If timing is everything in football, then a delayed four-game suspension could affect Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams differently from a financial perspective. Since the end of the 2008 season, they have been fighting four-game suspensions by appealing in different courts of law.
Since the loss of income that comes with suspensions is tied to a player's base salary, the timing of those suspensions could mean a difference of millions of dollars.
The Williamses have been battling the four-game suspensions in several different legal venues. First came their appeal to the league, which they lost during the 2008 season and were expected to serve those suspensions at the end of the season. However, they filed suit against the NFL in a court of law and the process has been dragging along ever since.
Now their chances and venues to appeal are diminishing. While the NFL and the Williamses continue their battles on a couple of different fronts, there is the matter of cost. The league's deep pockets can withstand the fight, but the Williamses legal costs have to be leaving a permanent mark on their bank accounts, no matter how much they have made over their careers.
When Viking Update asked Pat Williams how much the case had cost him last year in training camp, he just shook his head and declined to give specifics. Instead, he saw the case as a matter of principle. He didn't want kids to view him as a cheater. In fact, the league hasn't accused the Williamses of taking steroids, only for testing positive for bumetanide, which was in the dietary supplement StarCaps but not listed as an ingredient. Since bumetanide is also considered a masking agent for steroids, it is on the league's list of banned substances.
Despite the culpability on both sides, the case is costly one. But how much have the Williamses lost – or saved – by having the case drag on?
A four-game suspension would mean they surrender four-seventeenths of their base salary. Since their base salaries change every year, the cost to them has also changed.
Kevin Williams is one of the team's top-paid players after renegotiating a new contract in 2007. That contract averaged more than $6.5 million per season, much of that being made up by a guaranteed signing bonus that wouldn't be affected by a suspension, but it would be beneficial for him to serve the suspension this year instead of next. In 2008 and 2009, his base salary stayed at $1 million per year. That means he was making $58,824 per game, so a four-game suspension in either of those two seasons would have cost him $235,294.
In 2010, his base salary escalates to $2.274 million, meaning a four-game suspension would cost him $535,059. That's costly enough, but it would be far worse if the appeals kept on going and ended in a win for the NFL that resulted in his suspension in 2011. Next year, his base salary goes up to $6 million and a four-game suspension would result in the loss of $1,411,765.
The damage could be even worse if contract escalators in 2012, 2013 and 2014 – valued at $1.5 million for each season – are affected because of lost playing time. It's possible a four-game suspension would cause him to miss out on $1 million or more by failing to reach some of those escalators.
Pat Williams also had his contract renegotiated in 2007. His base salary in 2008, the first year he slated to be suspended, was $4 million, meaning a four-game suspension would have cost him $941,176 in base salary. It also may have affected his ability to collect on more than $3 million in "likely to be earned incentives" that year.
If his suspension had been enforced in 2009, when his base salary was $3.75 million, he would have forfeited $882,353 in salary. This year, his base salary is $4.25 million, meaning a four-game suspension would cost him a cool $1 million. It might also eat into his ability to meet another $400,000 in "likely to be earned" incentives.
Of course, with Pat talking about retirement after last season, it seems likely that he would consider retirement after this season, when his contract is set to expire, so there is a million-dollar incentive for the case to prolong into next year for Pat Williams.
When it comes to the timing of the suspensions, time is money for the Williamses – and it could work against them as well.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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