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Shawne Merriman thrilled with Bills

1/13/2011

Shawne Merriman knows he has unfinished business to complete.

Many, including Merriman himself, assumed his career would continue somewhere other than Buffalo in 2011.

Circumstances changed. The injury Merriman suffered minutes into his first Buffalo Bills practice plus upcoming labor uncertainties made the Bills more attractive for his future. The money the Bills committed didn't hurt either.

Merriman signed a two-year contract extension with the Bills two weeks ago.

Thursday morning on Buffalo sports-radio station WGR, Merriman spoke with "The Howard Simon Show" for his first local interview since the new deal.

"It's going to be a huge season for me personally because I have a lot of things to prove," Merriman said. "I have a lot more things to accomplish before I'm done with this game. And I have a lot of things to accomplish with my new team.

"Nothing else is going to make me more happier than helping us get right back on track. I know I'm going to be big part of that, so that's why I'm probably more excited than anything."

Merriman's contract certainly plays into his enthusiasm.

A look at the contract new agent Tom Condon struck with the Bills shows a lot more guaranteed money that initially reported.

If Merriman doesn't make it back onto the field from the Achilles injury that ended his season, then the Bills have protected themselves. But as soon as their medical staff clears Merriman to return from that injury, he will be guaranteed at least $8.25 million -- even if he gets hurt again and doesn't play another down.

He already made $1.5 million as a signing bonus on Jan. 1. He will receive a $500,000 reporting bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus over the offseason regardless of whether he's healthy or not. He merely has to show up.

From there, Merriman's contract for 2011 is split into base salaries if healthy or if unable to return from his 2010 Achilles injury.

If he begins the season on the physically unable to perform list because of that specific injury (and not a new one), his base salary would be $500,000. The moment he's cleared from the 2010 Achilles injury, his base salary would be $2.75 million. Base salaries become guaranteed for any player on a team's Week 1 roster.

For the record, Merriman claimed he "absolutely" intends to be healthy for the start of training camp. So as far as he's concerned, all of this guaranteed money will kick in before he plays a snap for the Bills.

Merriman has some interesting language for 2012 also tied to last year's Achilles injury. His base salary will be $4 million regardless.

The minute he's cleared to practice -- even if it's a month from now -- $3 million of his 2012 salary becomes fully guaranteed whether he's on the roster or not.

Of course, he would need to remain with the team to pick up his $1 million roster bonus and $250,000 workout bonus for 2012.

That means only $2.25 million of his contract ($1 million of his 2012 base salary, $1 million roster bonus and $225,000 workout bonus) is not tied to the injury he's currently recovering from -- not any future injuries.

In addition, Merriman can earn up to $4 million each season with incentives tied to playing time or sacks.

This contract isn't doomed to fail, but it is a major gamble by the Bills' front office on a player who has a long track record of getting hurt.

Merriman accumulated 39.5 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. Over the past three seasons he has four sacks in 18 games.