Last week, Cecil Lammey reported that there was “buzz building” on possibly extending Cody Latimer before the start of free agency. I think that buzz is warranted, though it does provide a curious case on how such an extension should proceed. Here are my early thoughts on this matter.
Latimer has to understand that his earning potential is at special teams and not wide receiver.
While the future of Latimer contributing on offense should certainly not be ruled out, his camp is in no position to negotiate a new contract on that basis. Latimer’s yardage is extremely meager for a four year player: he doesn’t even have triple digit yardage in three of those four years. I struggled to find a wide receiver in a similar boat to Latimer that got much more than the veteran minimum on a second contract. I also find it hard to imagine that there’s another team out there with a coaching staff (John Fox? Adam Gase?) that knows enough to be willing to take a chance on Latimer as a receiver.
What comparable special teams contracts are out there?
The leading special teams contract from 2017 was Brynden Trawick, moving from the Raiders to the Titans. Trawick signed a two year, $4.75 million deal that had $3 million fully guaranteed. From 2016, Johnson Bademosi signed a two year, $4.5 million deal with the Lions that $2.9 million fully guaranteed. (Bademosi has since been traded to New England.) Speaking of the Patriots, Matt Slater, recognized by many as one of the best special teamers in the league, also signed a two year, $4 million extension in 2016.
Given these comparables, the absolute ceiling for Latimer’s second contract would be a little over $2 million in APY, with about $2 million guaranteed as about 50% of the total contract. However, I do not believe that Latimer has the kind of reputation that those mentioned special teamers. In fact, if Latimer’s reputation does not expand much beyond Denver, his floor could very well be near the veteran minimum of $790,000.
I would instead look to an old friend and use his contract as a more reasonable basis for a Latimer extension. Dekoda Watson signed a three year, $5 million deal with the 49ers, but only had $1 million guaranteed to add on to the APY of $1.67 million. Watson’s contract is also structured to be a year-to-year deal with team options. (Perhaps John Elway advised John Lynch about the compensatory pick benefits of such a structure?)
My preferred contract structure
Officially, this is a two year, $3.6 million deal that in APY looks just a shade below some of the top special teamers’ contracts, but in truth is really a 1 year, $1.54 million deal with an option for Year 2 at the Broncos’ discretion. Both of Latimer’s base salaries are the veteran minimum, and if the $1.255 million 2019 option is declined, he will qualify for 2020 comp pick consideration.
Latimer’s only guaranteed money is a $750,000 signing bonus, a shade under the $1 million Watson got from the 49ers. Should Latimer make the 2018 Broncos roster for Week 1, Latimer would gain the ability to guarantee his veteran minimum base salary of $790,000 by applying for termination pay if he so chooses. If Latimer does not make the 2018 Broncos roster, dead money against them would be minimal at $375,000 against each of the 2018 and 2019 caps.
If Latimer’s camp balks at the size at the signing bonus and believes they can get more guaranteed money elsewhere, I might be willing to negotiate slightly higher, or make a small portion of his 2018 base salary fully guaranteed, but no higher than the $1 million Watson got. I would also be willing to include reasonable incentives based upon offensive snaps or receiving yards should Latimer emerge as a bigger threat as a wide receiver, and would also be willing to allow Latimer to void the 2019 year if he greatly exceeds expectations so that he could get a fairer chance at unrestricted free agency.