It was reported/rumored during the first week in June that the Patriots and Devin McCourty had started talks about extending his contract which is due to expire after the 2014 season. It seems appropriate to now look at his comparables and propose a contract that I consider fair to both him and the Patriots. Please note that I consider McCourty to be an elite safety.

Background information: Devin was the 1st round pick of the Patriots in 2010. Devin was drafted as a cornerback and was permanently switched to safety during the 2012 season. Top cornerbacks are paid higher than top safeties. For example, the franchise tag figure for cornerbacks this year was $10.081 million while the franchise tag for safeties was $7.253 million. Earl Thomas who is the highest paid safety averages 10 million cap hit in his deal. There are four cornerbacks with a higher average. Devin has earned enough escalators in his rookie contract to increase his 2014 salary by $3,050,000 to $3,920,000. His 2014 cap number is $5,115,000. Devin McCourty who will be 27 when the 2014 starts was selected to the Associated Press’s All-Pro 2nd team in 2013. There have been four recent rankings of the NFL’s Top 100 players. They were done by Pro Football Focus, CBS Sportsline’s Pete Prisco, CBS Sportsline’s Pat Kirwan, and NFL players as tabulated by NFL Network.

Player Pro Football Focus Pete Prisco Pat Kirwan NFL Players
Earl Thomas 20 10 12 17
Eric Berry 37 54 33 50
Kam Chancellor 28 73 72 65
Troy Polamalu 95 99 100 61
Eric Weddle 96 34 92
T.J. Ward 100 76
Devin McCourty 22 62
Jarius Byrd 71 37
Antrell Rolle 72

Now let’s look at some financial comparables. Jarius Byrd is 10 months older than McCourty and played under the franchise tag ($6.916 million) in 2013. Byrd’s contract contains $26.3 million in guarantees, a record for a veteran safety deal. His 2014 salary is fully guaranteed. His 2015 roster bonus became fully guaranteed in late March. 6 million of his 2016 salary is now guaranteed for injury. Will become fully guaranteed the 3rd day of the 2016 League Year.

Year Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Workout Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $1,300,000 $2,200,000 $6,000,000 $100,000 $3,500,000 $18,300,000 ($14,800,000)
2015 $2,000,000 $2,200,000 $0 $0 $10,300,000 $14,800,000 ($4,500,000)
2016 $7,400,000 $2,200,000 $0 $100,000 $9,700,000 $6,600,000 $3,100,000
2017 $7,900,000 $2,200,000 $300,000 $100,000 $10,500,000 $4,400,000 $6,100,000
2018 $8,400,000 $2,200,000 $300,000 $100,000 $11,000,000 $2,200,000 $8,800,000
2019 $8,600,000 $0 $300,000 $100,000 $9,000,000 $0 $9,000,000

Earl Thomas was also drafted in the first round in 2010. Thomas was selected in 2011 to the Associated Press Second-team All-Pro In 2012 and in 2013 Earl Thomas was selected to the Associated Press’ All-Pro first team, Sporting News’ All Pro team, and the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Pro team. Earl Thomas is a year and 9 months younger than McCourty. His 2014 and 2015 salaries are fully guaranteed. 6 million of his 2016 salary is guaranteed. Do not know if the 2016 guarantee is currently full or guaranteed for injury now and then become fully guaranteed later.

Year Base Salary 2014 Prorated Bonus 2010 Signing Bonus Proration 2011 Salary Advance Proration Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $4,750,000 $1,900,000 $100,000 $648,212 $7,373,212 $14,225,000 ($6,851,788)
2015 $5,500,000 $1,900,000 $0 $0 $7,400,000 $12,100,000 ($4,700,000)
2016 $8,000,000 $1,900,000 $0 $0 $9,900,000 $5,700,000 $4,200,000
2017 $8,500,000 $1,900,000 $0 $0 $10,400,000 $3,800,000 $6,600,000
2018 $8,500,000 $1,900,000 $0 $0 $10,400,000 $1,900,000 $8,500,000

Eric Weddle, a member of the 2013 Associated Press’ All Pro 2nd team, signed his current 5 year $40 million deal in 2011. Kam Chancellor, yet another member of the AP All Pro 2nd team, signed a four-year, $28 million extension in April, 2013. Antrell Rolle, one more member of the AP All-Pro 2nd team, signed a five year, $37 million deal with the Giants in 2010 when he was 27. Dashon Goldson signed his 5-year, $41.5 million deal in March, 2013. William Moore signed his 5-year, $30 million deal in March, 2013. Michael Griffin signed his 5-year, $35 million deal in June of 2012. This offseason six safeties got deals that averaged over 5 million a year. Mike Mitchell who will turn 27 in June received a 5-year $25 million deal. Reshad Jones who is 26 years old got a 5yr $29.3m deal from the Dolphins. Antoine Bethea got a 4yr, 22m deal from the 49ers. Donte Whitner signed a four year, $28 million contract with the Browns on March 11, 2014.
T.J. Ward got a four-year, $22.5 million contract from the Broncos. T.J. received a $5 million signing bonus. His 2014 salary is fully guaranteed. His 2015 salary and roster bonus are currently guaranteed for injury only. Will become fully guaranteed the 5th day of the 2015 League Year.

