Intricacies of NFL Contracts Rear their Ugly Head as Season Winds Down

NFL Contracts and Sports lawThe National Football League has long been known for its propensity to hand out partially guaranteed contracts built upon fleeting contingencies and various achievements a player has to meet. This season, the intricacies of sports law within NFL contracts are having an impact on a couple of players’ seasons.

Buffalo Bills, quarterback Tyrod Taylor

When a team’s starting signal caller is benched for a sub-par player, it’s usually for an injury. But in Taylor’s case, it’s to prevent one.

Fox Sports News reported the Bills, having just fired their head coach in late December, have a couple of other tough decisions ahead of them moving into the offseason, but none more expensive than the decision whether to keep Taylor.

The six-year player is owed a massive roster bonus of around $43 million if he’s still on the team in March. Should Taylor get injured during football activities before then, he’s guaranteed roughly $30 million, regardless of the team letting him go or keeping him around.

Unlike the National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball, where most of the money in a contract is guaranteed, football players often have a far more difficult time maneuvering sports law to secure long-term financial security. According to Over The Cap, Taylor’s five year, $90 million deal only included a $9.5 million guaranteed signing bonus—and of course, the $27.5 million guarantee should he be injured at any point in time.

Oddly-structured deals like Taylor’s have become second nature in the sport, which makes sports law firms all the more valuable in sorting out the fine details.

New Orleans Saints, running back Mark Ingram

If you’re a fantasy football owner that started Ingram in your lineup this year, you’ve likely been angry that he didn’t score a touchdown over a three-week stretch in early December—it may have even cost you an opportunity at some prize money. But the lack of production cost Ingram a hefty chunk of change as well.

The news first broke after Ingram was seen engaged in a sideline argument with head coach Sean Payton, who had just pulled him off the field at the goal line as Ingram’s teammate ran the ball into the end zone for an easy score. Fox Sports radio host Jason Smith then tweeted to his Twitter followers that Ingram is just one touchdown away from hitting a $100,000 incentive bonus, and that it could have been the source of the anger.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that Ingram also had three other bonuses lined up that pay out at certain yardage markers—a common production bonus attached to many contracts.

As both cases show, NFL deals can be laden with clauses and bonuses that take away from the true, guaranteed value. This is why sports law firms that have experience dealing with this type of legality are in high demand, and will only be more so as we move forward.

Are you an athlete currently in the market for potential NFL contracts? Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Anthony Caruso, at 201-806-3364.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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