Dollar Signs: Donte Stallworth

Player contracts are often difficult to understand for those of us who trudge along with paychecks containing far fewer zeroes. Sometimes, though, the reality is far different from what gets reported in the press. John Taylor provides an exclusive look at one such recent contract...

"Seven Years, $35 million!" the headlines screamed.

"$10 Million Guaranteed For Ex-Pats WR!" blared another.

Those were just some of the numbers making their way across the vast expanse of the internet shortly after the Cleveland Browns signed free-agent wide receiver Donte' Stallworth.

Unfortunately for Stallworth and his bank account, and according to documents obtained by The Orange & Brown Report, those initial reports fall far short of the reality of his contract situation. While technically a seven-year, $35 million deal, the contract could better be described as a one-year, $5.655 million deal, with a club option for six more years.

Stallworth was given a $4.5 million signing bonus and has a base salary of $605,000 in 2008, of which $500,000 is guaranteed. Additionally, the receiver will receive a $50,000 workout bonus this year and $500,000 of his $745,000 base salary in 2009 is guaranteed.

However, in March of 2009, Stallworth is due a roster bonus of $4.875 million and scheduled to carry a cap number just north of $6.4 million in the second year of the deal. Unless Stallworth has a career year—which will be tough to accomplish in Rob Chudzinski's spread-the-wealth offense—those numbers would be hard to justify for a player who projects as essentially the team's #3 receiver behind Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.

Should Stallworth make it past the first year of the deal, he has scheduled roster bonuses of $1.5 million in 2010, and $500,000 in each of the last four years of the deal.

This is the second straight off-season Stallworth has signed a contract that looks tremendous in black and white but begins to gray and lose its sheen once the specific numbers are revealed.

Last March, Stallworth signed what was initially announced as a six-year, $33.1 million contract with the Patriots. However, it was later revealed that the contract contained a $6 million roster bonus due in February of this year and the long-term, multi-million dollar agreement became in essence a one-year, $3.6 million deal. That assumption became reality as earlier this off-season, the Patriots refused to exercise the roster bonus and allowed Stallworth to hit the open market.

And what about the $10 million in guaranteed money Stallworth was widely reported to have received this free-agent go-around? Again, the reality is a far cry from the initial reports. Stallworth will receive $5.505 million in guaranteed money—the $4.5 million signing bonus, $1 million in partially-guaranteed base salaries for the first two years of the contract, and his $50,000 workout bonus in 2008.

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