The Arizona Cardinals have done a pretty good job in free agency and the draft to shore up the roster in preparation for the 2014 season. Until the league-wide roster cuts, there is very little left to do for the Birdgang to drastically alter the season plan. Some tough cuts will have to be made, sure, but every team struggles with the 54th and 55th men come 53-man roster finalization.
So any moves in the “has-to-be-done” category are ones of luxury and immense foresight, such as extending your elite cornerback to a mega-deal.
Which brings us to this: in order to keep one step ahead of the curve, the Arizona Cardinals would do right to give Patrick Peterson his extension sooner rather than later.
The other dominos in the league have already fallen: Richard Sherman, Joe Haden and Darrelle Revis have all signed deals north of $13 million. For a player who belongs in the same conversation as those three, it only makes sense Arizona should follow suit.
Already signed through 2015, this is in theory something that can be put off a season (or two, if Arizona wants to play it close to the heart and risk Peterson fielding UFA offers). But there are a couple forces at work that suggest getting this out of the way prior to next season
In 2014, Peterson will make just south of $3 million, and that’s not likely to change. Next season, though, that number spikes up to just over $10 million, which is closer to the amount the Big Three are making, but still well short. It may be just enough for nothing to happen yet, however.
So here’s what I propose: Arizona gets the deal done prior to this season so they can include 2015 in the deal. It sounds strange, but let me explain.
(The numbers I use are included for argument’s sake only)
Let’s say the Cardinals were to offer Peterson a four-year, $60 million deal starting in 2016. He would make a $15 million a year, which is more than Haden (five year, 67.5 million) and Sherman (4 year $56 million), but less than Revis (two year, $32 million). So a rather standard deal and what Cardinals fans should expect to see whenever Patrick is inevitably extended.
What I propose: a five year, $61 million deal, starting in the 2015 season, with $5 million of it coming in the form of a roster bonus added on to his final rookie deal year in 2015.
Basically, a four year extension with some money coming a year ahead of time from the other years.
In the long run, such a deal could afford them some extra wiggle room. By adding an extra $5 million in a year they don’t have to, they can structure the contract such that they save the $5 million elsewhere across the duration of the deal.
The Angels did a similar thing with Mike Trout’s six-year, $144.5 million deal (while I acknowledge the MLB and NFL systems are completely different). They signed over three years of arbitration (where he would be paid significantly less) in order to save a decent amount of money (anyone who knows baseball knows that Trout for that money is a steal).
The purpose of moving the money around is to make a more manageable salary cap situation. Basically, instead of him having a $15 million hit across four years, the Cardinals can take more hit in 2015 and be relieved in 2016-19. Even if it is just for $1 million or so per year, it makes a difference.
Peterson’s camp would be right to turn that down, but it’s an interesting negotiation chip that could be worth exploring if it’s presented to both parties in the right light, especially if the alternative is taking a franchise tag in 2016.
If such financial footwork is possible under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the Cardinals would do right to pursue it. If not, there are still benefits to signing it early, chief among them avoiding the distraction and avoiding the franchise tag.
Really, Peterson is going to get paid either way. Let’s just make sure it’s by the Cardinals and no one else.
All contract numbers provided by spotrac.com and overthecap.com