A few days ago, the Texans signed All-Galaxy wide receiver Andre Johnson to a two-year extension with a maximum value of $38.5 million and $13M of that guaranteed. Combined with his existing deal, Andre's contract is worth $73.5M over the course of seven years, which would make Andre the highest paid wide receiver in the National Football League.
Since that was announced, the talk about the deal has centered around the Texans keeping Mr. Johnson's services through 2016 and the potential opening of Pandora's Box. Anyone involved with the Houston Texans is happy, while the national media wonders if there will be an epidemic of stars asking for a new deal with multiple years left on their existing contracts. Lost in all of this talk is what Andre's contract actually says about Andre, Bob McNair, and Rick Smith. As this post's title suggests, that is what's really important to Texans fans.
What are those incentives and bonuses dependent on? Andre earns money based on his statistics and team involvement. This article by NFL.com's Jason La Canfora breaks down the specifics. A quick take for those not wanting to read, Johnson did earn a raise from his $5.8M base salary, but the final total depends on him finishing in the top five or 10 in one of the four major receiving categories - receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and yards per catch. Johnson can make anywhere from $8.9M (no top-10) to $10.5M (top-5 tier). That salary includes a $1M bonus which he earns from taking part in at least 90% of the teams offseason program plus all minicamps and training camps. [Writer's note: There was originally speculation here from ProFootballTalk and John McClain before Rip Jersey found an article with actual numbers. Full h/t to Rip Jersey for the assist.]
Yes, you read that correctly. Andre Johnson gets paid as the top WR and team leader if he performs and behaves as such. If, for whatever reason, Andre is unable to meet those levels, then he receives a base salary of about $8M per season. Let me reiterate this so I can drive the point home. Andre wanted to be the highest paid wide receiver, and he will be...if he performs as such. This kind of contract should tell you a few things.
The first is that Andre Johnson is a special kind of football player. If Andre were a diva, then this situation could have gotten toxic. He could have whined and moaned about his contract and demanded mega-guaranteed dollars or a trade. Instead, The Juggernaut compromised by taking a slight raise and allowing the bigger bucks to be earned on the field. He is willing to trust in his talents, his quarterback, and his coaches. Given his career so far, no one, as the Examiner's Alan Burge says, should have any reason to doubt that Andre will earn every penny as he always has - on the field with his performance.
The second thing this contract should tell you is that owner Bob McNair takes care of his franchise's leaders. If you perform at a high level and behave like a professional, then Bob is going to make sure you are compensated as such. I know there has been criticism by some in the fan base that McNair is a penny-pincher because he doesn't throw money around carelessly for big names. This extension should silence that criticism once and for all if the DeMeco Ryans deal didn't. Like any smart businessman, McNair invests in his most valuable assets.
The final thing this contract should teach you is that general manager Rick Smith is a shrewd negotiator. Rick did not rip up a five-year deal or just tack on two more seasons, nor did he cave in to giving a huge contract that left the franchise unprotected or risk an unhappy leader in the locker room. Instead, Rick locked Andre down for two more years while restructuring the entire deal to pay 'Dre based on his performance. By doing this, Rick makes it hard to get upset about Andre making money since (a) he has more than earned a raise on the field and (b) he will earn the big bucks on the field. I was initially very anti-deal, but I like this deal the more I think and learn about it. In fact, I wish more contracts were structured in that manner.
Now in his fourth year as a general manager, this is another positive sign about Rick Smith's performance. Rick is a great evaluator of talent, does a great job of signing his rookie class on time, and now he can add this contract extension/re-negotiation feather to his cap. I know that some are worried about re-signing Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Bernard Pollard, among others, to long-term extensions in the near future, but this kind of deal, along with DeMeco's deal, gives me hope that maybe there is a way to get it all done while making everyone happy. If there is a way to get it done, I trust that Rick Smith will find it.
Until that day, we should all appreciate the people involved to make this deal happen and rejoice that we get to enjoy watching Andre Johnson playing in the deep steel blue until 2016. At this moment, #80's new deal should be chalked up as a great showing by Andre Johnson, stellar leadership by Bob McNair, more proof that Rick Smith is a very capable GM, and an overall fantastic move for the Houston Texans.