As anticipation builds towards the record-setting contract that Patrick Mahomes is destined to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs — one estimate contemplates a four-year, $180 million pact — the Los Angeles Chargers will continue to work out what their best plan moving forward is with pass rusher Joey Bosa. After all, we know we can’t expect Mahomes to be leaving the AFC West within this decade.
I’d sooner expect the divisions to be mixed up before that happens.
In that respect and given the circumstances on the Chargers roster — and with regards to their payroll — I can’t imagine that the plan isn’t to do whatever it takes to keep Bosa. Barring a massive trade haul like the one the Oakland Raiders received for Khalil Mack in 2018, LA has little reason to withhold cash from their wallets for their best player.
And that probably means a “record-setting” contract for a defensive player.
Since entering the NFL in 2016, Bosa’s 40 sacks rank eighth in the league. However, he’s missed 13 of a possible 64 games and every player ranked ahead of him has played in at least 60. Mack has 42.5 sacks, 47 tackles for a loss, and 80 QB hits in 62 games while Bosa has 40 sacks, 53 tackles for a loss, and 82 QB hits in 51 games.
Also, Mack signed his record six-year, $141 million contract with $90 million guaranteed in 2018 when he was 27.
It is now two years later and Bosa is only 25.
Set to make a little over $14 million in his fifth-year option, you have to wonder if Bosa is planning to play next season without a new deal. Not only did he holdout during his rookie season in spite of a rookie pay scale in place that most of us thought would prevent that sort of thing from ever happening again, but the added uncertainty of the 2020 season because of coronavirus may make it even more prudent for players to protect themselves until more is known.
It is not always easy to guess what a contract figure may look like for several reasons, but as Michael Peterson noted in May, a deal around what Demarcus Lawrence got from the Dallas Cowboys (five years, $105 million) does make sense. However, I wonder if now would be the time for a defensive player to mimic the fully-guaranteed deal that Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
Most big contracts really only seem to have “three guaranteed years” at most anyways and the remaining years on a deal may only serve to bump up the AAV (average annual value) or even undercut the actual value that the player is giving to his team at that point. It feels as though players are signing more one, two, and three year deals than ever in 2020 and that could be for a number of reasons, including uncertainty around next season, but it may also be that players are seeing the advantages to shorter deals.
It would be hard to argue that players are “less protected” with shorter contracts given that teams so often release those same players with years left on their original deals anyway. Darrelle Revis took some risk when he kept signing one-year contracts or deals that had options, especially given that he had an injury history, but he made a lot of money doing that and may have started a trend of sorts.
Would a three-year, $70 million contract, fully guaranteed be a smart deal for both sides?
Given that the plan is to have Justin Herbert as the starting quarterback for the next four years on his rookie deal — not saying it will work out but that is the plan, right? — before his fifth-year option would kick in if he’s successful, then that plan should also be to take advantage of those savings at QB by paying your elite players. The Chargers are set to have the third-most cap space in the NFL in 2021 and if you’re not spending it on Bosa, who is it meant for exactly?
A $70 million deal over three years is a $23.3 million AAV but paying him $28 million in 2021 and then scaling back wouldn’t be outlandish; Mack is getting $26.6 million next season and Von Miller is at $25.6 million. Bosa’s injury history isn’t enough for me to think that the team should hesitate to pay him like an elite pass rusher either.
That is about what elite pass rushers are going to make right now and there are too many reasons to do it — he’s your best player that you need to pay right now, the division has Patrick Mahomes, you’ve decided to go with a rookie quarterback — than to wait.
And given the circumstances it doesn’t seem like Bosa may even give the Chargers a chance to wait.