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Josh Allen contract breakdown and Buffalo Bills salary cap ramifications

WARNING: This article is intended for folks who want to know all the details about Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and his massive contract extension. Grab your calculators and let’s go.

Let’s start with guaranteed money. He is the first player in NFL history to sign for $100 million in fully guaranteed money. That’s signing bonus, 2021 salary, 2021 roster bonus, 2022 salary, 2022 option bonus, 2023 salary, and his 2024 roster bonus all added together. (Patrick Mahomes only had $63 million fully guaranteed, while Dak Prescott had $95 million.)

A bunch of money will go from injury guarantee to fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2023 league year. His 2025 roster bonus of $25 million will have $16.5 million fully guarantee that day along with $13.5 million of his 2024 salary. On the fifth day of the 2024 league year, $10.5 million of his 2025 salary will become fully guaranteed.

In terms of average salary, he will make just over $43 million in average compensation compared to $45 million for Mahomes and $40 million for Prescott. With Mahomes having a much longer deal, it makes sense that his band-end years would up the average per year.

Starting in 2025, Allen will earn massive roster bonuses of $25 or $15 million in each of the final four years of the deal. It’s another cap management strategy, as they can push those out as option bonuses if they need to in order to create cap space.

With the structure and guarantees, Allen can’t be cut until at least 2025. He could be traded in 2024. But those are all worst-case scenarios we won’t talk about, just contract formalities.

He gets annual $500,000 workout bonuses from 2022 to 2025 and $1 million from 2026 to 2028.

It’s called a six-year extension because they had him under contract for 2022 at $23 million on the fifth-year option. That guaranteed salary was mostly converted to option bonus money. 2021 was the final year of his rookie deal, with 2022 being the fifth-year option, then six more years of new contract.

Because of the length of the deal, Allen will be able to sign another mega-deal before he turns 33 and cash in again, unlike Mahomes, who will be stuck with a low-end deal until he’s 36. It’s surprising to see six years because the NFL had been moving almost exclusively to four-year deals because of the shifting markets every year. The longer term helps the Bills, but Allen still has one more shot at a huge pay day.

The most significant cap management strategy was the use of a large guaranteed option bonus in 2022. It will pay him $42 million but be spread over five years as a pro-rated “signing bonus”. In my most recent contract projection, I prepped you all for a massive option bonus of $40 million+.

His cap hits stay relatively even for the extension, with the lowest being $40 million (2027) and the highest being $51 million (2025). As I said before, those significant roster bonuses allow them the flexibility to kick the can down the road in later years and the final two years in 2027 and 2028 have the room to absorb the increase.

This is a great deal for both sides, in my opinion. Allen gets all the guarantees he wants. The Bills get all the flexibility they want. Mahomes was cheated out of a ton of money in the early years and in guarantees and that was not the case for Allen’s deal. The Dallas Cowboys had to use an option year to spread out Prescott’s hit because they didn’t have the years of his rookie deal to work with like the Bills do.

Here are the yearly breakdowns:

2021
Rookie deal signing bonus: $3,371,461
New signing bonus: $3,300,000
New roster bonus: $2,618,596
Rookie deal base salary: $920,000 (fully guaranteed)

Cap hit: $10,210,057

2022
2021 Signing bonus: $3.3 million
Option bonus: $8.48 million
Workout bonus: $500,000
Base salary: $4.1 million

Cap hit: $16.38 million

2023
2021 Signing bonus: $3.3 million
2022 Option bonus: $8.48 million
Workout bonus: $500,000
Base salary: $27.5 million (fully guaranteed)

Cap hit: $39.78 million

2024
2021 Signing bonus: $3.3 million
2022 Option bonus: $8.48 million
Roster bonus: $6 million (fully guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $500,000
Base salary: $23.5 million

Cap hit: $41.78 million

2025
2021 Signing bonus: $3.3 million
2022 Option bonus: $8.48 million
Roster bonus: $25 million ($16.5 million fully guarantees in 2023)
Workout bonus: $500,000
Base salary: $14 million

Cap hit: $51.28 million
Dead cap if cut: $36.76 million

2026
2022 Option bonus: $8.48 million
Roster bonus: $15 million
Workout bonus: $1 million
Base salary: $22.5 million

Cap hit: $46.98 million
Dead cap if cut: $8.48 million

2027
Roster bonus: $25 million
Workout bonus: $1 million
Base salary: $14 million

Cap hit: $40 million
Dead cap if cut: $0

2028
Roster bonus: $25 million
Workout bonus: $1 million
Base salary: $15.5 million

Cap hit: $41.55 million
Dead cap if cut: $0