Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

by J.I. Halsell

This week on "Under the Cap," we're looking at the top ten starting cornerback contracts in the league. As one looks at the table below, the contract of Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha stands out head and shoulders above the rest with an average per year of $15.2 million.

The average per year isn’t the only aspect of Asomugha's contract that strikes one as an anomaly. The contract is technically a six-year contract but practically speaking, it's either a two- or three-year contract depending upon Asomugha's performance. Under any scenario, years four through six of the contract will be voided. On its face, at the moment the contract was executed, it had a guarantee of $25.1 million. This guarantee comes in the form of a $7.5 million signing bonus, a $4.5 million year one salary guarantee, a $5.85 million year two salary guarantee, and a $7.2 million year three salary guarantee.

Additionally, the contract contains a $15.8 million option bonus in year two; this option contains a non-exercise fee, meaning if the Raiders choose to not exercise the option, Asomugha still receives the cash. So, unless the Raiders terminate this contract before 2010, Asomugha is essentially guaranteed a total of $28.6 million over 2009 and 2010, which is also the two-year total of this contract.

Here's where the contract really gets interesting: If Asomugha does not achieve the contractual performance qualifiers in year one or two, then years three through six are void, and he becomes an unrestricted free agent after 2010. The contract precludes the Raiders from franchising him. Conversely, if Asomugha achieves the qualifiers, his year three salary escalates from $2.1 million to the greater of $16.9 million or the amount of the quarterback franchise tender, and this salary is fully guaranteed. Therefore, assuming the qualifiers are achieved, over years one through three Asomugha can earn at least $45.5 million, all of which is guaranteed, and once years four through six are voided the Raiders are precluded from franchising him. In short, this is a great contract for the player and represents an anomaly in the cornerback market from both a value and structuring standpoint.

The Asomugha contract aside, the 2008 Asante Samuel contract executed by the Eagles represents the multi-year market-setter for elite starting cornerbacks. Not only does Samuel's contract lead the multi-year market in average per year at $9.5 million, but it also leads the market with a guarantee of $23.6 million and a three-year total of $32.1 million.

Speaking of three-year totals, to put the DeMarcus Ware contract in perspective, his three-year total is $45 million, compared to Asomugha's $45.5 million. The other blockbuster defensive contract this year, that of the Redskins' Albert Haynesworth, has a three-year total of $41 million. The quarterback contracts of Eli Manning and Philip Rivers both have three-year totals in the neighborhood of $50 million.

The Giants' Corey Webster has a good deal that leads the multi-year market with a guarantee per year of $4.2 million, with 48.3 percent of that total guaranteed.

Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is a candidate for defensive player of the year this year, and his seven-year contract from 2006 guaranteed him $10.5 million on a total package that has an average per year of $6.1 million and three-year total of $18 million.

Antoine Winfield of the Minnesota Vikings signed a contract earlier this year, at age 32, that guarantees him $16.1 million on a contract that averages $6.9 million per year. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey's contract ends in 2010 and going into 2011 Bailey will be 33 years old. Given the Winfield contract, it will be interesting to see by comparison the contract that Bailey receives.

When one looks at the crop of young cornerbacks across the league, Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph could be the next to join this top ten list, as his rookie contract expires after the 2010 season. Even though his rookie contract does not expire until after the 2012 season, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis will ultimately join the list, and stands a good shot of being at the top of the list at some point.

