Understanding Matt Kalil's Contract

When news broke that the Carolina Panthers were signing Matt Kalil to a 5-yr/$55.5m  with 24 million guaranteed, the national media and many Panther fans bemoaned that Dave Gettleman had flinched. The pressure to find some sort of solution for the left tackle dilemma a solution at left tackle had finally caused him to buckle in free agency, paying a bad tackle, who was coming off of a big injury, big money.

Worse that Kalil being bad, Gettleman had overpaid. Several contended that you could get the bad play Kalil offered for much less. Offensive tackles weren't going cheap when Carolina signed Matt Kalil as free agency opened either. Russell Okung and Riley Reiff both signed bigger deals that same day.

So what does Kalil's contract look like and what should we make of it?

The Details

Here are the details posted by OvertheCap.com about the contract:

Matt Kalil signed a five year, $55.5 million contract with the Panthers on March 13, 2017. $25 million of the contract is guaranteed. The guarantee consists of a $12 million signing bonus, $10 million option bonus, and base salaries from 2017 through 2019. The 2019 salary is guaranteed for injury only at the time of signing. Kalil has $750,000 per year, starting in 2018, tied to being active on gameday.  Kalil can earn up to an additional $2 million in incentives for being selected to the Pro Bowl.

What It All Means

Kalil, at the very least, is going to get 24 million dollars from the Carolina Panthers. Now there are some intricacies and some scenarios where it could be 12m instead of 24m,  but these scenarios would cost the team so much, they are extremely unlikely. There's a big upside, however. Any money beyond this $24m doesn't kick in until the third year of the contract. Carolina can get out of the deal without overly harmful salary cap repercussions in the 4th and 5th year of the deal. 

Understanding Signing and Option Bonus

There are three money components to Kalil's contract you need to be aware:

Kalil will be entitled to $12m signing bonus and 1m salary from the outset of his contract. The $12m signing, however, is prorated ($2.4m/yr) over the five-year contract period. In the first year, Kalil only counts 3.4m (1m + 2.4) against the salary cap.

After year one, the option bonus of $10m dollars kicks in. If Kalil is on the roster beyond year one of his contract, the option bonus becomes guaranteed money that is prorated for the remaining years of the contract. This is guaranteed once Kalil qualifies by remaining on the roster for more than one year. Like the signing bonus, this is 10m option is prorated (2.5m/yr) over the remaining four years of the deal.  Add his salary in 2018, 1m, and you get 24 million dollars. 

Any money beyond that 24m doesn't kick in until 2019. Technically, Carolina could get out of the deal, but it would cost them a lot of dead money against the salary cap.  Carolina is basically locked in this this for three years with a real cash value of 31m once Kalil enters 2019. After that, Carolina can part ways without a ton of dead money if needed. If Kalil pans out, however, the Panthers would simply honor the 5-y contract. Given the endless inflation of NFL contracts, it wouldn't be all that burdensome if he actually turns out good.  

Assessing the Deal

What was initially viewed as extortion turned out pretty friendly for the Carolina Panthers. Sure, the 24m isn't a small number. The good news, however, is that it doesn't amount much towards the salary cap until the back-end of the contract. In the first two season, Kalil will count mere peanuts against the cap. In year three, the contractwould amount to 14% of the team's salary cap.  As the salary cap continues to rise, which it has significantly in the past few years, Kalil's percentage of the salary cap would proportionately decrease. 

Could it go wrong? Sure. If Matt Kalil is a total bust, he's going to con likely 31m out of the Carolina Panthers, simple and plain. Fortunately, the deal is salary cap friendly. At the very most, Kalil will count 15.5m against the salary cap in the final contract year. If he was on the roster at this point, it would be because Carolina wanted him to be. Under the current cap figure, that 15.5m would still only be 11% of the team'ss salary cap.

By Tony Dunn
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