RENTON — When Deebo Samuel agreed to a new contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, it put a fitting capper on what has been the offseason of the receiver in the NFL.
Samuel became the 10th receiver this year to get a new deal averaging at least $20 million. There had been only four WRs making that much at the end of the 2021 season.
“I’ve never seen a particular position market behave like this one has where the market has just exploded,” said Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes about league financial issues for CBSSports.com, calling it “just crazy.”
One of those 10 was signed by Seattle’s DK Metcalf on Friday, a three-year extension worth a total of $72 million.
Metcalf was one of four receivers who got a huge extension who also was entering the final season of his rookie contract, the others being Samuel, A.J. Brown of the Eagles and Terry McLaurin of Washington.
The other big deals signed were by veteran players at different stages of their careers and with different leverage.
And with the ink now dry on Samuel’s deal, the question can be fairly asked and answered — who got the best contract of the four class of 2019 draftees to sign big deals this offseason?
Using the most basic parameters, the four each signed remarkably similar deals — Brown four years averaging $25 million, and Metcalf, Samuel and McLaurin each getting three-year contracts averaging $24 million, $23.8 million and $23.2 million, respectively.
But two longtime observers of NFL financial issues — Corry and Jason Fitzgerald of OvertheCap.com — said that if you dig a little deeper into the numbers that they favor Metcalf.
Each noted that Metcalf got a $30 million signing bonus, the largest ever given to a receiver — McLaurin got $28 million, Samuel $24.035 million and Brown $23.2 million.
Metcalf’s signing bonus is also a main reason he will get $41 million in cash by the end of the 2023 season, or technically the first year of the deal. The deal starts with the 2023 season and runs through 2025, with the extension tacked on to the existing 2022 season, but players receive bonuses when contracts are signed.
That’s almost $9 million more than any of the other three and almost 57% of his total contract.
“For him to get such a strong cash flow through the first new year, that’s an insane percentage,” Corry said. “You don’t see people with that type of percentage.”
What also makes Metcalf’s deal standout is the lack of money tied to incentives, such as workout or roster bonuses.
Metcalf’s deal includes nothing but salary and signing bonus.
“Metcalf,” Fitzgerald wrote when asked which of the receivers got the best deal. “No money tied to per gamers. No money tied to workouts. Has early vesting guarantees. Massive money up front.”
That Metcalf got a three-year deal is also in his favor. McLaurin and Samuel did, as well, but Metcalf is far younger than them, even though all came out in the same draft — Metcalf’s birthday is Dec. 14, 1997, while Samuel’s is Jan. 15, 1996, and McLaurin’s Sept. 15, 1995.
Many had expected Metcalf to sign a four-year deal in part because that has been the typical time frame for almost every significant second contract the Seahawks have given to a player ending his rookie deal during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, such as Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and, last year, Jamal Adams (Kam Chancellor got five years in 2013).
Metcalf’s college teammate and good friend Brown also got a four-year deal from the Eagles in April, and many assumed Metcalf’s deal would follow suit.
Getting just a three-year deal means Metcalf can hit free agency following the 2025 season when he’d be 28 — and roughly two years younger than both Samuel and McLaurin — or that the Seahawks will have to try to sign him to another extension, logically after the 2024 season, to keep him.
“To me, the fact that they gave him three meant [the Seahawks] really wanted to get it done,” Corry said.
With the receiver contracts now wrapped up, the question also remains whether Seattle might have saved some money had a deal gotten done earlier, especially with the way the market took off.
But as Corry notes, no one expected the market to develop the way it did — even if all salaries continue to go up as the salary cap is expected to increase markedly when new media-rights deals begin in 2023 — and the Seahawks were sticking to their usual timeline of right before, or early into, training camp for getting extensions done.
Had the Seahawks broken from precedent and tried to sign Metcalf before the free agency period in March, Corry said they might have been able to get him “for a couple million [less] per year.” But he noted that “nobody anticipated the way the receiver market would take off” and said he doesn’t think the Seahawks can be blamed for sticking with their usual precedent.
“I don’t think there should be any type of criticism for when the deal was done,” Corry said.
And as Corry further notes, another factor is that Metcalf, Brown and Samuel all have the same agent — Tory Dandy. Metcalf hired Dandy in February 2021 in anticipation of signing an extension. Dandy also represents two veteran receivers — Chris Godwin of Tampa Bay and Mike Williams of the Chargers — who each signed new deals in March at $20 million or more per year that helped set off the receiver salary surge.
“You’ve got to realize, Tory Dandy pretty much controlled the market,” Corry said.
Meaning that Dandy understood as well as anyone Metcalf was going to be better off waiting, and logically Seattle would have had to have given him a deal that would likely have been seen as a big overpay to get it done much earlier.
As it is, with all significant receiver deals for this year now completed, Metcalf is tied for sixth in average per year at $24 million, just ahead of both Samuel ($23.8 million) and McLaurin ($23.2 million). And while he’s behind the $25 million of Brown, that’s undoubtedly a trade-off he was willing to make to hit free agency a year earlier.
“I really like DK’s deal,” Corry said.
Now to see if the Seahawks will like it just as much over the next few years.