When yesterday WGR's Sal Capaccio reported that the Bills might get creative with a new contract for Tyrod Taylor, our Dan Lavoie looked at what this might entail. As this contract would be truly one-of-a-kind, let's take a bit of a further look at the pros and cons.
While the Bills did use a similar-type structure with Percy Harvin's contract - Taylor's would be much more complicated. Harvin received a "three year" contract for $24 million, which included a $3 million signing bonus and salaries of $3 million in 2015 and $9 million in each of 2016 and 2017. For 2015, Harvin's cap number was a lowly $4 million because the $3 million signing bonus was prorated over the next two years. The contract gave the Bills the right to void the contract after the 2015 season, nullifying the $9 million salaries but accelerating forward the remaining prorated signing bonus. Harvin counts for $2 million on the 2016 salary cap, as the Bills carry that previous prorated signing bonus. Even Taylor's current Bills deal has a void, albeit with smaller numbers. Regardless of whether he plays for the Bills next year, Taylor will count for $133,334 against the cap as prorated signing bonus for the voided third year of the contract.
It is in this potential acceleration that using Harvin as a model for Taylor creates potential problems. If, as has been reported, the Bills were to pay Taylor handsomely this year while including some sort of "vesting" option for the remainder of his contract, they would need to utilize a signing bonus in 2016. The team does not have the cap space to use straight salary, which would count all on the 2016 cap. If the team used a signing bonus, this bonus would then be prorated over the length of the "vested" contract. If the "vested" contract was eventually voided, the prorated signing bonus would all accelerate back onto the Bills' 2017 salary cap.
For example, if the Bills gave Taylor a $15 million signing bonus, while increasing his salary $2 million to get him to $20 million in total 2016 salary. The remainder of the contract (say four additional years) could include salaries at commensurate levels with an NFL starting quarterback with voidable potential after the 2016 season if Taylor doesn't perform. But this structure would not be without large potential risk to the Bills due to acceleration. If the contract is voided, the $15 million signing bonus that had been prorated over the five years of the contract would all accelerate onto the Bills' 2017 salary cap, creating $12 million in dead money. If the "vesting" conditions were done correctly, this wouldn't be catastrophic to the Bills' cap, but it would certainly hamper them.
Additionally, another problem seems to exist with the "vested" quarterback contract. In order to sign a deal of this type, that could potentially tie Taylor to Buffalo for four more years, it is assumed Taylor would want more guaranteed money that the $20 million he would be receiving in 2016. This would require the Bills to guarantee money in potentially voidable years, which the CBA seems to say can be voided if the team and player agree but seems to be counter-intuitive - a voidable guarantee is not guaranteed at all. The "vesting" conditions would have to be extremely detailed and complicated but also with limited to no discretion for each side. The team would need to include large sums of money as either a roster bonus or salary in 2017 that could then be converted into a prorated signing bonus if the voidable years vested. This money would then essentially be "guaranteed" if Taylor performed well in 2016.
Either way, the reports and discussion surrounding a "vesting" type contract for a franchise quarterback are very interesting. The contract would be complicated and genuinely one-of-a-kind. If the Bills want to compensate Taylor accordingly for 2016, they will carry risk of dead money under either a shorter two to three year extension or this "vesting" type option, but the creativity and uniqueness of the "vesting" option would also potentially give the Bills the security of a long-term contract without the significant risk that its guaranteed money would contain.