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Contract projection for Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White

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That’s a lot of money.

The Buffalo Bills selected cornerback Tre’Davious White in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft after trading down and picking up an additional first-round selection in 2018. It’s become the bedrock of their defense, as that move not only nabbed them the All-Pro White but helped them select Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

With White entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, Buffalo needs to work on a contract extension for one of their best players, but they have time. They could choose to use the fifth-year option on White, guaranteeing he stays on the roster through at least 2021 at a team-controlled price of $10 million.

Both sides may want to get a longer-term deal in place before then. For Buffalo, that would lock in a top asset before someone else comes along and sets the market. Look at Stephon Gilmore’s contract now. When he left the Bills, he was the highest-paid cornerback in football and now he’s ninth on the list and soon to be out of the top ten.

For White, as a lower-level first-round pick, his rookie deal was only worth $10 million total and he’s made just about $8 million of that in his career to date. His signing bonus alone plus the new guaranteed money is going to blow that number out of the water. He can get some of his money sooner rather than two years from now.

Note: The “30% rule” is still in effect for every year of White’s deal, so his total compensation can’t jump more than 30% from one year to the next (Article 13, section 7 of the CBA). For the 30% rule, that means any compensation that’s not signing bonus (Article 13, section 4a of the CBA).

Comparable contracts

Xavien Howard
Miami Dolphins
Five-year, $75 million extension ($27 million fully guaranteed)
Six years, $76.5 million total

In May of 2019, Howard agreed to the richest contract in NFL history for a cornerback if you look just at the extension at $15 million per year. If you look at it as a six-year, $76.5 million deal it’s a much better contract for Miami at $12.75 million per year. With Howard only having one Pro Bowl to his name, he’s an ascending player Miami wanted to lock in before it got more expensive. Sound familiar? Howard was a second-round pick, so he was entering the final year of his deal in 2019. Buffalo has the fifth-year option because Tre White was a first-round pick in the same draft. There is zero chance White signs for less than this money with multiple Pro Bowls and an All-Pro year on his resume.

Marcus Peters
Baltimore Ravens
Three-year, $42 million extension ($21 million fully guaranteed)
Four years, $47.4 million total

Peters’s accolades more closely align with White than Howard. Peters is a three-time Pro Bowler, twice was named All-Pro second team, and once to the first team. He’s also played for three teams in his five-year career. A former first-round pick, he was entering free agency this offseason when he signed his deal a couple months ago. Part of that fully guaranteed money was his 2019 salary, but that figure was already fully guaranteed by the time he put pen to paper at the end of December 2019. It’s $14 million per year in new money and just under $12 million per year overall.

Kyle Fuller
Chicago Bears
Four years, $56 million ($19 million guaranteed)

Fuller’s deal has already been altered by the Bears to be more cap-friendly in 2020, but this is the original deal he signed in 2018. It averages $14 million per year and he rewarded Chicago with an All-Pro season in 2018. He’s been in the Pro Bowl for the last two years, too.

Contract projection

So with those contracts in mind, I’m aiming for $15.5 million per year or more in new money if I’m White. The first and second years will be fully guaranteed. The best way for Buffalo to handle it is to get the deal done now so they can look at it with his 2020 season of $1.8 million in salary averaged into the multiple years of the deal and get his average down a bit. It will also mean someone else doesn’t come in and set the market over $16 million per season. Remember, in a few years he’ll be tenth like Gilmore on the list instead of on the top in terms of AAV.

Five-year, $78 million extension ($28.191 million guaranteed)
Six years, $79.8 million total

This contract makes White the highest-paid cornerback in football at $15.6 million per season in terms of new money ($13.3 million per year overall). It’s modeled off the Howard deal, guaranteeing his signing bonus, the first and second years of the salary, and a roster bonus. This roster bonus is designed to up the compensation in the Final League Year of the CBA (2020) in order to set a solid base line of “Salary” for the 30% rule.

Guaranteed money is signing bonus ($7 million) plus a 2020 roster bonus ($8 million) plus his 2020 base salary ($1.841 million) and his 2021 base salary ($11.35 million). Altogether, that’s $28.191 million.

The Bills have shown a propensity to build in $100,000 workout bonuses into every offseason of veteran contracts. They could do that easily on any year of this deal by lowering a roster bonus or base salary. I didn’t mess with them. They have also used per-game active bonuses as well and incentive bonuses, but I didn’t want to cloud the numbers more than they had to be. Those are usually $500,000 per season.

2020
Pro-rated rookie signing bonus: $1.37 million
New signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $8 million (guaranteed)
Salary: $1.841 million (now guaranteed)

2020 “30% rule” actual compensation: $9.841 million (roster bonus+salary)

Cap hit: $12.611 million

2021
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Salary: $11 million (guaranteed)

2021 “30% rule” max compensation: $12.75 million
2021 “30% rule” actual compensation: $11 million (salary)

Cap hit: $12.4 million

2022
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Salary: $11.85 million

2022 “30% rule” max compensation: $14.3 million
2022 “30% rule” actual compensation: $12.35 million (roster bonus+salary)

Cap hit: $13.75 million
Dead cap if cut: $4.2 million
Cap savings if cut: $9.55 million

2023
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Salary: $12.15 million

2023 “30% rule” max compensation: $16.05 million
2023 “30% rule” actual compensation: $12.65 million (roster bonus+salary)

Cap hit: $14.05 million
Dead cap if cut: $2.8 million
Cap savings if cut: $11.25 million

2024
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus $500,000
Salary: $13 million

2024 “30% rule” max compensation: $16.445 million
2024 “30% rule” actual compensation: $13.5 million (roster bonus+salary)

Cap hit: $14.9 million
Dead cap if cut: $1.4 million
Cap savings if cut: $13.5 million

2025
Roster bonus: $500,000
Salary: $13 million

2025 “30% rule” max compensation: $17.55 million
2025 “30% rule” actual compensation: $13.5 million (roster bonus+salary)

Cap hit: $13.5 million
Dead cap if cut: $0
Cap savings if cut: $13.5 million