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Breakdown of QB Robert Griffin III's Contract With the Browns

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The full, year-by-year contract details for Cleveland Browns QB Robert Griffin III are now available, via various sources such as Over the Cap and the USA Today. We will take a look at the structure of his contract, his guaranteed money, the incentives he can earn, why the incentives are set up the way they are, and more. Griffin's deal is considered to be 2 years for $15 million, with a maximum value of $22 million.

QB Robert Griffin III - Browns' Contract Breakdown
Base Salary Signing Bonus Roster Bonus Total Cap Hit
2016 $ 3,250,000 $ 1,750,000 $ 750,000*
$ 5,000,000
2017 $ 6,000,000 $ 1,750,000 $ 1,500,000 $ 9,250,000
Total $ 9,250,000 $ 3,500,000
$ 2,250,000 $ 14,250,000
  • First, let's look at Griffin's guaranteed money. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus, which gets split over each year of the deal. His entire base salary for 2016 is also guaranteed. Therefore, he has $6.75 million in guaranteed money. If the Browns opt to cut Griffin next offseason, they'll only have to carry $1.75 million in dead money. Because his base salary this season is fully guaranteed, it's doubtful that the team would cut him after training camp this year.

  • Griffin can make per-game roster bonuses in 2016 and 2017 totaling $750,000 each season, or $46,875 per game. While it is unclear whether those bonuses kick in for starts or just appearances, I'd have to imagine it is for starts.

  • For 2016, the $750,000 in the form of a roster bonus does not count against his cap hit for 2016 (hence the asterisk in the table above). Why? Because it is considered to be a "not likely to be earned (NLTBE)" bonus. When you factor in roster bonuses tied to games, it is based off of what the player did in the previous season. If Griffin had started 8 games last year, then $375,000 would've counted against the cap as a "likely to be earned" bonus, with the rest as not likely. Griffin didn't play at all in the 2015 regular season, though, so the entire $750,000 amount for 2016 is NLTBE.

  • What happens if Griffin starts every game in 2016? The cap would not change during the season, but when the NFL calculates carryover/adjustments for the 2017 salary cap, the Browns' carryover amount will be reduced by Griffin's NLTBE amount, along with any other small adjustments the team might owe. For 2017, the $750,000 counts against the cap. Griffin is also due a $750,000 roster bonus on the third day of the 2017 league year.

  • On top of everything we've mentioned, Griffin can also earn up to $3.5 million in various incentives for each year of his contract (for a total of $7 million in incentives). It is unclear what exactly that entails, but Tom Pelissero of the USA Today labels it as "individual performance incentives for playtime, passing yards and passer rating."

  • This year, Griffin currently has the 9th biggest cap hit on the Browns. The person directly in front of him at No. 8? That would be QB Josh McCown, who I think the team will look to trade for a conditional draft pick.

In terms of average per year ($7.5 million), Griffin is the 23rd-highest paid quarterback in the league. Even if he reaches all of his incentives ($11 million a year), he would still be the 23rd-highest paid quarterback in the league. The only quarterbacks Griffin is really making more than right now are quarterbacks on their rookie contracts (which are standard amounts), and the likes of Chad Henne and Brian Hoyer.

Griffin's guaranteed money isn't all that much either. A few members of the national media were astounded that the Browns gave Griffin a massive contract or something. The truth is that they found the sweet spot of what is pretty much the minimum deal for a quarterback these days, and that's even if Griffin plays out-of-his-mind to earn his maximum incentives.

Lastly, let's update our previous post to determine how much cap space the Browns now have with Griffin on the roster.

Formal Calculations

The Browns' previous Top 51 figure was $120.392 million. We need to add Griffin's 2016 cap hit ($5 million), but then reduce that amount by a minimum salary player ($525,000). Therefore, we're increasing the Browns' Top 51 amount to $124.867 million.

Browns' Top 51 Cap Total: $124.867 million
Browns' Dead Money for 2016: $13.547 million
Browns' Total Cap Spent for 2016: $124.867 million + $13.547 million = $138.414 million

The Browns' adjusted salary cap for 2016 is $176.686 million. When you subtract the two subtotals ($176.686 million - $138.414 million), we conclude that the Browns have "$38.272 million in cap space" as of March 25th.