<
>

Giants, No. 1 pick get creative

Want to figure out the various financial machinations of the monster contract that quarterback Eli Manning signed with the New York Giants on Friday? Well, figure on using at least a half-bottle of aspirin to combat the throbbing migraine that is almost certain to accompany that mind-blowing, number-crunching exercise.

The contract, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, has more twists and turns and reversals than the youngest Manning experienced on draft day three months ago, when he was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the first overall pick, and then traded to the Giants less than an hour later.

Negotiated by Tom Condon and Ken Kremer of IMG Football, and consummated only after a marathon bargaining session that began Thursday at 10 a.m. and concluded Friday at 2 a.m., the landmark contract includes virtually every financial enhancement available to NFL agents to throw at teams.

In addition to the longtime standards -- signing bonus and base salaries -- there are: option clauses, buyback clauses, even an option/buyback clause, years that void, seasons that can be voided and then be repurchased by the club, a roster bonus, guaranteed base salaries, escalators, and incentives.

The basic contract -- and that's using the term "basic" very loosely, for sure, since there is nothing simple about any portion of the deal -- is worth $45 million. Manning will have an opportunity to earn an additional $9 million in bonuses, raising the potential value of the contract to $54 million. The bonuses, of $4.5 million each, are tied to the Giants being in the playoffs and Manning ranking among the NFL's top five quarterbacks in a variety of standard statistical categories.

There is also, after all the time invested in a seven-year contract that actually will void down to a six-year deal, a good chance the Giants will have to renegotiate after the 2007 season. After that, given the structure of the contract and the huge numbers involved, the deal likely will become untenable.

One recommendation: If you are uninterested in the nuances and permutations involved now in high-stakes NFL contracts, or prone to bouts of nausea, you might want to stop here. But if the basic nerd instincts in you cry out for a project, well, insert your pocket protector, slap in a dozen or so just-sharpened pencils, and have at it.

The megadeal in minute detail:

  • Manning received an initial signing bonus of $3 million and base salaries (known as "paragraph 5" in NFL contract lingo) of $1.744 million (for 2004), $2.18 million (2005), $2.616 million (2006), $3.052 million (2007), $3.488 million (2008), and $3.924 million (2009). There is an option year, 2010, with a base salary of $2.485 million. All of the base salaries are guaranteed for skill and injury.

  • In 2005, by the 10th day of the "league year," Manning is due a $9 million option bonus that triggers the 2010 option year. The league year typically begins March 1, although that can vary by a day or two. That brings total bonus money, between the initial signing bonus and second-tier option bonus, to $12 million. Once the option is exercised, the base salaries are reduced to $305,000 (for 2005), $741,000 (2006), $1.177 million (2007), $1.613 million (2008) and $2.049 million (2009). The base salary for 2010 remains at $2.485 million, but that season can be voided if Manning reaches certain predetermined levels of playing time. When the Giants exercise the option, the reduced base salaries also become guaranteed for skill and injury.

  • There is a one-time conditional roster bonus, due in 2007, of $3 million. That bonus, which brings the total bonus money to $15 million, is earned if Manning participates in 35 percent of the offensive snaps as a rookie, or 45 percent in either 2005 or 2006. The bonus must be paid by the 30th day of the league year.

  • Manning can earn a $6 million escalator for 2007, which essentially raises his salary by that amount, just by playing 35 percent of the plays in 2004 or 45 percent in 2005 or 2006.

  • If Manning reaches minimum playing time levels in 2005, 2006 or 2007, and the Giants achieve team-based "not likely to be earned incentives," then the quarterback can void the 2008-2010 campaigns. Should that occur, New York has the ability to "buy back" the 2008-2009 seasons, essentially to restore those years, for a bonus of $5 million. That brings the total bonus money to $20 million, a rookie record. But if the Giants opt to restore those years, there is this catch: Manning's base salaries skyrocket to $8 million in 2008 and $8.5 million in 2009.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.