Alexander & James: Let's Make a Deal!

Now that the two top free agent running backs have been signed to new deals - Shaun Alexander with his old club in seattle and Edgerrin James with the Arizona Cardinals - it's time to take a closer look at the mechanics of both contracts. In the end, you might be surprised at what the surface numbers really mean over time. For one thing, Seattle REALLY did this the right way.

As contract details were being leaked, it's no small wonder that Edgerrin James didn't keep shopping his services to other teams. If the numbers being bantered about in the media are accurate, neither the Colts nor practically any other team could have matched the Cardinals' offer. And for the few that could have, they most likely wouldn't have done it.

But the Cardinals were dead set on getting the man that would help sell more tickets and who could bring much-needed balance to their offense.

Let the Edgerrin James mania begin in Arizona . It certainly did on Saturday.

Reports are indicating that James got a 4-year deal worth $30 million, including a $7 million signing bonus. That's a few million short of the $11.5 million signing bonus that Seattle's Shaun Alexander was given.

But wait. According to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, James will put $14.75 million in the bank by the time he hangs up his cleats at the end of his first season in Arizona . And he will reportedly earn a grand total of $20 million by the end of his second season. Both FoxSports.Com and ESPN.com are reporting that in additin to his initial signing bonus of $7 million, he'll get a $4.5 million roster bonus on the seventh day of the 2006 league year, which would be in the next day or so. The base salaries in the contract are $3.25 million (for 2006), $5.25 million (2007), $5 million (2008) and $5 million (2009).

Not bad work if you can get it.

"It's a great situation. All they really need is a back," James said at a press conference. "They've got an MVP quarterback, they've got two Pro Bowl receivers. They got a back and they're going to shore up the offensive line."

Colts head coach Tony Dungy told the Associated Press that he was happy for James.

"He was fantastic for us the time we were here, we wish we could have kept him but you can't keep everyone," he said.

Alexander's new contract is essentially a four-year, $28.5625 million deal, even if the official terms are for eight years and $62 million. The wire-service reports called his deal the largest signed by an NFL running back, but Alexander will never see those numbers. Seattle paid an $11.5 million bonus.

Alexander's cap number was $6.323 million in 2005. Because the NFL has allowed teams to prorate deals signed during the recent CBA negotiations over five years as opposed to four, the cap number is $5.925 million this year and $5.7 million in 2007. It jumps to $6.775 million in 2008, the third year of the deal. In the fourth year, the cap number jumps up yet again, to $7.862 million. If the Seahawks cut him after the fourth year of the deal -- Alexander will be 32 heading into 2009 -- the cap hit would be the fifth-year proration of $2.3 million. Cutting him after the fifth year of the deal would carry no cap charge.

Deal specifics:
Signing bonus: $11.5M

Base salaries: $1.625M (2006), $1.4M (2007), $4.475M (2008), $5.5625M (2009), $6.65M (2010), $7.7375M (2011), $8.825M (2012), $9.9125M (2013). Cap numbers: $6.5M (2006), $6.275M (2007), $7.35M (2008), $8.437M (2009), $6.65M (2010), $7.7375M (2011), $8.825M (2012), $9.9125M (2013).

One-year contract value: $15.125M. Two-year contract value: $18.525M. Three-year contract value: $23M. Four-year contract value: $28.5625M. Five-year contract value: $35.2125M. Six-year contract value: $42.95M. Seven-year contract value: $51.775M. Eight-year contract value: $61.6875M.

In the end, both teams got what they wanted - Seattle retained their MVP and the Cardinals got a running back of elite caliber. But the back-end machinations of these deals indicate what astute students of player contracts already know - that the initial reports of years and dollars are often misleading. Best to wait until all the numbers shake down before you decide whether a player is worth his new deal.

Edgerrin James - Career Statistics

RUSHING
Year Team G GS Att Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ FD
1999 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 369 1553 4.2 72 13 9 79
2000 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 387 1709 4.4 30 13 9 99
2001 Indianapolis Colts 6 6 151 662 4.4 29 3 5 40
2002 Indianapolis Colts 14 14 277 989 3.6 20 2 3 56
2003 Indianapolis Colts 13 13 310 1259 4.1 43 11 3 83
2004 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 334 1548 4.6 40 9 6 73
2005 Indianapolis Colts 15 15 360 1506 4.2 33 13 5 94
TOTAL   96 96 2188 9226 4.2 72 64 40 524
RECEIVING
Year Team G GS No Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ 40+ FD
1999 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 62 586 9.5 54 4 9 1 24
2000 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 63 594 9.4 60 5 6 2 24
2001 Indianapolis Colts 6 6 24 193 8.0 27 0 2 0 9
2002 Indianapolis Colts 14 14 61 354 5.8 23 1 2 0 17
2003 Indianapolis Colts 13 13 51 292 5.7 17 0 0 0 8
2004 Indianapolis Colts 16 16 51 483 9.5 56 0 3 1 20
2005 Indianapolis Colts 15 15 44 337 7.7 20 1 1 0 21
TOTAL   96 96 356 2839 8.0 60 11 23 4 123

Shaun Alexander - NFL Statistics

RUSHING
Year Team G GS Att Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ FD
2000 Seattle Seahawks 16 1 64 313 4.9 50 2 1 20
2001 Seattle Seahawks 16 12 309 1318 4.3 88 14 8 61
2002 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 295 1175 4.0 58 16 10 61
2003 Seattle Seahawks 16 15 326 1435 4.4 55 14 9 79
2004 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 353 1696 4.8 44 16 15 77
2005 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 370 1880 5.1 88 27 14 107
TOTAL   96 76 1717 7817 4.6 88 89 57 405
RECEIVING
Year Team G GS No Yards Avg Lg TD 20+ 40+ FD
2000 Seattle Seahawks 16 1 5 41 8.2 18 0 0 0 2
2001 Seattle Seahawks 16 12 44 343 7.8 28 2 2 0 15
2002 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 59 460 7.8 80 2 1 1 19
2003 Seattle Seahawks 16 15 42 295 7.0 22 2 3 0 16
2004 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 23 170 7.4 24 4 1 0 9
2005 Seattle Seahawks 16 16 15 78 5.2 9 1 0 0 3
TOTAL   96 76 188 1387 7.4 80 11 7 1 64

SeahawkFootball.com Top Stories