Darius Slay’s ‘Cheap’ Contract Stroke of Genius for Eagles

Darius Slay

Getty Darius Slay prior to a Lions game.

Everyone already knew Darius Slay’s contract was one of the “team friendliest” deals in history. A former Eagles president had told us that.

However, the fact the shutdown cornerback was slated to become the highest-paid player at his position made people uncomfortable. Surely, there was a catch. There must be a negative long-term impact on the Eagles’ salary-cap situation. Slay will fall off a cliff in two years when he turns 31 and the franchise will be stuck in quicksand. No, not true. Slay’s contract is backloaded to prevent any lingering issues or complications.

According to OverTheCap‘s Jason Fitzgerald, Slay’s new deal will cost the Eagles just a $4.3 million cap hit in 2020. In fact, the “cheap” contract will save the team nearly $19 million in cap space over the length of the deal and turns into what basically amounts to a two-year, $26.55 million deal.

There is absolutely no guaranteed money in 2022 or 2023, years when Slay will be 31 years old and 32 years old, respectively. If the corner’s play has started declining, the Eagles can move on with virtually no penalty. It’s the ultimate safe-guard.

Slay’s deal was originally reported as being a five-year contract worth $50.05 million, including $30.05 million fully guaranteed at signing. That sounds steep on its own. But, after Year 1, the numbers dip down dramatically. While his base salaries increase from $1.05 million in 2019 all the way up to $17 million in 2023, the guaranteed money disappears — from $4.3 million in 2020 to $12 million in 2021 before shriveling to zero dollars in 2022 and 2023.

Joe Banner: Smartest Contract Evaluator  in NFL

Yes, there has been a lot of revisionist history since Joe Banner took his ball and went home. Or, to Cleveland. But Banner was a smart and crafty contract negotiator during his time as Eagles president.

You can blame him for not figuring out how to make Terrell Owens happy and for kicking Brian Dawkins out the door but you can’t knock him for being uneducated or naive about economics. Banner made a lot of deals manageable and helped bring a ton of talent to Philadelphia in his nearly two decades at the helm.

Banner was crowing about what a coup it was for the Eagles to nab Darius Slay at a “team-friendly” price the minute it happened. People need to start listening to him. Banner is one of the best Twitter follows out there for fans trying to learn the inner workings of NFL contracts and free agency.

His initial analysis of the Slay deal was spot on. He immediately diagnosed the Eagles’ decision to work out a contract extension with Slay as a forward-thinking approach before they rushed in and made the blockbuster trade. Remember, the Rams unwisely traded for Jalen Ramsey without an agreed-upon extension in place.

“Slay to me is a no brainer,” Banner told 94 WIP SportsRadio. “You may think he’s a very good player, or an elite player, but he’s in that range no matter who you talk to. Frankly, the corner market has been depressed and they were actually able to get him based on old numbers and 16 games. So I think the value of the trade is very strong and I think the contract is excellent. To me, that’s all you can ask for. That’s a really good move.”

The Eagles made a few “good moves” on the defensive side of the ball in free agency. They’ll now turn their attention to the draft to find some offensive playmakers and bodyguards for Carson Wentz.

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