Chicago Sun-Times

Dollars and sense: Squeeze on rookie pool leads to different deals for Gilbert, Iglesias

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We have gotten a look at how the Bears constructed the contracts for third-round picks Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias and interestingly the deals are put together in similar fashion to how teams usually write contracts for second-round picks.

Both Gilbert and Iglesias, who signed their four-year contracts last week, received signing bonuses and not-likely-to-be-earned incentives (NLTBE) that are guaranteed against the last year of the deal, 2012. What happened was the Bears were under allocated when it came to the rookie pool. When the league last raised the minimum salaries it did not adjust the rookie pool accordingly, making it difficult (impossible in some cases) to squeeze in all the picks while giving the annual bump in pay.

The Bears' rookie pool, essentially a salary cap within the salary cap, was $3,497,111. After signing seven of their nine draft picks there simply wasn't enough rookie pool left for Gilbert and Iglesias to both get proper signing bonuses. So instead of putting the squeeze on one player, the Bears found a way to make it as fair as possible. The NLTBE, in this instance, is earned by playing time and the higher the draft pick, the better chance he has of being on the field to trigger the one-time payment. In theory, any way.

Here is how it broke down:

Jarron Gilbert, $740,000 signing bonus, $146,500 NLTBE, total bonus money $886,500

Juaquin Iglesias, $500,000 signing bonus, $119,900 NLTBE, total bonus money $619,900

Both players have escalators in the final year of the deal and with the base salaries Gilbert's contract is worth $2,636,500 and Iglesias' totals $2,369,900.

For Gilbert, it reprsents a raise of 3.78 percent over the signing bonus received by the player in his slot in 2008, Carolina cornerback Charles Godfrey. For Iglesias, it was a 3.66 percent bump over what the player in the corresponding slot, Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud, received. It's not unprecedented for the deals to be structured this way in the third round. Miami defensive end Kendall Langford, a third-round pick in 2008, and Dallas offensive tackle James Marten, a third-round pick in 2007, had similar structures. There could be more third rounders that end up with contracts written in this fashion this year. Most of the round remains unsigned.

Typically, second-round picks receive a NLTBE one-time incentive. Running back Matt Forte had one as part of his bonus money last season. He triggered the payment as a rookie. Gilbert and Iglesias are protected if they are released--the money is guaranteed as part of the base pay in 2012. However, there remains a possible although unlikely scenario in which they never see the NLTBE, which is not guaranteed in the absolute sense of the word.

As we wrote above, the NLTBE's are triggered by playing time. If one (or both) remain on the roster for all four seasons but simply don't play, they're not going to trigger the incentive based on play time. They'd get a heck of a good seat for 64 regular-season games, but would never hit the trigger to earn the rest of the bonus money. That would be a lot of bench sitting, though. If a player is totally unproductive for three seasons (or maybe even two) he's typically launched and if something like that happened, the guarantee would kick in. So, it's unlikely Gilbert or Iglesias will be short-changed, but it is possible.

Here are the signing bonuses and total value of the deals for the other seven players:

DE Henry Melton $511,230 signing bonus, $2,261,230

CB D.J. Moore $466,753 signing bonus, $2,216,753

WR Johnny Knox $204,240 signing bonus, $1,954,240

LB Marcus Freeman $181,700 signing bonus, $1,931,700

S Al Afalava $100,600 signing bonus, $1,850,600

G Lance Louis $41,982 signing bonus, $1,791,982

WR Derek Kinder $37,666 signing bonus, $1,787,666

Check back later today for more notes and nuggets.

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If you look at the tremdous chance for a complete flop with first round draft picks, and their very high salary guarantees, I think the Bears should stick with these not so rich guys. Angelo has been very good finding productive talent in these rounds. Is Tommie Hrris worth all the money we pay him for playing maybe 25 snaps a game? He can't be disruptive sitting out 3/4 of the game. I like these younger guys and hope for all of us they succeed.

Looking at the 7th rounders, doesnt it seem that they are getting paid too much. If Kinder or Lewis would have waited a few picks they would have gotten a much lower level of compensation as an undrafted free agent. I realize that their chances of making the roster and seeing all that money are slim, but it feels like they are getting paid too much for getting their name called on draft day.

Great stuff as usual. Thank you.

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