CHART: What a $100 million NFL contract really looks like

Cam Newton became the latest NFL player to join the $US100 million club when he agreed to a new five-year, $US103.8 million contract with the Carolina Panthers. But like all NFL contracts, the only number that really matters is the guaranteed portion of the deal.

To make matters more complicated, deals in recent years have included two different versions of “guaranteed.” There’s the portion of the contract that’s only guaranteed for injury, and then there’s the portion that’s “fully guaranteed.” In the latter case, this is the amount of money a team would owe a player if they cut him.

To get a more consistent sense of what is truly guaranteed in the NFL, the chart below looks at the fully guaranteed portion of the largest contracts signed in the last two years. In this case, we defined “fully guaranteed” as the signing bonus plus a player’s first-year salary and bonuses (even if not technically guaranteed) and any future salaries guaranteed at the time of signing.

These 15 contracts have an average potential value of $US101.6 million and a fully guaranteed value of just $US32.3 million, or about 31.8% of the total contract.

Darrelle Revis (55.6%) received the largest percentage of his contract as a full guaranteed. Ndamukong Suh (52.4%) is the only other player with more than half of his deal fully guaranteed. At the other end, only 11.5% of Colin Kaepernick’s $US114 million contract was fully guaranteed at signing.

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