Reporting on player contracts is some of the most tedious and difficult work NFL writers do. Case in point: the Buffalo Bills re-signed outside linebacker Shawne Merriman to a two-year contract extension this past January, and to this point, we've heard three slightly different accounts on the level of compensation Merriman can expect in 2011 and 2012.
First, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Merriman's two-year deal would guarantee him $2.5 million in 2011, average $5.75 million over the two years. and that it included incentives that could inflate that yearly average to $9.25 million.
Next came Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News, who fleshed things out a bit. Gaughan laid out the two years as follows: Merriman would get a $1.5 million signing bonus amortized over three years (including 2010), base salaries of $2.75 million and $4 million in 2011 and 2012, $1 million in bonuses in both years of the deal, and $250K in guaranteed bonus money in 2012. He also reported $4 million worth of incentives and language built into the deal that would void guarantees should Merriman's Achilles injury resurface.
Today, FOXSports.com's Adam Caplan painted a slightly different picture, reporting that Merriman's deal would max at $16 million total over the two years, that $3 million of the total $4 million guaranteed in the deal could be voided by the Achilles clause, and breaking down the bonus money more specifically. This is how contract reporting works: we get the general idea, but the specifics are often fuzzy.