Former sports agent Joel Corry spent a few minutes explaining some details of Percy Harvin's contract that I had not previously understood. In the interest of keeping Seahawks fan informed, I will share what I learned, as well as some thoughts on the significance of it.
First, let's get acquainted with the different types of guaranteed money in an NFL contract. I had always thought money was either guaranteed, or it wasn't. Not true. There is fully guaranteed money, but there are also guarantees that can be restricted to injury, cap or skill. I found a decent explanation of the differences over at NYJetsCap.com:
Fully guaranteed money is the real deal. That means your money is protected from skill, injury, and cap terminations. For you to not earn that money you have to do something egregious to be cut and not paid. The most complete form is that with “no offset” meaning not only do you get paid from the team that cut you but any additional money you earn from another team that year is yours to keep. Most contain offset language meaning if the player has a $7 million dollar guarantee and signs with a new team for $2 million you are only on the hook for $5 million in cap and cash dollars.
Often times reported guarantees are not fully guaranteed. Normally they just contain protection for 1 of the 3 termination reasons. So if you are protected from injury but don’t get hurt that injury guarantee was worth nothing. You have a skill guarantee but the teams cap is awful you are out of luck. You will never see a roster or workout bonus guaranteed for all 3 terminations upon signing, due to rules in the CBA treating them as a prorated bonus. In my mind the skill guarantee is the best of the three to have because it’s the most subjective but that’s just my opinion on it.
Corry passed along that Harvin's deal is injury guaranteed for 2014. That means that if he was injured at the end of this league year (6 days after the Super Bowl), his $11M base salary for 2014 becomes guaranteed. A number of different media sources reported this week that the Seahawks would not put Harvin on IR because it would guarantee his 2014 contract. This is what they were referring to.
When Seattle cut Perrish Cox yesterday instead of putting Harvin on IR, this would appear to be the reason. It likely has nothing to do with leaving open the chance for Harvin to return this season. Pete Carroll has grown increasingly terse with his responses to Harvin questions, and this could be part of the reason. The coach likely is ready to turn the page and use Harvin's roster spot, but the front office may be insisting that the Seahawks keep their options open.
In literal terms, this means Seattle could choose to cut Harvin after the Super Bowl and recoup his 2014 salary. They would still owe the pro-rated portion of his signing bonus, which would count as dead money against the cap.
In real world terms, this means very little. Seattle will not cut Harvin after paying him $14M for one catch and one kick return. They want to see a return on their fiscal and draft pick investment. Still, keeping their options open is worthy of note. It gives the team leverage, but with no clear reason to use it. Most likely, this allows them to keep options open in case they hear something that causes them to question to long-term prospects of the Harvin deal. An escape valve nobody expects them to use.