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Friday, September 2, 2011
Frank Gore's contract follows usual form

By Mike Sando

Not once can I recall an NFL player receiving more money than expected from a team.

Frank Gore's new deal with the San Francisco 49ers follows the usual pattern, as Matt Maiocco of details.

The deal was widely and accurately reported as a three-year extension worth $21 million, with $13.5 million guaranteed. But not all guarantees are the same. There's usually a difference between what a player can earn and what a player likely will earn. Agents and those affiliated with them face intense pressure to maintain clients, giving them more incentive than teams have to describe deals from a player-friendly perspective. Teams lose nothing by playing along; they know the real numbers.

The glass tends to appear half full when an agreement is struck. It often appears half empty years down the line. For example, Shaun Alexander signed an eight-year, $62 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, but he never received more than $43 million in base salaries scheduled to be paid from 2008 forward.

In Gore's case, the team could avoid paying $6.6 million of the $13.5 million in guarantees by releasing him before the 2013 season. That is because the $6.6 million in question is guaranteed for injury, not performance. Gore gets up to half of the $6.6 million in question if he suffers a devastating injury, but if the team decides a healthy Gore no longer fits after the 2012 season, he gets none of the $6.6 million.

What kind of guarantee is that?

None of this should come as a surprise. Gore held little leverage in the negotiation because one year remained on his contract, he missed five games due to injury last season and age (28) is beginning to factor into his situation.

Taking this deal now instead of next offseason when he would have become a free agent suggests Gore realized the market might not embrace an older running back with injury concerns. Like a running back turning a potential loss into a modest gain, Gore took what he could get. He wasn't going to break a long run under the circumstances.