The following is a guest post from Ben Duronio, formerly of ESPN Stats and Info, and currently operator of the Atlanta Braves blog, the Capitol Avenue Club, part of ESPN's SweetSpot Network...
On the Sunday of the fourth week of the season, Jordy Nelson signed a four-year contract, totaling almost exactly $14m with $5m guaranteed, including a $3.5m signing bonus. The details of the contract in terms of yearly pay are not the important part of this article, though it is relatively amusing to note that Nelson will earn just $2.5m between salary and roster bonuses next season. What is important is that due to the contract Ted Thompson was able to get Nelson to sign, and the production Nelson has since put forth, this contract has become an extremely team-friendly deal.
Since week four, Nelson has totaled 25 catches, 464 yards, and 6 touchdowns. That comes out to a yards per reception average of 18.56, which is not far off from his 18.90 season mark. He has accumulated all three 100-yard performances of his season since signing the contract and has added his first ever two-touchdown game, and added another the following week. Nelson has tallied as many touchdowns since signing his new contract as he had in his entire career before the start of the season. He has been playing at an elite level and seems to be entering the peak of his career.
If Nelson had opted for free agency, he likely would have received a contract that would have blown his new deal out of the water.
Santonio Holmes signed the biggest wide receiver deal in 2010, earning $50m over five years, with $24m guaranteed. Nelson’s entire contract is worth just under 60% of what Holmes is guaranteed, which is simply astounding.
Holmes was coming off of a season in which he averaged 62.2 yards per game and six touchdowns over 12 games (he was suspended for the first four, as you may recall).
Brad Smith received a four year, $15m contract from the Bills. This deal is nearly identical in terms of years and money as Nelson’s, but the production will be extremely skewed in Nelson’s favor over the course of the contract.
Greg Jennings signed a four-year contract in 2009 worth nearly $27m with $16.25 guaranteed. Jennings has been worth every penny, as that contract was also one of the better deals for a top flight wide receiver. Nelson could reasonably put up a similar level of performance over the first three years of his contract, and for about two thirds of the price.
All three of the aforementioned signings help paint a picture of what Nelson could have earned on the open market. A team looking for a big wide receiver that has the ability to both stretch the field and be solid in possession formats would likely be willing to pay big bucks for Nelson had he not been extended. A contract totaling five years and roughly $30 million certainly does not seem unreasonable given the type of season Nelson has had.
Some teams may have seen Nelson as a product of Aaron Rodgers, but after watching the tape and evaluating Nelson further they would have noticed the quality of Nelson’s play and paid him accordingly.
It may be too early to call Nelson an annual Pro-Bowl caliber wide receiver, but he has performed like one this season. With him becoming more involved in the offense and Donald Driver, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley being targeted fewer times per game than they have been accustomed to, Nelson’s breakout campaign may only be the start of one of the better contracts Ted Thompson has ever dished out.
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