If you follow the Pittsburgh Steelers like we do, you may have noticed something interesting about the new three-year contract given to Joe Haden, who was already due $10 million in what would have been base salary in the final year of a prior deal he had with the team.
Haden was given a signing bonus north of $16 million. That is more than half of the total value of the $32 million contract that he signed. When the Steelers do contracts with most positions, particularly with players whom they are signing in free agency, they tend to try to keep the signing bonus to somewhere in the ballpark of 20-25 percent of the total value of the contract, which is not the norm around the rest of the league.
In that sense, Haden’s second contract with the Steelers is certainly a departure from the norm for the front office. On his original three-year, $27 million deal, he was only given a signing bonus of $5.75 million, and also had a roster bonus of $1 million in his second year of the deal.
Said Haden to Jacob Klinger of PennLive, speaking on the contract that he just signed, “mine is frontloaded, so I’m not trippin’”. Referring to other players who have signed deals with more backloaded salaries, “they’ve got to get a better agent”, he added. “You’ve got to get it front-loaded”.
That’s been easier said than done while negotiating with the Steelers, and that can certainly be argued as being a factor in their scarcity of prominent signings in free agency. While they are historically not the sort of team that targets the high-priced free agents, it’s easy to imagine that they have lost players of their own who wanted to receive larger signing bonuses upfront.
It’s no surprise, given the difference in Haden’s circumstances between August 2017 and the beginning of September of 2019, that the guarantees he was able to negotiate in his contract were vastly different, by percentage.
That’s because his performance on the field dictated to the front office that if they wanted to keep this pivotal piece of their defense and their locker room, they would need to show flexibility that they are largely able to escape.
For them to give a 30-year-old cornerback a signing bonus bigger than most of the free agent contracts they have given to outside players in their history is no small thing to note. Even all of us here at the site raised our eyebrows when the original amount was first reported, and thought that surely there must be some accounting magic involved.
Is this an indication of a future flexibility, or a one-off to accommodate a player who has ingrained himself into the fabric of the organization? There’s no doubt that Haden is beloved within the organization, and he had the leverage. They both wanted a deal to get done, and this is how it ended up.