Jason LaCanfora tweeted that the Packers are trying to hammer out a long-term contract with safety Morgan Burnett. The former Georgia Tech star is eligible for free agency in 2014. Spotrac speculated that Burnett will eventually sign a four-year deal worth $32 million, including $16.6 million in guaranteed money. Those numbers seemed awfully high at first glance, and after doing a little research, they still seem inflated.
The following are the 15 highest-paid safeties in the NFL:
Troy Polamalu (4 years/$36.5M total/$10.5M guaranteed); Eric Berry (6/$50.5/$26M); Eric Weddle (5/$41M/$19M); Dashon Goldson (5/$41M/$18.5M); Antrel Rolle (5/$37M/$15M); Michael Griffin (5/$35M/$11.5M); Jairus Byrd (1/$6.9M/$6.9M); Antoine Bethea (4/$27M/$10.6M); Tyvon Branch (4/$26.6M/$6.6M); LaRon Landry (4/$24M/$11M); Kam Chancellor (5/$29M/$8M); William Moore (5/$28M/$14M); Danieal Manning (4/$19.5M/$9M); Ed Reed (3/$14.5M/$5M) and Glover Quin (5/$23.5M/$6.2M).
OK, so where does Burnett fit in? At 24 years old, he’s the youngest of the group. He’s also among the least decorated. Every other player on this list – excluding Branch and Quin – has been to a minimum of one Pro Bowl (although to be fair, Manning went to the all-star game primarily as a kick returner in 2008).
Trying to be as objective as possible, Polamalu, Berry, Goldson, Weddle, Rolle, Byrd, Chancellor, Moore and Reed have been better than Burnett – some significantly better. Those 9 players average $7.22 million per season, with an average guarantee of $14.5 million (I excluded Byrd, who was given the franchise tag by Buffalo). Burnett doesn’t belong in that economic neighborhood – even though he’s considerably younger than some and considerably healthier than others. Griffin, Bethea, Branch, Quin, Landry and Manning average $6 million per season, with an average guarantee of $9.1 million. That’s more like it.
The guess here is that the Packers will pay Burnett based more on his potential than his production. That could translate to a contract more lucrative than I originally predicted (4/$21M/$8M), although Spotrac’s numbers still seem too high. So after spending way too much time on this subject (it’s not like I’m going to see this money), here’s my best guess: $25 million for four years, with $10 million guaranteed.