Respected NFL insider Aaron Wilson is reporting the terms of Benjamin Watson's contract as follows: $7 million total, $3 million guaranteed, $2 millions signing bonus, $1 million base salary in 2016, $3 million base salary for 2017, $1 million roster bonus due on April 1, 2016 and a $1 million escalator clause for 2017. With these figures, Watson's cap charge should be about $3 million in 2016 if he is with the team next month and $1-$2 million in dead money if the Ravens release him after this season, depending on the exact stipulations that trigger the escalator.
Between $3 and $4 million in guarantees for a 35 year old journeyman tight end still seems a bit expensive. For comparison, another 35 year old tight end agreed to a two year contract extension on Wednesday when Antonio Gates came to terms with the San Diego Chargers on a 2-year $12 million deal. Gates has outperformed Watson throughout their careers, however, Watson bested Gates in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2015. Watson is said to be a great locker room influence. He provides blocking and receiving dual threat ability to a Ravens offense that was unexpectedly thin at tight end after Boyle's suspension and Gillmore's surgery.
In other news, recently resigned cornerback Shareece Wright's contract is also of the team friendly variety. Wright's new contract is for 3-years at $13 million with a $4 million signing bonus. The structure of this contract includes a very low base salary for 2016, resulting in a 2016 cap charge of a manageable $2.1 million and $4.8M in dead money.
The Ravens negotiators have been busy this week restructuring Marshal Yanda's contract and forcing Kyle Arrington to take a pay cut. Watson and Wright's contract may look like overpays on the surface, when compared to some of the other recent free agent signings, but salary cap management is not an exact science. The Ravens may able to offset these possible overpays by signing a few bargain free agents later in the offseason to below market contracts.
The biggest ramification of the Watson signing, and Wright signing to a lesser extent may be the compensatory pick implications. But the Ravens have been the masters of this strategy and do not appear to be changing course at the moment. Forgoing a potential third round compensatory pick after Kelechi Osemele's departure in exchange for a complimentary type unrestricted free agent would not follow the Ravens historic model.
Regardless of Watson's true value, the terms and structure were not nearly as disappointing as first reported at 2-years for $8 million. The Ravens still have some positions to address this offseason. But let's all patiently wait to see what the roster looks like on the first day of training camp before we storm The Castle with pitchforks, calling for the Ravens "capologist" Pat Moriarty's head.