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It's time to restructure/extend Emmanuel Sanders

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Von Miller has signed a new deal to remain in Broncos' orange and blue for the next 6 years, it's time to turn our attention to extending Emmanuel Sanders. It appears that extending Sanders is a priority for Elway, but it was temporarily put on hold when the Von Miller negotiations heated up.

So now. let the Sanders negotiations resume.

MHR's own Scotty Payne reported on June 15th that the Broncos and Sanders had exchanged contract proposals, and that Migh High Sports radio's Eric Goodman reported via Twitter that Sanders was seeking something in the neighborhood of $12M per year for 4 years with $24M guaranteed.

If that is indeed true, it raises 2 questions. Is Sanders worth $12M per year? And if he is, should the Broncos sign him for something in the neighborhood of that? To answer the first question, I had to do a little research.

I decided to find lower tier #1 WRs and upper tier #2 WRs who signed extensions or new contracts as veterans in 2015 or 2016, look at their contract information at spotrac.com, look at their 2014 and 2015 stats at nfl.com, and then convert those stats into per game averages that would allow me to compare them.

So I went to those places, found those contract numbers, found those raw stats, converted them, and compared. I ended up with 4 WRs I chose to compare with Sanders. They are Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Keenan Allen, and Jeremy Maclin. Time to compare some 2014 plus 2015 stats for Sanders and the other 4 WRs.

Sanders:

177 receptions (5.710/game), 2539 yards (81.903/game), 14.345 yards/reception, 15 TDs (0.4839/game)

Baldwin:

144 receptions (4.500/game), 1894 yards (59.190/game), 13.153 yards/reception, 17 TDs (0.5313/game)

Hilton:

151 receptions (4.871/game), 2469 yards (79.645/game), 16.351 yards/reception, 12 TDs (0.3871/game)

Allen:

144 receptions (6.545/game), 1508 yards (68.545/game), 10.472 yards/reception, 8 TDs (0.3636/game)

Maclin:

172 receptions (5.548/game), 2406 yards (77.613/game), 13.988 yards/reception, 18 TDs (0.5806/game)

Conclusions:

Sanders has the 2nd most receptions per game (behind Allen), the most yards per game, the second most yards per reception (behind Hilton), and the 3rd most TDs/game (behind Maclin and Baldwin). The numbers tend to suggest he has comparable productivity to these other WRs, and therefore deserves comparable remuneration.

Now onto the contract information for the other 4 WRs. I'm only going to give some bare bones information here, but I did look at the structure of each contract including what guaranteed when, and did consider those details when I put together a hypothetical contract for Sanders.

Baldwin:

In 2016 Baldwin signed a 4 year extension for $46M ($11.5M average/yr.). The contract has $24.25M in total guarantees with $12M guaranteed at signing.

Hilton:

In 2015 Hilton signed a 5 year extension for $65M ($13M average/yr,). The contract has $28M in total guarantees with $11M guaranteed at signing.

Allen:

In 2016 Allen signed a 4 year extension for $45M ($11.25M average/yr.). The contract has $20.656M in total guarantees with all of that total guaranteed at signing.

Maclin:

In 2015 Maclin signed a new 5 year contract for $55M  ($11M average/yr.). The contract has $22.4M in total guarantees with all of that total guaranteed at signing.

Conclusions:

Looks like a 4-year extension for about $48M with about $24M in total guarantees for Sanders would be in line with the deals that other comparable in production WRs have inked in 2015 and 2016. I just answered the first question I asked in the first paragraph of this post.

Is Sanders worth $12M (or something in that neighborhood) per year? Yes, he is.

I'm not going to answer the 2nd question I asked. Should the Broncos sign him for that? I have mixed feelings about that and will leave that decision up to Mr. John Elway. Instead, I'm just going to put together a hypothetical contract structure that might be acceptable to Sanders and the Broncos.

Sanders' current contract and how it could be restructured and extended in 2016:

In 2014 Sanders signed a 3-year contract for $15M ($5M average/yr.). The contract had $6M in initial and total guarantees consisting of a $3M signing bonus that has prorated at $1M per year, a 2014 roster bonus, and his 2014 base salary.

He has a 2016 base salary of $5.6M (not guaranteed), his 2016 dead money is $1M (the last of the prorated signing bonus). His 2016 cap hit currently stands at $6.6M,  I think we would all agree that Sanders has greatly out performed that contract and deserves more.

What if I told you I know a way that we can go ahead and guarantee his $5.6M base salary, guarantee him a $3M raise for 2016, give him another $10M in fully guaranteed at signing money, and lower his 2016 cap hit by $600K in the process?  Sound like an interesting idea?

It can be done by restructuring and extending his current contract through 2020. $4.5M of his 2016 base salary could be converted into a restructure bonus that he would receive up front, but it would prorate at $0.9M per year from 2016 through 2020.

At that point his new 2016 cap hit would be $3M ($1.1M in 2016 base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus + the last $1M of his prorated original signing bonus. Let's give the man a raise in the form of a $3M 2016 roster bonus. His 2016 cap hit would then be $6M, $600K less than it is currently.

