in order to exercise the draft pick.

As for how to pay a supplemental player, the league will assign a “pool number” to the player depending on where he’s selected. That cap charge will be in addition to the cap charge for the players previously drafted by the team in the April draft.

Why did the Raiders cut defensive end Stryker Sulak, their sixth-round pick?

This is extremely rare but not the first time it has ever happened. The Raiders have their reasons for operating the way they do; it’s often different from the way the league’s other 31 teams operate. To actually release a player prior to signing him and letting him at least participate in training camp is highly unusual. This normally happens to undrafted rookies, not to players a team actually spent a draft choice to select. Draft picks – even those in the lower rounds – are valuable assets to teams, or at least they usually are. Players such as Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck (my client at the time) are former sixth-round picks.

My only guess is that after signing Greg Ellis and evaluating their other players at that position -- and seeing Sulak in mini-camps and organized team practices -- the Raiders determined there was no way on God’s green earth he was going to make the roster. It’s still odd, however. As scouts always say, “They were just in shorts” about practices prior to training camp.

The Raiders did save a sixth-round bonus, roughly $100,000.

Why did other sports leagues – Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL – file briefs in the cases involving Pat and Kevin Williams and their suspensions for using a weight-loss supplement that contained a banned diuretic?

As I wrote Friday, the potential precedent of the Williamses’ case can’t be overstated. Their case now sits in a Minnesota state court, with a ruling expected to determine whether the stricter employee-testing requirements of Minnesota apply over the requirements of the NFL-NFL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the event of a ruling favoring the players, there could be anarchy with the league having to deal with the state laws of the 21 states in which it operates.

The other leagues, as well as the USADA, see the potential chaos of this situation as well. Therefore, they have filed amici – or “friend of the court” – briefs to try to ensure the application of collectively bargained rules rather than those of state legislatures.

The Williamses’ case is fast becoming a key marker in sports law.

Why is Brett Favre still making the Vikings wait?

Because he can.

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