Scout.com has learned that the New Orleans Saints and running back Reggie Bush quietly renegotiated his contract in early June. The team included a $4 million signing bonus as part of the new deal, which runs through 2011, and a $4.5 million roster bonus for the 2009 season.
Bush had four years remaining on his original deal with $10.25 million in salary and $10 million in prorated bonus money scheduled spread out through 2011. But he also had $20 million dollars of "Not Likely to Be Earned" bonuses at a rate of $5 million per year that didn't count against the Saints' cap unless he reached those incentives.
Under his new deal, which also runs through 2011, Bush will see practically all of that money as long as he plays out his contract.
While his salary stays the same in 2008, he'll see a marginal increase in 2009 ($2.2 million to $2.6 million) before making a huge jump from $2.9 million to $8.0 million in 2010. And in 2011, he will receive $11.8 million in salary instead of the $3.575 million that was in his original contract. In addition to the $4 million signing bonus, which adds an extra million dollars to the Saints cap hit for each of the remaining four years, Bush will still have the opportunity to earn $1.5 million in NLTBE bonuses. And he can earn $800,000 more in 2011. But all other NLTBE bonuses have been eliminated.
Instead, the team has put up $1.5 million in "Likely to be Earned Bonus" money for both the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and another $700,000 in 2011. All of that money hits the cap immediately when the contract year begins since it's assumed that the player will reach those goals.
Reggie Bush carries the ball in preseason action against the Cardinals.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
But perhaps the most significant move by the team is the huge carrot they've dangled to encourage Bush to finally break out this year and become their featured back. The former USC Trojan is eligible for a whopping $4.5 million roster bonus prior to the start of the 2009 season, and then another $490,000 roster bonus prior to the start of the 2010 season.
So in the end, the team converted almost $18 million in NLTBE money into roughly $5 million in roster bonuses and approximately $13.7 million in salary. And they threw in a $4 million signing bonus to make it even more attractive. Other than the signing bonus, none of the rest of the money is guaranteed. But if Bush plays out the entire contract, he'll average $8.2 million over the four years.
For the 2008 season, Bush's salary cap hit goes up only $1 million dollars from $4.1 million to $5.1 million. But largely due to the huge roster bonus in 2009 plus the LTBE bonus money, his toll on the cap will jump roughly $7.4 million ($4.7 to $12.1) next year.
In 2010, the hit goes up by $8 million ($5.4 to $13.5) and, unless he has another new deal in place by then, his salary cap charge in 2011 will be almost $10 million higher than it was in his original contract ($6.1 to $16.0).
What it means
The team has given Bush all the incentive in the world to excel this season with the lure of a $4.5 million roster bonus awaiting early next year. They aren't likely to cut him loose in 2009 even if he disappoints this season, simply because he would still hit them for $10.5 million in prorated bonus money. That's too costly against the cap, even if they would spread it over two seasons by making him a June 1 cut.
But after that, all bets are off. The team has set themselves up to be able to release him before the 2010 season if he hasn't realized his potential. With just $7 million in prorated bonus money remaining on the contract, the team could release him and not only cover the loss, but come out ahead by roughly $3 million since he's scheduled to earn $8 million in salary, a $490,000 roster bonus and $1.5 million in LTBE bonus money that year.
You've got to admire the way the Saints worked out this deal. They're showing great confidence in their developing star by committing more up-front dollars to him now and by giving him a huge incentive in the form of the roster bonus. But they also gave themselves an easy — and cap-efficient — way out of this deal prior to the 2010 season if the circumstances warrant that decision.
What about Deuce?
Coming off of his second knee injury in three seasons, 2008 is a pivotal year for Deuce McAllister. He renegotiated his contract back in April, and will likely see roughly $3.3 million if he has a successful year. But if he isn't able to show that he's the back to being the hard-charging, yet elusive running back who helped the Saints reach the NFC Championship game back in 2006, the Saints can release him with little impact on their cap.
McAllister is due to make $3.2 million in salary in addition to a $2 million roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus. With just $3 million remaining in prorated bonus money on his deal by the time the team decides whether or not to keep him on the 2009 roster, the Saints would actually gain more than $2 million in cap space if they decide to release him. If McAllister survives that decision, he then has three more years on his deal through 2012 that include more generous salaries ranging from $6 million to $8.1 million.
So if you thought Reggie Bush has plenty to play for this season, McAllister has even more at stake.
The good news for New Orleans is that if both players respond to their contract situations with top performances, the Saints should make their way back into the playoffs in 2008.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.