And he would end up getting $8.6M in guaranteed money in 2016, although he was almost certain to get $5.6M of it (the original 2016 base salary) without a restructure and extension.

On with a hypothetical restructure/extension for Sanders, the overview:

This is a 4-year extension through the 2020 NFL season for $46.5M ($11.625M average/yr.) in new money, although $3M of that new money will be paid in 2016 as a roster bonus at signing, it has $18.6M ($13M in new money) fully guaranteed at signing ($8.6M in 2016 money with $3M of it being new money in the form of the 2016 roster bonus + $10M in fully guaranteed 2017 salary) with another $6M out of $11M in 2018 salary guaranteed for injury.

That $6M of 2018 salary will guarantee fully in March of 2017, bringing the total amount of guaranteed money to $24.6M ($19M in new money). It has $29.6M (by fully guaranteeing and adding the remaining $5M of the 2018 base salary in March of 2018 to the previously guaranteed $24.5M) in total guarantees ($24M in new money).

All the guaranteed money will have been paid out at the end of the 2018 season. That makes the contract a bit risky for Sanders, but gives him the amount of guaranteed money he was allegedly seeking, and it is comparable to what similar WRs in terms of production have been getting in recent contracts. Time to break it down, year by year.

2016:

In 2016 Sanders will receive $8.6M consisting of $1.1M in base salary, $4.5M in restructure bonus and $3M in roster bonus. His cap hit will be $6M ($1.1M in base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus + $3M in roster bonus + $1M in remaining 2014 signing bonus). The dead money will be $18.6M (the $8.6M in 2016 money + $10M in guaranteed 2017 base salary).

2017:

In 2017, $6M of Sanders' 2018 base salary of $11M that was initially guaranteed for injury only will guarantee fully on the 5th day of the NFL League Year in March. Sanders will receive $10M in 2017 base salary. His cap hit will be $10.9M (the $10M in 2017 base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus). The dead money before the "trigger" date will be $13.6M ($10M in guaranteed 2017 base salary + $3.6M in remaining prorated restructure bonus). The dead money after the "trigger" date will be $19.6M.

2018:

In 2018, the remaining $5M of Sanders' 2018 base salary of $11M will guarantee fully on the 5th day of the NFL League Year in March. Sanders will receive $11M in 2018 base salary. His cap hit will be $11.9M (the $11M in 2018 base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus. The dead money before the "trigger" date will be $8.7M ($6M in 2018 base salary that guaranteed in March of 2017 + $2.7M in remaining prorated restructure bonus). The dead money after the "trigger" date will be $13.7M since the remaining $5M of his 2018 salary will have guaranteed.

2019:

In 2019 Sanders will receive $11M in base salary. His cap hit will be $11.9M (the $11M in base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus). The dead money will be $1.8M (the remaining prorated restructure bonus).

2020:

In 2020 Sanders will receive $11.5M in base salary.  His cap hit will be $12.4M (the $11.5M in base salary + $0.9M in prorated restructure bonus.  The dead money will be $0.9M (the last of the prorated restructure bonus).

Summarizing, recapitulating, and babbling:

This is an unusual contract structure since there is no new signing bonus.

To a large extent, it's written as a "pay as you go plan" for the Broncos. Given the relative lack of 2016 cap space, the huge cap impact of Von's new deal, and Sanders' age of 29 and less than robust appearing physical frame (he's been durable for the Broncos, though), that seemed like a prudent course for the Broncos.

There are a number of ways one can look at the contract. Maybe you want to look at it as a 3-year deal with those 3 years being 2016-2018.  If you do, it's a 3 year deal for $29.6M ($8.6M in 2016 + $10M in 2017 + $11M in 2018) for an average of $9.8666666M per year.

Maybe you want to look at it as a 2 year deal with those 2 years being 2017-2018. If you do, it's a 2-year deal for $24M ($12M per year average) with $3M of it hitting the 2016 cap as a roster bonus ($3M in 2016 roster bonus + $10M in 2016 salary + $11M in 2018 salary = $24M).

Maybe you want to look at it as a 5-year deal with those 5 years being 2016-2020. If you do, It's a 5-year deal for $52.1M ($8.6M  in 2016 + $10M in 2017 + $11M in 2018 + $11M in 2019 + $11.5M in 2020 = $52.1M) for an average of $10.42M per year.

Or maybe you want to look at it as a 4 year deal with those 4 years being 2017-2020. If you do it's a 4-year deal for $46.5M ($11.625M per year average) with $3M of it hitting the 2016 cap as a roster bonus ($3M in 2016 roster bonus + 10M in 2017 salary + $11M in 2018 salary + $11M in 2019 salary + $11.5M in 2020 salary = $46.5M).

Isn't the world of creative NFL cap and contract accounting wonderful, exciting, mind-boggling, confusing, and in reality, boring as heck to most normal people?

On to the obligatory poll: