How the 49ers locked up their star Linebackers

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The reason why the 49ers are so successful at extending their top players before their current contracts run out comes down to basically 1 man, Paraag Marathe. Marathe is currently the 49ers Chief Operating Officer. He previously worked as the team’s Executive Vice President of Football and Business Operations, and has a strong business background. He is the key guy when it comes down to structuring a contract the right way.

The first contract came back in May of 2010. The 49ers extended then three-year veteran inside linebacker, Patrick Willis, to a six-year contract extension worth around $50 million, with $29 million in guaranteed money.

Willis received an upfront $15.5 million signing bonus, along with a $4.8 million “supersede” bonus, which is similar to a basic signing bonus. It prorates over a certain length of the contract, but is used in a way that allows the team to get around the 30% increase rate that hindered many teams back before the newest Collective Bargaining Agreement was made official.

Back in the 2010 offseason, the 49ers were also able to get another former first round pick extended, in TE Vernon Davis, but I won’t go into that deal, that is for another time.

Back to Patrick Willis’ contract. It was originally reported that Willis would have $1.25 million in workout bonuses, but that was completely wrong. He actually has $500,000 in workout bonuses for each year signed through, which is through 2016. And he also has $609,375 in roster bonus money, which is tied into game day roster actives. Back in November of 2011 the 49ers and Willis decided to redo his deal, by adding the remaining proration, which amounts to $14,173,332, and in the process allowed the team to have more cap room in the future years.

This now, leads us to the newest extensions given out by the 49ers. The first came this past Februrary, the 49ers extended OLB Ahmad Brooks, with a 6-year deal, worth $37 million. The deal included a $7.5 million signing bonus, along with several roster and workout bonuses. He will earn $750,000 in per game day active roster bonuses in 2013-2017 seasons. He is also eligible for $100,000 workout bonuses in each year for which he is signed.

Brooks’ deal is one that you will seen done by the 49ers for many years. On April 1st, 2013, Brooks 2013 base salary of $4.3 million becomes guaranteed. Another key thing is that he has escalators, and de-escalators throughout the contract. If Brooks can attain a 93.2% playing time on defense, while the 49ers win 12 games and get to the NFC Championship game, he is able to waive any de-escalators. So he could see them waived this year with the way the season is heading.

Finally, the latest contract extension happened on November 27th, 2012. The 49ers, All Pro ILB NaVorro Bowman, and agent Drew Rosenhaus got together, and put together what looks so similar to what the 49ers did a few months back for Ahmad Brooks.

Like Brooks, Bowman received a $7.5 Million signing bonus. He also has the same $750,000 per game day active roster bonuses for each season for the extension starting in 2014-2018 seasons. However, it seems the $100,000 workout bonuses are not seen in Bowman’s deal. There are a lot of dates with guaranteed tied to them. For each of his 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 base salaries, they become fully guaranteed on the first day of that season’s new league year. This happens in the first week or two of March. They also threw in a $4 million option bonus, which is paid in March 2013, but prorates over 5 seasons.

It’s clear the 49ers redid the deal of Patrick Willis with these deals in mind. They knew they could spare the prorations into 2012, so they could get two of their top young defensive starters signed long term.

Now a look at their salaries via links.

NaVorro Bowman

Ahmad Brooks

Patrick Willis

There is one thing I specifically wanted to mentioned related to Aldon Smith. His next contract cannot be signed until after the 2013 season is completed, as teams need to decide to pick up a 5th-year option at a certain tier. For Smith, it will be Top 10 OLB money.

I expect Smith to receive a contract near what Cowboys All Pro OLB DeMarcus Ware received, which included a $20 Million signing bonus. I don’t expect that high of a signing bonus, as I believe the 49ers will work it out similar to the structure of Brooks’ and Bowman’s deal. But when the time comes in 2014 when allowed, the 49ers should have cap space to extend him past 2014 and 2015.