Here are the top ten starting cornerback contracts in the league:

Top Ten Starting Cornerback Contracts (in millions of dollars)
Rank Player Club Age at
Guarantee Guar./
New Money
1 Asomugha, Nnamdi OAK 27 2/19/2009 3 $25.1m $8.4m 55.1% $45.5m $15.2m $45.5m
2 Robinson, Dunta HOU 27 9/7/2009 1 $10.0m $10.0m 100.0% $10.0m $10.0m --
3 Samuel, Asante PHI 27 3/1/2008 6 $23.6m $3.9m 41.3% $57.1m $9.5m $32.1m
4 Clements, Nate SF 27 3/3/2007 7 $21.6m $3.1m 33.7% $64.0m $9.1m $29.0m
5 Hall, DeAngelo WAS 25 3/4/2009 6 $21.5m $3.6m 39.8% $54.0m $9.0m $30.0m
6 Gamble, Chris CAR 25 11/28/2008 6 $23.0m $3.8m 43.6% $52.8m $8.8m $23.3m
7 Webster, Corey NYG 26 12/15/2008 5 $21.0m $4.2m 48.3% $43.5m $8.7m $29.5m
8 Hayden, Kelvin IND 25 2/19/2009 5 $17.8m $3.6m 41.3% $43.0m $8.6m $29.0m
9 Newman, Terence DAL 29 5/20/2008 6 $21.9m $3.6m 43.6% $50.2m $8.4m $22.5m
10 Trufant, Marcus SEA 27 3/27/2008 6 $21.0m $3.5m 41.8% $50.2m $8.4m $28.0m

Next week, we'll analyze the top ten starting safety contracts in the league. If you’re interested in learning more about the salary cap and contracts, I'm holding another Salary Cap 101 webinar on Saturday, for details, visit Salary Cap 101.

Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101


31 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2009, 8:49pm

1 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

#4 Nate Clemens, #5 Deangelo Hall (didn't realize his Skins contract was that big), #6 Chris Gamble, ouch.

Loved the part about the (intriguing) Asomugha's contract, and as always the article overall, apart from those colors (my eyes hurt).

Thanks !

Looking forward to next week, because unless most of the other positions, I'm not sure of who is in the top 10. My guess : Reed, Dawkins, Polamalu, C.Hope, L.Landry, K.Hamlin, N.Collins, Madieu Williams, Atogwe, A.Wilson, K.Rhodes.

2 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

I was up to say that only 3-4 of these 10 guys play for playoff contenders (and the other play for teams that really suck and have limited hope to get in to the playoffs next year). Then I realized that 3-4 out of 10 about matches 12 out of 32.

But the NFC East is overrepresented. Even without the Chainsaw Dan mischiefs

Even though I would have said that CB is the second most important position in football next to QB, I would change my mind on that, especially with teams using more three receiver sets. Makes the role of one excellent cb less important, even if he takes away one side of the field. Just throw it underneath. Nnamdi is excellent, no question, but I doubt the (not so bad) Raiders defense would really suffer.

Maybe I'll change the importance to something like QB, OL/T, CB ...

Captcha: "harmless 17". This is Braylon.

4 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

I'd actually argue that safety has become more important than CB. A shutdown corner is sufficiently rare (and therefore expensive) that I'd rather have a couple 'good enough' corners with excellent safeties providing support than the other way around.

16 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

I, too, used to think that corners were the most important members of a defense. However, seeing Asomugha in Oakland and my Broncos with Champ Bailey really changed my mind. Asomugha is just amazing and yet Oakland can't get together a good-to-great defense? Bailey is great and yet Denver created that awful sucking black hole of a defense in '07 and '08?

I've come to the conclusion (through nothing more than my own observation) that it's important to have at least competent cornerbacks, but the great ones can't do a lot to make up for other deficiencies.

29 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Sure, but it's possible to have a great player at just about any position and still have a terrible unit. Look at Mario Williams and the 2007 or 2008 Texans defenses, for example. On the other hand, consider this: the top two defenses in DVOA this season to date are the Jets and Green Bay, and I think there's a pretty good case to say this year's all-pro corners ought to be Revis and Woodson. The Patriots' best defenses under Belichick all featured either Law or Samuel, the consistently good Eagles units have had consistently strong CB play, and Bailey was the most important player on the very good-dominant Broncos defenses in the middle of this decade. No man is an island (except Lo Wang), but great corners can make a big difference out on one.

