Agent’s POV: Dig deeper into Bobby Wagner’s free agent deal with the Super Bowl champions Rams

Inside linebacker Bobby Wagner gained more experience for his post-career aspiration to become NFL team president by negotiating his own contract for the second time in his NFL career. The dynamic was different than when Wagner negotiated a three-year, $54 million contract extension averaging $18 million a year with the Seahawks in 2019 to become the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker.

Wagner, who turns 32 in June, had to navigate the free market this time around because the Seahawks released him in the days before free agency began rather than pay him $16.6 million. in 2022 on a salary cap of $20.35 million. He learned that NFL teams were concerned about making major financial commitments to older players in non-premium positions, regardless of their performance. The 10-year veteran had a career-high 170 tackles while earning his eighth straight Pro Bowl selection and second All-Pro team last season.

Wagner’s agreement

Wagner signed a five-year, $50 million contract worth up to $65 million through incentives with the Rams. The future Hall of Famer reportedly turned down a multi-year contract from the Ravens containing $18 million fully guaranteed to stay close to home. Wagner is from Ontario, California, 80 miles east of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where the Rams’ home games are played.

The contract contains $20 million in guarantees, of which $10 million is fully guaranteed at signing. Wagner’s $5 million signing bonus, $1.5 million base salary for 2022 and $3.5 million bonus for the fifth day of the 2023 league year include the fully guaranteed money. Technically, the roster bonus is guaranteed for signing skills and injuries and the salary cap guarantee goes into effect on April 8. List bonus has no compensation.

The other $10 million in safety comes from Wagner’s base salary of $7.5 million in 2023 and $2.5 million on the fifth day of the 2024 league year bonus. Both are guaranteed against signature injuries and become fully guaranteed next March on the fifth day of the 2023 Championship year.

Wagner has a base salary of $8.5 million in 2024 and 2026. His base salary in 2025 is $8 million. There is also $2.5 million in bonuses for the fifth day of the league year in 2025 and 2026.

The deal provides $3 million in annual incentives, and $2 million is based on Wagner’s playing time and Rams performance. Wagner receives $250,000 each for 80% or more defensive playing time and the Rams improve their league standings in points allowed, total defense or average net yards given up per pass for a total of $750,000. Taking at least 90% of the Rams’ defensive snaps is worth $500,000. Reaching the game time threshold while the Rams are in the playoffs nets an additional $750,000.

A million is tied to Wagner honors each season. Wagner receives $500,000 for being selected to the Pro Bowl and the Rams improve their league standings starting in the 2021 season in points allowed, total defense or average net yards given up per pass. It’s more like $1 million for first-team All-Pro/All-NFL by the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers of America, or Sporting News.

Wagner has the right to void his 2024, 2025 and 2026 contract years. He must play at least 90% of the Rams’ defensive snaps in 2022 and 2023, or win Pro Bowl honors in both seasons, in order to have the option to opt out of the last three years.

There were questions about how the Rams were able to acquire Wagner when news of his terms deal broke last week. The Rams had just over $8.7 million in salary cap space for 2022, according to the NFLPA, before signing him. Wagner’s cap for 2022 is just $2.5 million ($1 million prorated signing bonus and $1.5 million base salary).

The modest $5 million signing bonus allows the Rams to exit the deal after one season before another $10 million is fully guaranteed on day five of the 2023 league year, with minimal impact on the cap if Wagner’s skills start to dwindle rapidly this season. Wagner’s 2023 cap is $12 million, while the Rams would have a $7.5 million cap charge, with him having a very short stint in Los Angeles.

In this case, Wagner would have a one-year contract for $10 million because the March 2023 roster bonus has no compensation. The lack of compensation prevents the Rams from reducing the $3.5 million owed to Wagner if they are released from the amount of his new contract with another team. Wagner would get a “double dip” where he would receive $3.5 million from the Rams on top of his full salary from his new contract with another club. With compensation, Wagner would be on a one-year deal for $6.5 million, as the Rams could recoup the $3.5 million owed to him on his next contract. Presumably none of the incentives would be earned in this worst-case scenario.

How remunerative are Wagner’s incentives?

Wagner called the incentives “achievable” in a CNBC interview with Jabari Young. The intent is for Wagner to stay on the field on every down and pair him with 2021 third-rounder Ernest Jones at inside linebacker.

Incentives needed to qualify as Non-Earnable (NLTBE) so there is no cap fee during the season given the Rams’ salary cap constraints. Any incentive based on what Wagner or the Rams have statistically achieved in the 2021 season is considered earnable and immediately counts toward the salary cap, while anything not achieved in 2021 does not count. not initially. Wagner’s playing time in 2021 was 89.1%, which is why the autonomous threshold is 90% playing time.

Tying individual and team achievements together also classifies an incentive as NLTBE. The three easiest team categories to reach based on Rams performance in 2021 are Wagner’s contract categories. The Rams ranked 15th, 15th and 17th last season in points against, average net yards given up per passing play and total defense. Gametime/team improvement incentives are based on performance bonuses in the inside extension of linebacker Alec Ogletree signed with the Rams in 2017, except his gametime threshold was 85% instead of 80% for Wagner.

Wagner has a legitimate shot at earning the Rams/Playtime $2 million in performance incentives a year, provided he stays healthy and continues to be a linebacker every time. Over the past five seasons (2017-21), Wagner was on the field for 94.5% of Seattle’s defensive plays.

Wagner will need to have a career trajectory similar to Hall of Fame inductee off-ball linebackers in recent years to earn one of the awards. Ray Lewis has been selected for the Pro Bowl every season for the ages Wagner has been under contract with the Rams (32-36). He was a first-team All-Pro at 33 and 34. Brian Urlacher was a Pro Bowler at 32 and 33. Derrick Brooks’ last first-team All-Pro selection came at the age of 32. He went to the Pro Bowl at ages 32, 34 and 35. The most recent inductee, Sam Mills, was named first-team All-Pro at age 37.

It is conceivable that Wagner obtains the right to withdraw from his contract. Considering Wagner’s age was a concern this year, trying to get more than $32.5 million, with another $9 million in incentives over the last three years of that open-market contract in two years for the seasons when he will be 34, 35 and 36 years old. , would be a risky proposition. If Wagner maintains his level of play, he might be able to use the vacuum to better structure the final three years where there is added security and some, if not all, of the incentives are built into the base value of the game. ‘OK.

Final Thoughts

The value of Wagner’s contract will depend on how well he continues to perform. It’s a one-year contract for 10 million dollars in the worst case. As long as Wagner is still with the Rams next March after day five of the 2023 championship year, he is guaranteed $20 million from the contract. Wagner maintaining his current level of play for an extended period should allow him to enter the final years of the contract. If so, it’s hard to imagine Wagner wouldn’t have a realistic opportunity to earn at least $2 million in incentives a year.