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David Garrard Contract Extension: How Much is he Worth?

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We've seen a few reports this week regarding an imminent contract extension for Quarterback David Garrard.

Sort of.

First we had the NFL.com report saying that the parties were "closing in" on a new contract.  

Good news, I'd like to see Garrard locked up long term with a nice fat (incentive laden) contract that secures our short and medium term future.  

Except that it might not be so close as Vito Stellino reports:

"Nothing is any different today than it was two months ago,'' Al Irby said Wednesday, despite a report on the NFL Network that the two sides would reach a deal soon. "Maybe this week, maybe next week.

"It could take two days, two weeks or not get done at all. This is the way negotiations go. One minute you're going down the right track, but then a snag can set you back.''

Irby said he's staying positive because the two sides are in constant communication, but he added that he thought the deal would be finished by now.

Coming with these often conflicting reports is this meaningless statement that Garrard will be the "highest paid player in Jaguars history".  Imagine that, the highest paid position on most NFL teams is the Quarterback, the Salary Cap is at it's highest, and Jacksonville has to sign a good one.  Just like it was completely meaningless when Greg Jones became the "richest Fullback in NFL history".  These numbers will change every few years.  David's contract, while probably big, will be passed by someone else in a few years.  So I wouldn't get all worked up by the superlatives that we're going to hear when the deal is finally finalized.

More important than the "when" of this deal, at least in my opinion, is the "how much".  David's going to get big money no matter how you shake it, and it's going to be bigger than we've ever seen  the Jaguars pay for any player, ever.  This we know.  The market for starting quarterbacks is well established, from Mark Bulger's 6 year, 65 million dollar deal (27 Million Guaranteed) to Big Ben Roethlisberger's jaw dropping 8 year 102 million dollar (33.2 Million Guaranteed) contract signed just a few weeks ago.  David is going to be somewhere in the middle of all that.

Contracts, Incentives, and Front Loading:
David Garrard has a unique situation in his contract negotiations in that he's only really shown top level skills in one season.  If he was a younger quarterback like Tony Romo, that'd be OK for a big signing bonus and lots of guarantees, but when you're 30 and coming off what could be a statistically fluke of a season, the team must write a protective contract that covers their tail, so to speak.

I'm not saying that David isn't a great quarterback that will have a great 2008 campaign, not by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm merely stating that it's unrealistic to expect David to have the same Touchdown to Interception Ratio or produce the same numbers as last year.  

The team has a few options to protect themselves though, and I'd expect that they use them.  First off, the contract can be written to include bonus's for easy to reach incentives.  Set up the contract to stroke a big fat check if David throws at least 16 touchdowns, another one if we reach the playoffs, etc.  Nothing unreasonable, but ones that expect a solid performance from our franchise quarterback.  

Front loading used to be another way the team could protect themselves, but considering the long term fate of the Salary Cap, I just don't know that putting all the big money into the first three years is really all that important, considering that if the cap goes away the later year money just won't matter.  Even if the Salary Cap stays around, it'll continue escalating so fast that what we consider huge money today is pennies on the dollar in four years.  

Take Tony Romo for example.  He's receiving 6, 6.5 and 7 million in his first three seasons, and all 19 million of that is guaranteed.  Big Ben gets a 25 million dollar signing bonus and smaller amounts in his first few years.  For the Steelers, 2011-2014 have him receiving 11.6 million, a "balloon payment" of sorts.

Now, Pro Football Talk says that David's agents opened negotiations with a Romo-esque contract (67 million dollars, 30 million guaranteed), to which the team replied with Matt Schaub numbers (6 years, 48 million, 7 million guaranteed).  Clearly both parties are going with their best interest.  I'd like to see David get something like 15-18 million guaranteed in a 5 year deal, total value something like 50 million.  If he was younger (David turned 30 in Feburary) I'd be all in on a 7 year deal, but do we really expect him to be our starter when he's 37?

Either way, he's going to get paid and paid exceedingly well.  He deserves it too, he's been nothing but a team player since he was drafted.  Remember, he was to be the heir apparant for Mark Brunell back in the day, he stuck with the team through the early Del Rio days and now he'll get rewarded for it.  Whatever he's paid, I think he'll earn it.

-Chris