18 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Yes, the problem with having 1 great CB is that a QB can throw anywhere else. Even 2 good CBs aren't enough to stop good passing attacks, as the Saints proved last year when they destroyed the Packers through the air on Monday night, targeting only players the Packers' 2 CBs weren't covering.

If you're only going to have one great defensive player, I'd chose a defensive tackle, as they cannot be ignored on any play the offense runs, and their presence open up opportunities for their teammates to make plays.

5 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Did the Raiders take year 3 base and turn it into a sb because nflpa says 2010 755k for base.Great info

7 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Once the option is exercised, the yr2 P5 reduces from $5.85M to 755K. Similarly, his yr3 P5 reduces from $7.2M to $2.1M upon exercise of the option.

J.I. Halsell
Salary Cap Analyst | "Under the Cap"
Twitter | @SalaryCap101

10 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Interesting how there are no rookie contracts on that top-10 list, unlike a lot of the other positions. But I guess that's just cause CB hasn't been drafted in the top 5 for a long time.

11 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

What's the breakdown on Newman's guaranteed money? His performance has fallen off in the past few years.

30 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

On the one hand, he's obviously not worth $10m a year. On the other hand, he is clearly the Texans' best corner, they would be a significantly worse team without him, they had no pressing need to use the cap space on anything else, and franchising him was sure as hell a better option than caving to his contract demands. Overpaying for one year to properly evaluate a formerly excellent player who should still be in his prime but is coming off an injury really doesn't seem like an unreasonable thing to do.

13 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Great stuff on the Asomugha deal, Jimmy. I'm not sure what was more jaw-dropping last off-season, that deal or what Oakland paid their punter. Both great players at their positions, but Davis sure is dumping a ton of money into keeping a bad team together.

14 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Then does the Nflpa assume that the option will be picked up that's why they have the lower salaries listed.Thanks jimmy good stuff I ask Santa to bring you to my house for the whole day so I can pick your brain.

17 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Remember, that Al's perfect world is cover-zero. How you get a third guy who can cover receiver number 3 with all the support a true Scotsman gets, I have no idea.

19 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Well, in principle you need less skill to shut down a less-skilled receiver, but there's still a structural problem there, because not all WR3s operate in the same way, so I'm not sure you can rely upon the same corner to shut them all down (given that that corner isn't another high-priced "shutdown" corner).

20 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

best three are Asomugha, Wodoson, and revis who rhyme with Beavis

Raiders when win superbows always had good cornerbacks. In 83 had Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, 80 Hayes and Dwayne O'Steen and Monte Jackson, 76 Dr. Death and Wille Brown and Neal Colzie. 67 team have Brown and Kent McCloughan. That all exlclent cornerback tandmes and threesomes. Have good one now with Asomugha and Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt. Good enough to win Super bowls but have probelsm in other places on team. JaMarcus Russell going tot be gerat but have learning problems early on. Lights will go on in 2010 as take team to playofs. Robert Gallery injury not helping. Need better guys on defensibe line.

22 Hey Joe

Hey raiderjoe, your gimmick is old and your franchise is a joke. Just stop. You're an idiot. It's not cute. It's not funny. And it's getting very, very old.

23 Re: Hey Joe

In reply to by FrankAngelo (not verified)


Seriously, the one person you don't insult around here is Raiderjoe. He is like the Pope.

24 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

His gimmick is old and not funny. Don't blame me, blame him for lack of innovation or any semblance of wit.


25 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Frank Angelo clearly in need of a good drink. If dont like me then don't read psots. spelling not really issue. typign is issue. Do this fast and dont bother to edit most of time because what is this freshman year english course at college or a football message board?

Maybe now Feank Angelo get point

26 Re: Under the Cap: Top Ten Cornerbacks

Want to hear a good joke joe?

(wait for it.)

(wait for it!)

(keep waiting)

The Oakland Raiders.