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Shawne Merriman Contract Details: OLB Gets Big Guarantees

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On New Year's Day, reports surfaced that the Buffalo Bills had signed soon-to-be free agent outside linebacker Shawne Merriman to a two-year contract extension. Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News came back yesterday with more details on the contract that will keep Merriman a Bill through the close of the 2012 season.

Per Gaughan, Merriman got a $1.5 million signing bonus on the deal - and because he signed it prior to the close of the 2010 regular season, the Bills are able to spread that bonus out over three years, rather than just two if he'd signed the deal after the season. Merriman will also get base salaries of $2.75 million in 2011 and $4 million in 2012. That's where things get a bit more complicated.

Merriman will also get a reporting bonus of $500,000 and a workout bonus of the same value in 2011, bumping his total earnings next season to $4.25 million. $3 million of that is guaranteed, per Gaughan's report, but language exists in the contract that will eradicate that guarantee if Merriman's injury keeps him off the field of play. In 2012, Merriman will get a reporting bonus of $1 million and a workout bonus of $250,000, with the same language eradicating guarantees if he can't play.

Finally, Gaughan reports that there is about $4 million in the contract in incentives that Merriman can earn on top of his guarantees. Those incentives are tied to playing time and sack totals. This is a win-win contract - Merriman can earn quite a bit of money if he is healthy and playing, but Buffalo's payout would be quite small if Merriman's injury history prevents him from suiting up for the team.