Barron's contract with Rams could bring him $11 million
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Aug. 14 2005

Alex Barron's five-year deal with the Rams is worth $9.2 million. But if Barron
qualifies for an incentive and two escalators in the contract, he could earn as
much as $11 million.

According to information obtained by the Post-Dispatch, Barron's deal includes
no signing bonus. But it features $5.5 million in guaranteed money - a figure
that does not include a $1 million roster bonus Barron will receive this week,
and thus is all but guaranteed.

There are many other wrinkles, explaining in part why it took so long for
Barron, an offensive tackle, to sign. Technically, it's a four-year contract.
But it includes a $4.9 million option bonus for the fifth year that the club
must exercise no later than March 15 of next year.

Because the bonus must be paid after only one season, and because so much of
the contract is guaranteed, it's almost a certainty that the Year 5 option will
be exercised.

Assuming the option is exercised, Barron's base salaries will be as follows:

2005: $230,000.

2006: $310,000.

2007: $617,500.

2008: $925,000.

2009: $1,235,500.

Add on the $1 million roster bonus, and the $4.9 million option payment to
those base salaries, and that gets you to the $9.2 million total.

Because of complications involving the NFL's collective bargaining agreement
this year, many first-round contracts have been structured in a similar
fashion, with no signing bonus.

Roster bonuses, option bonuses, and designated guaranteed money have taken the
place of the signing bonus. In the past, signing bonus money was the only part
of NFL contracts that was guaranteed.

Barron was selected by the Rams with the 19th overall pick in the draft. The
players taken immediately before and after Barron have similarly structured
deals:

Minnesota defensive end Erasmus James has a five-year, $9.2 million deal that
also includes no signing bonus, a $1 million roster bonus, and a $4.9 million
option payment.

But the James deal includes more guaranteed money ($5.8 million to Barron's
$5.5 million), and can grow to $12.6 million if James reaches a variety of
incentives and escalators. James was selected No. 18 overall, one spot ahead of
Barron.

One spot behind Barron at No. 20 overall, Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears
signed a five-year, $8.3 million deal that includes no signing bonus, a $1
million roster bonus, and a $4.6 million option payment.

Spears' deal also includes more guaranteed money than Barron ($5.7 million to
Barron's $5.5 million), but can grow to only $9.35 million if Spears reaches an
incentive tied to playing time and certain team or individual statistics.

Barron has three avenues to stretch his contract from the basic deal of $9.2
million to its maximum of $11 million:

He gets a one-time incentive of $350,000 if he plays in 35 percent of the Rams'
offensive snaps this season, or plays in 45 percent of the snaps in either
2006, '07, '08, or '09. But that's only half of the incentive. For him to get
the $350,000, the Rams also must improve their ranking in one of the following
statistical categories over the previous season: completion percentage, sacks
allowed, or takeaway-giveaway differential.

Over the course of five seasons, this incentive should be relatively easy to
reach.

Barron's base salary in 2009 can grow - or escalate - by a maximum of $250,000
in an escalator triggered by selection to a Pro Bowl.

In another escalator clause, Barron's 2009 base salary could grow by $1.25
million if he reaches 80 percent playing time twice during the 2005, '06, and
'07 seasons. He can also get there if he averages 80 percent playing time
between the 2005 and '08 seasons.

Given the fact that offensive linemen hardly ever rotate in a game - as opposed
to the defensive line - this escalator will be obtainable if Barron becomes a
starter and stays healthy.

Interestingly, his contract impasse may make it more difficult to achieve the
$1.25 million escalator. Barron is scheduled to participate in his first
training camp practice this morning, after missing more than two weeks of camp.

Coach Mike Martz has stated on more than one occasion that Barron won't be
ready to start the season opener Sept. 11 in San Francisco because of the
missed time. If true, that will affect Barron's ability to reach the 80 percent
level in playing time this season.

Traditionally, the Rams have tried to resist contracts laden with incentives
and escalators. But the league-wide trend is toward such features, which reward
players more for performance than draft position.