Money Talks: The hidden costs of Joe Haden’s suspension

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

On Monday, it was confirmed that Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden has been suspended for four games for violating the National Football League's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Specifically, Haden tested positive for Adderall, a stimulant used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder whose use is accepted by the NFL provided that it's prescribed by a doctor.

Haden's four-game suspension and failed appeal is a sign that Haden did not have a prescription to explain the Adderall usage, or if he had obtained a prescription, he failed to disclose that to the league prior to his failed test. Either way, Haden will miss the next four games and pay a very steep financial penalty for doing so.

As member of the 2010 NFL draft class, the last group before the new collective bargaining agreement significantly scaled back rookie compensation, Haden is earning a base salary of $5,765,505 in his third NFL season. Originally scheduled to earn $503,050, Haden reached minimum playing-time thresholds as a rookie, which escalated his 2012 salary to its current level. Losing four game checks, valued at $339,147 apiece, means Haden will forfeit $1,356,589 in salary during his suspension.

Additionally, Haden's suspension also means he is ineligible for the Pro Bowl and any postseason awards. Haden had a $100,000 incentive in his rookie contract tied to the Pro Bowl which he will no longer be eligible to receive. Haden could also forfeit a portion of the $12 million signing bonus he received as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.

According to Article 4, Section 9(e) of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, a player suspended by the NFL for violations of the drug or steroid policy could forfeit any "Forfeitable Salary Allocations on a proportionate weekly basis." Included in the CBA's descriptions of forfeitable salary allocations is the "Salary Cap allocation for the player's signing bonus for that League Year," which means that Haden could be asked by the Browns to forfeit nearly $500,000 of the $2 million that his $12 million signing bonus from 2010 counts against this year's cap.

Haden's suspension also jeopardizes how much of his $50,256,742 (maximum value) rookie contract he can earn.

According to a source with knowledge of Haden's contract, up to $7.85 million in additional base salary escalators were available over the last two years of the deal. In 2013, Haden could add up to $3.65 million to his $6,936,429 base salary and up to $4.2 million to a $6,678,193 base salary in 2014. Smaller escalators were tied to both Haden's playing time (85 percent) and interception totals (five or more in a season) plus the number of Browns wins (10). Larger increases were available if Haden has multiple seasons with playing time above 85 percent and the team's defense ranks in the Top 5 in NFL or Top 3 in AFC in certain categories in those same seasons.

Haden is on track to earn very little, if any, of that $7.85 million in available escalation.

Though Haden had six interceptions as a rookie, he started just seven of 16 games and played in 73.86 percent of the Browns' defensive snaps, falling well short of that season's playing-time threshold to trigger any escalation for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Last season, Haden played in 90.68 percent of the defensive snaps, but the Browns won only four games, again denying the shutdown corner any future escalation in 2013 or 2014. A four-game suspension will make it very difficult for Haden to reach the 85 percent playing-time requirement to trigger any escalation from this season, as well.

Haden is still on target to earn nearly $7 million next season, but the $3.65 million in potential escalation in 2013 will completely vanish along with most of the $4.2 million in escalators for 2014.

Breaking Down the Daryl Washington and James Laurinaitis contract extensions

Last week, Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington and St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis signed contracts worth over $8 million per season that locked each player up through the 2017 season.

Washington had two years remaining on his rookie contract and signed a four-year extension (2014-17) that included $32 million in "new money," bringing his compensation over the next six seasons to just under $33.2 million. Laurinaitis had one year left on his rookie deal and his five-year extension is worth $41.5 million in "new money." Over the next seasons, Laurinaitis can earn just over $42.2 million with another $2.5 million available in base salary escalators from 2013-17 ($500,000 per season).

Laurinaitis had been scheduled to earn $620,000 in base salary this season and could have been an unrestricted free agent in 2013, though the Rams could have kept him off the market by use of the franchise tag (estimated to be worth $9.049 million if the salary cap remains flat). Because Laurinaitis was a season closer to hitting the free-agent market, his contract beat Washington's by a significant margin in the two areas of greatest importance: Cash payout over the first three years of the contract and guaranteed money.

According to sources with knowledge of both contracts, over the next three seasons (2012-14), Washington will earn $20.5 million, including $19.33 million in "new" money. Laurinaitis is scheduled to earn $24.62 million over that same period of time, $24 million of which is comprised of "new" money.

Laurinaitis received $23 million in "new" guaranteed money. This amount is comprised of a $2 million signing bonus in 2012, a $1 million base salary and $11 million roster bonus in 2013 and a $9 million base salary guarantee in 2014.

Currently Laurinaitis' $2 million signing bonus and $620,000 base salary this season are "fully" guaranteed. The rest is only partially guaranteed, but that will change soon. If Laurinaitis is on the roster when the Rams travel to the Chicago Bears on Sept. 23, which he will be, his $11 million roster bonus in 2013 will go from being guaranteed for skill and injury only to fully guaranteed (skill, injury and cap). If Laurinaitis is on the roster five days after Super Bowl XLVII, his $1 million base salary in 2013 and $9 million of his $10 million base salary in 2014 will go from being guaranteed for injury only to fully guaranteed.

Put another way, the $23 million in Laurinaitis' contract will be fully guaranteed by Feb. 8, 2013.

Washington's guarantee is limited to his $2.5 million signing bonus and $2.5 million base salary for the 2012 season, $540,000 of which is from his base salary on his rookie contract. Not even Washington's $2.4 million base salary in 2013 is guaranteed. However, Washington is due a $10 million option bonus at some point during the 2013 season. While that option bonus is likely to be paid, it's not guaranteed and there is no non-exercise fee attached to it, which gives the Cardinals a rather significant "out" if Washington fails to continue to his development into a Pro Bowl-caliber player or is injured this season.

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