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Breaking down contract details of CB Cameron Sutton, DT Isaiah Buggs

A look at the specific contract details for new Lions CB Cameron Sutton and returning DT Isaiah Buggs.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

One of the sillier parts of free agency is the reaction—and overreaction—to contract terms. Almost every single deal is initially framed with just two metrics: length of contract and total value of the entire contract. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the guaranteed amount, too.

That information is nowhere near sufficient enough to properly evaluate the value of the deal. For example, It’s impossible to determine the cap hits for each year with only that information, and you also don’t know of any potential outs until you know the entire structure of the deal.

Thankfully, after the Detroit Lions’ handful of moves on Monday, we did get the full breakdown of a couple of Detroit’s contracts from Monday’s opening day of the tampering period. Let’s break each of them down.

Isaiah Buggs — two years, $4.5 million ($2.1M guaranteed)

(Details via Doug Kyed, chart created by Erik Schlitt)

This was originally reported as a two-year, $6 million deal, but as you can see, it more functions as a two-year, $4.5 million deal. What pushes the deal to $6 million in total value is $750,000 in playing time incentives for each season ($1.5 million total). If Buggs hits those incentives, they will eventually count against the cap, too.

This contract is extremely team-friendly because the Lions could even get out of it after one year. With the base salary in 2023 guaranteed and only a $1 million signing bonus, the Lions would only incur $500,000 in dead cap and $2.3 million in savings if they move on from Buggs after one year. In other words, a long-term defensive tackle remains a significant need.

CB Cameron Sutton — three years, $33 million ($22.5M guaranteed)

(Details via Doug Kyed, chart created by Erik Schlitt)

This is a very interestingly structured contract, as it’s worked to maximize cap space for 2023. While the low salary in the first year is extremely common for big deals, the two voided years are a bit curious. What it does is spread out the $10.9 million signing bonus over five years instead of three, bumping the cap hits from that bonus to $2.18 million per year instead of $3.63 million. That’s a savings of about $1.45 million per year for the first three years of the deal, but all of that adds up to a $4.36 million of dead cap in 2026—when Sutton isn’t even under contract anymore.

The good folks over at OverTheCap did not seem to like the idea of adding the void years with this particular contract, and you generally don’t want to get in the habit of kicking the can down the road with finances. That said, as long as the salary cap continues to increase annually, cap hits in the future will actually be a lesser percentage of overall cap, so the strategy makes some sense.

This functions as basically a two-year, $22.5 million deal with a third-year option. If Detroit wants out after two seasons, it’ll cost them $6.54 million in dead cap, but save a smidge over $6 million in cap space in 2025.

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