The Buffalo Bills signed Vontae Davis to be their second starting cornerback before the free agency period even began. They crossed off a need on their list and moved on from the oft-injured EJ Gaines. On Sunday, Davis was inactive for the first game of the season and most folks seem to think his salary is now some horrible burden. It’s not.
A little info: NFL vested veterans, players who have been in the league for at least four years, have their salaries fully guaranteed if they are on the opening day roster. So from the outside, it looks like the Bills guaranteed Davis’ $5 million contract when they kept him on the roster just to make him inactive. “If they weren’t going to play him, they should have cut him so he didn’t get his guaranteed money,” was a refrain I heard Sunday afternoon and even into the evening.
That’s not the story.
When Davis signed, $3.5 million of his single-year pay was fully guaranteed; $1.5 million of his signing bonus and $2 million of his $2.25 million base salary. The only thing that’s fully guaranteed as a result of Davis being on the roster Sunday is the extra $250,000 of his base salary. The rest was already promised and accounted for.
The rest of Davis’ contract is incentive-based. He already made $250,000 for working out this summer. He gets $15,625 for every game he’s still on the 53-man roster and another $46,875 if he’s active.
If Buffalo releases Davis today, they only added the $250,000 in salary plus his roster bonus of $15,625 by not releasing him before the opener. Seems to me like a no-brainer to keep him around.