The eight-year, $62 million contract to which the Seattle Seahawks signed tailback Shaun Alexander on Monday will cost the team only $177,000 more in salary cap space in 2006 than the 2005 NFL Most Valuable Player did last season, and will actually net the club a modest cap savings in 2007.
Last season, Alexander signed the one-year qualifying offer of $6.323 million for a franchise running back. Since all of that is base salary, and Seattle could not prorate any of it because there essentially was no signing bonus, the entire amount counted as cap space. Under the new contract, however, Alexander will count $6.5 million against the Seahawks' cap for 2006 and his 2007 cap charge drops to $6.275 million.
The eight-year contract, agreed to on Sunday night and then officially signed Monday, pays Alexander a signing bonus of $11.5 million. He will receive a roster bonus of $2 million and a base salary of $1.625 million for 2006. In the absence of an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, the signing bonus can be amortized over just four years, at $2.875 million annually from 2006-2009.
Adding the prorated signing bonus share to Alexander's other compensation for each season creates the salary cap charge. The cap charge jumps to $7.35 million for 2008 and $8.437 for 2009.
Alexander will earn base salaries of $1.4 million (2007), $4.475 million (2008), $5.562 million (2009), $6.65 million (2010), $7.7375 million (2011), $8.825 million (2012) and $9.9125 million (2013). There is a second roster bonus of $2 million due in 2007.
Without the new contract, Alexander would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency at the start of the new league year. His 2005 contract stipulated that the Seahawks could not use the franchise tag again to retain him, fueling the urgency to reach an agreement.
Because of his position -- running backs have the shortest career span of any position -- Alexander might have experienced a somewhat blunted market. But it's still believed he would have had many suitors in the open market. Seattle offered Alexander around the league in trade talks last summer, but found no takers, and retained him with the one-year deal.
The decision to keep Alexander last year paid off handsomely, as he rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 scores on 370 carries. He also posted 15 catches for 78 yards and one touchdown. His 28 total touchdowns set a new single-season record. For his efforts, Alexander was a runaway winner in the MVP balloting.
A former Alabama star, Alexander was the Seahawks' first-round choice in the 2000 draft. He became a starter in his second season and has rushed for 1,000 yards, including three straight seasons of more than 1,400 yards, ever since. For his career, Alexander, 28, has rushed for 7,817 yards and 89 touchdowns on 1,717 carries. He has 188 receptions for 1,387 yards and 11 touchdowns. Alexander has played in 96 games and started 76 of them.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.