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Buffalo Bills contract numbers: Spencer Long deal laden with incentives

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The offensive lineman is betting on himself with a high-risk, high-reward contract.

Two days after the dust settled from the Buffalo Bills signing offensive lineman Spencer Long, we have new clarification about the contract details thanks to the hard work of ESPN beat reporter Mike Rodak.

Overall, Long’s contract is long on incentives and short on guaranteed money. The Bills are only on the hook for a single season, but two successive team options allow Buffalo to extend his deal up to two additional years. Each year is loaded with likely-to-be-earned bonuses that would give Long an average cap number of $4 million, but that annual cost could be reduced by as much as a million if Long spent time on an injury list or as an inactive player.

The most important number—guaranteed money—is just the $1.2 million roster bonus due in a few weeks. Nothing beyond that can be counted on. That also means there is no dead cap hit beyond 2019 if he’s released.

2019

Guarantees roster bonus: $1.2 million due 3/17
Workout bonus: $100,000
Base salary: $1.35 million
Per-game roster bonus: $15,625 per game up to $250,000
Per-game active bonus: $62,500 per game up to $1 million
Incentives: Up to $800,000 for playing time and team reaching 7+ wins

Dead cap (if cut): $1.3 million (after 3/17 and before Week 1)
Salary cap number (including LTBE incentives and option bonus): $3.95 million

Note: The incentives for the team reaching 7+ wins do not count as likely-to-be-earned because the Bills were 6-10 last season.

If Long is on the roster as a backup for the entire 2019 season, he will make his roster bonus, his workout bonus, and the per-game bonuses for a minimum grand total of $2.9 million if he’s not active for a single game in 2019. If he’s active for all the games on top of that, it’s $3.9 million total.

2020

Option bonus: $300,000 (due prior to start of 2020 league year)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $2.55 million*
Per-game roster bonus: $15,625 per game up to $250,000
Per-game active bonus: $62,500 per game up to $1 million

Dead cap (if cut before option bonus): $0
Salary cap number: $2.75 million (plus LBTE incentives earned in 2019)

* If Long reaches certain playing-time incentives in 2019, his salary can go up as much as $1 million, but it can also go down by as much as $800,000

The option bonus due before the 2020 league year opens would be spread throughout all three years on the salary cap, so $100,000 would go into 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons. His salary-cap number would then go up from $2.75 based on the per-game roster and per-game active bonuses, likely pushing him closer to $4 million in 2020.

2021

Option bonus: $500,000 (due prior to start of 2021 league year)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $2.65 million
Per-game roster bonus: $15,625 per game up to $250,000
Per-game active bonus: $62,500 per game up to $1 million
Playing time escalator: $1 million (based on previous seasons)
Playing time incentive: $300,000

Dead cap (if cut before 2021 option bonus): $100,000 from 2020 option bonus
Salary cap number: $2.75 million (plus LBTE incentives earned in 2020)


The way the contract is broken down, it’s a one-year, $2.65 million deal with a bunch of incentives built in plus two single-year team options beyond that. It’s a really complicated way to do it, but it could end up being good for both sides.

One more thing of note to Bills fans: If Buffalo doesn’t pick up the option at the end of the 2019 or 2020 season, Long will enter the free agency market as a Bills free agent, not as a cut player. So any deal he signs could result in Buffalo earning a comp pick down the line.