In the wake of the Buffalo Bills' shocking acquisition of running back LeSean McCoy in a Tuesday trade, McCoy's contract, his massive 2015 salary cap hit, and the lack of continuing guaranteed money have become a part of the conversation. Add in the idea that McCoy may not be overly enthusiastic about his new team, and the notion of the Bills restructuring McCoy's contract becomes more sensible - and, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, that's exactly what Buffalo plans on doing.
The final piece of LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso deal expected to be a revised contract for Shady. Right now, he has no guaranteed $ in 2016— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2015
McCoy's 2015 salary is $9.75 million, with a $250,000 per-game roster bonus, and a $250,000 workout bonus, creating a total cap figure of $10.25 million. On the surface, that makes wanting a restructured deal seem illogical; McCoy's 2015 cash intake of $10.25 million would be the second-highest in the league for a running back behind only Adrian Peterson.
But there's a more practical reason for McCoy wanting his deal tweaked, and it lies beyond the 2015 season: he has no guaranteed money in the two remaining years of the deal, while his total cash pay also decreases to $7.15 million and $7.85 million in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Depending on how McCoy feels about coming to Buffalo, the Bills may be able to engender some good will with McCoy while also benefiting their cap situation in 2015. An easy way to do that: convert some of McCoy's salary into a signing bonus. A move such as this would provide McCoy with reassurance that he will remain under his sizable contract a while longer, while decreasing his 2015 cap number on the Bills' books.
For example: if the Bills converted $6 million of McCoy's 2015 salary into a signing bonus, prorated over the final three years of the deal, this would drop McCoy's 2015 cap hit to $6.25 million, while increasing his cap hits in 2016 and 2017 to $9.15 million and $9.85 million, respectively. As McCoy will only be 27 entering this season, it does not seem unreasonable to expect to get three more good years out of him. Even if McCoy begins to break down by 2017, when his cap hit would be the highest under this proposal, a $2 million dead money charge three years down the road to save $4 million now, plus create good will for your potential new star player, seems like a beneficial trade-off.
A short contract extension, added on to the remaining years of his current deal, is an option, as well - though perhaps a less attractive one, for both sides. It would, however, add guaranteed money into future years of the deal.
As he's been so productive in the league for numerous years now, McCoy seems much older than he truly is. McCoy is four months younger than DeMarco Murray, who is set to receive a very large contract in free agency. Last July, Jamaal Charles received a two-year extension on his contract at age 27, the exact age McCoy will turn this July. Where McCoy differs from those two backs is in workload; McCoy has had 1,761 touches in his six years in the league, whereas Murray has only 1,105 in four years, and Charles had 1,265 in six years. (Interestingly, new Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman has coached a running back who had an immense workload early in his career and remained productive into his thirties in Frank Gore. After 1,641 touches in his first six seasons in the league, Gore has run for over 1,100 yards in each of the four seasons since then.)
Despite the difference in carries, Charles still serves as a comparable precedent for the more dramatic idea of granting McCoy an extension. Charles had two years remaining on his contract when signed, while McCoy has three. Both players were the same age when an extension would be signed, and figured to be an enormous part of their respective offenses for the foreseeable future. The major difference is in the leverage Charles held due to the much lower value of his existing contract, compared to the possible leverage McCoy holds due to the fact the Bills gave up a potential Pro Bowler to obtain him. Although, as ProFootballTalk.com reported, if McCoy fails to report, he would be forced to surrender $3.4 million in already-paid signing bonus money.
Due to his heavier previous workload and existing high contract, a deal similar to Charles' two-year, $18.1 million extension (including the two remaining years left on his old contract, the total was four years and $28 million) seems unlikely, despite the similarities between the players. McCoy is already on the books for $25.25 million over the next three years, while Charles only had $9.9 million over two years on his existing contract.
These realities, in my opinion, make it much more likely that the Bills will attempt to provide McCoy with his desired guaranteed money converted from his present salary, rather than an outright extension - but then, the Bills have, under GM Doug Whaley, become one of the least predictable teams in the league.
Good business for the Bills on a McCoy extension would have to assuage his concerns over guaranteed money while protecting the Bills in the future, if and when McCoy begins to become less productive. Applying these concepts, a two-year extension seems to be worth exploring, which would put McCoy under contract with the Bills through his age-31 season (and a year older than the age the Chiefs signed Charles through).
As an example of how a two-year extension could be structured: an $8 million signing bonus, a 2016 guaranteed roster bonus of $3 million, $1 million for 2015-2019 in per-game roster bonuses, $250,000 for 2015-2019 in workout bonuses, with salaries of $4 million, $3 million, $6.75 million, $4.25 million, and $4.25 million. This new contract would include $14.25 million in new money, while granting McCoy $10 million in new guaranteed money (he has $1 million of his 2015 salary guaranteed) and a $3.25 million increase on the $25.25 million he is scheduled to make in the next three years under his current contract.
For the Bills, this contract would create cap hits of $6.85 million, $8.85 million, $9.6 million, $7.1 million, and $7.1 million for 2015-2019. The downside and risk of the contract would be the potential dead money created in 2017 of $4.8 million, followed by $3.2 million and $1.6 million in 2018 and 2019, respectively.