By Mark Gaughan
The rookie contract signed by EJ Manuel last week is worth $8.88 million over four years. However, it's possible Manuel will be locked up through 2017, not 2016.
In all first-round deals since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement was signed, the club has an option for a fifth year. The club can't exercise the option until after the player's third season. Once executed, the amount is guaranteed for injury, meaning he gets paid that fifth-year money even if he can't play due to injury.
That fifth-year money is guaranteed for skill and cap reasons as well if he's still on the roster on the first day of the league year (in March) that fifth season. That means he gets the fifth-year money at that point, even if the team decides afterward it doesn't want him on the roster.
Because Manuel was drafted between 11th and 32nd, the amount of the option-year salary for him would be equal to the average salary of the third- through 25th-highest-paid quarterbacks in the league at the end of his third season.
If Manuel had been drafted in the top 10, then the amount of the option-year salary would be equal to the top 10 players at his position at the end of his third season. That's a lot higher, obviously.
Because the Bills traded out of the top 10 and took Manuel 16th overall, they would get a less expensive fifth-year option. Obviously that's a benefit because there still could be some uncertainty over his play after his third season.
Of course, if Manuel plays well enough to still be the clear-cut starting quarterback after his fourth season, then it's likely the Bills would want to sign him to a big contract extension before his fifth season rather than have him play out his fifth season.
But you never know. The Baltimore Ravens let quarterback Joe Flacco play out his contract last season, then signed him to a big extension after he won the Super Bowl.
It's a problem the Bills would welcome. If Manuel is still in a Bills uniform in 2017, then it's overwhelmingly likely he will be "The Answer" the franchise has sought.