T.J. Ward
Year Base Salary 2014 Signing Bonus Proration Roster Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $2,000,000 $1,250,000 $0 $3,250,000 $13,500,000 ($10,250,000)
2015 $4,000,000 $1,250,000 $2,000,000 $6,250,000 $9,750,000 ($3,000,000)
2016 $4,500,000 $1,250,000 $0 $5,750,000 $2,500,000 $3,250,000
2017 $4,500,000 $1,250,000 $0 $5,750,000 $1,250,000 $4,500,000

Before 2011, the nonexclusive franchise tag was determined by calculating the average cap number of the five highest-paid players at the same position in the prior year. Starting with the 2011 CBA, the number for each position is determined by taking the sum of the franchise tags for the previous five seasons and dividing by the sum of the salary caps for the previous five seasons (an average of the 2009 and 2011 salary caps is used for the uncapped 2010 season in the calculations). The resulting percentage is then multiplied by the salary cap. Therefore, 30 numbers went into the calculation for the 2014 safety number of $8.433 million (the 5 highest cap numbers at the safety position for the 2009/2010/2011/2012/2013 seasons and the league cap limits for those 5 seasons). 30 numbers will go into the calculation for the 2015 season (the 5 highest cap numbers at the safety position for the 2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 seasons and the league cap limits for those 5 seasons). Therefore, in 2015 the franchise tag calculations will see the following numbers

  • 2009 Adrian Wilson Cardinals $7,039,503
  • 2009 Troy Polamalu Steelers $6,495,000
  • 2009 Ed Reed Ravens $6,400,000
  • 2009 Oshiomogho Atogwe Rams $6,342,021
  • 2009 Chris Hope Titans $6,000,002

replaced by

  • 2014 Eric Berry Chiefs $11,319,700
  • 2014 Eric Weddle Chargers $10,100,000
  • 2014 Antrell Rolle Giants $9,000,000
  • 2014 Dashon Goldson Buccaneers $9,000,000
  • 2014 Michael Griffin Titans $8,000,000

The 2014 cap number of $133 million will be used instead of the 2009 number of $123 million. If the 2015 cap is $140 million, I feel safe in projecting that the 2015 franchise tag for a safety will be in the 9 to 9.1 million range. For the sake of simplicity, I will use 9 million. If tagged again in 2016, McCourty’s 2016 cap numbers would be $10.8 million, a 20% increase over his projected cap number. If tagged two straight seasons, McCourty will have garnered in cash $23.8 million over 3 years (2014/2015/2016). Therefore, it seems reasonable to venture that a McCourty extension in the $7 to $8 million per year average range would be fair for both sides and would recognize that McCourty sacrificed dollars in his move from the cornerback position to the safety position. An extension could keep McCourty’s 2014 cap number the same. Here’s one such an example of how:

Extend McCourty through the 2018 season.
Give him a $10 million signing bonus which would be prorated over 5 years (2014/2015/2016/2017/2018)
Lower his salary from $3,920,000 to $1,920,000.
Current cap number of $5,115,000 consists of:
$3,920,000 salary
$1,145,000 signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

Proposed 2014 cap number of $5,115,000 consists of:
$1,920,000 salary (fully guaranteed)
$1,145,000 existing bonus proration
$2,000,000 new signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

Proposed 2015 cap number of $8,000,000 consists of:
$5,950,000 salary (5 million fully guaranteed)
$2,000,000 signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

Proposed 2016 cap number of $8,000,000 consists of:
$5,950,000 salary
$2,000,000 signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

Proposed 2017 cap number of $8,000,000 consists of:
$5,000,000 salary
$2,000,000 signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

Proposed 2018 cap number of $8,000,000 consists of:
$5,950,000 salary
$2,000,000 signing bonus proration
$50,000 offseason workout bonus money

This deal averages 8 million per year in new money over the four extended years. That 8M APY would tie Eric Weddle for the 5 highest APY for a safety.

Devin McCourty
Year Base Salary 2014 Prorated Bonus 2010 Signing Bonus Proration Workout Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $1,920,000 $2,000,000 $1,145,000 $50,000 $5,115,000 $16,920,000 ($11,805,000)
2015 $5,950,000 $2,000,000 $0 $50,000 $8,000,000 $13,000,000 ($5,000,000)
2016 $5,950,000 $2,000,000 $0 $50,000 $8,000,000 $6,000,000 $2,000,000
2017 $5,950,000 $2,000,000 $0 $50,000 $8,000,000 $4,000,000 $4,000,000
2018 $5,950,000 $2,000,000 $0 $50,000 $8,000,000 $2,000,000 $6,000,000

Eric Weddle received a $13 million signing bonus. His 2011 and 2012 salaries were fully guaranteed.

Eric Weddle
Year Base Salary 2011 Signing Bonus Proration Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2011 $1,000,000 $2,600,000 $3,000,000 $19,000,000 ($16,000,000)
2012 $5,000,000 $2,600,000 $7,600,000 $15,400,000 ($7,800,000)
2013 $6,000,000 $2,600,000 $8,600,000 $7,800,000 $200,000
2014 $7,500,000 $2,600,000 $10,100,000 $5,200,000 $5,900,000
2015 $7,500,000 $2,600,000 $10,100,000 $2,600,000 $7,500,000

http://overthecap.com/freeagents.php?Position=S&Year=2015 lists the safeties who like McCourty will become a free agent after this season. As of now, Devin McCourty should be considered the best available free agent safety. The only projected free agent safety that I consider in McCourty’s class is Antrell Rolle, who is close to 4 1/2 years older than McCourty.

http://overthecap.com/top-player-salaries.php?Position=S
lists the APYs for safeties.

A extension with a 4M APY would make McCourty the 24th highest paid safety.
5M APY would tie McCourty for 20th
6M APY would tie McCourty for 14th
7M APY would tie McCourty for 9th
7.5M APY would make McCourty the 6th highest paid safety
8M APY would tie McCourty for 5th
8.5M APY would make McCourty the 3rd highest paid safety