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2022 NFL Free Agency: Jamison Crowder’s incentive-laden contract is bargain for Bills

The Bills were able to replace Cole Beasley at a fraction of the price

When the offseason began, I predicted that the Buffalo Bills would offer Cole Beasley a pay cut to reduce his cap hit from $7.6 million to $5.2 million in 2022. Instead the Bills allowed him to seek a trade and ultimately cut him. With the contract details in for his replacement, Jamison Crowder, I may have underestimated the pay cut Buffalo offered to Beasley.

Crowder signed a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, a number much smaller than the one I predicted for Beasley. The details are even better for the Bills, as there are $2 million worth of incentives in that “up to” phrase earlier.

Crowder received a $750,000 signing bonus and all $1.12 million of his salary is fully guaranteed. That totals $1.87 in fully guaranteed money.

For the easy incentives, he gets $45,000 in a workout bonus this offseason and up to $85,000 in per-game active bonuses at $5000 per game. These bonuses plus his signing bonus and guaranteed salary total a clean $2 million.

Beyond that he can earn up to $2 million in incentives for receptions, touchdowns, and receiving yards. Since we don’t know the benchmarks for him to achieve these incentives, let’s talk about why the Bills might have done it this way.

Crowder was only active for 12 games last year and with the merry-go-round at QB for the New York Jets due to injury and illness, his numbers were way down. As a cap-management strategy, Buffalo and Crowder could be banking on an increased role with better QB play and think it’s likely he gets these incentives, but they won’t count on the cap in 2022. As incentives that are Not Likely To Be Earned, they won’t count until next year’s cap. If a player didn’t achieve that number in the previous season, the incentives don’t count on the cap in the current season. (Similar to his per-game roster bonus, which is worth $85,000 at $5000 a game if he plays all 17 games but only counts $65,000 right now since he played in 12 games a year ago.)

His stat line of 51 receptions, 447 yards, and two touchdowns could be manipulated for those incentives. Buffalo could write 55 receptions, 500 yards, and three touchdowns and that would make them all Not Likely To Be Earned but well within reach for Crowder. He topped those numbers in every season before 2021 in which he played at least ten games.

Ultimately we don’t know what the incentives are but, as he gets closer to them, they could leak out from his agent to the local media. Especially if he gets close with one or two games left. Bills QB Josh Allen fed Stefon Diggs in the final game of the 2022, throwing 14 passes his way in order to make sure he nabbed the six receptions he needed to get to 100 catches on the year and a $750,000 incentive.

Ultimately Allen and the Bills’ offense likely makes this deal palatable for Crowder. He has a pretty good idea he’s going to hit those incentives if he can stay healthy. It helps the Bills in the cap space, too.

Signing bonus: $750,000
Workout bonus: $45,000
Per-game roster bonus: Up to $85,000 ($65,000 LTBE)
Base salary: $1.12 million (fully guaranteed)
Incentives: Up to $2 million

Cap hit: $1.98 million