The question most often asked about the possible sale of the Washington Commanders is not if, but when. The answer can be given by information about the team’s recently signed player contracts.
Historically, the general practice of all 32 NFL teams has been to pay at least a portion of large signing bonuses within 15 to 30 days of the date of the event. In this period, the commanders have extended the payment date by two months, according to several sources who have seen the executed agreements.
That date? May 12, 2023, according to people who have seen the deal for defensive tackle Daron Payne and another recently signed free agent. Those and other people involved in or familiar with NFL contracts suggested The Athletic that this unusual aspect makes sense, along with owner Dan Snyder’s expected franchise sale date.
May 12 marks two months after Payne, Washington’s 2022 kicking leader, signed a four-year, $90 million contract with a $28 million signing bonus. Not only is this delayed timeline different from the industry standard, it is significantly longer than the payout structure used in previous extensions for Terry McLaurin (2022), defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (2021) and former Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams (2016). .
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These people who spoke The Athleticincluding a former Washington front-office employee familiar with the team’s historic approach to contracts, who was given anonymity for his candor and insight.
“Compared to their previous signings, it looks like they’ve deliberately delayed the first installment of their signing bonuses,” a former front office employee said. “It’s very plausible that it’s related to the expected sales timeline. … I think the payment dates are pretty telling.
Another person who reviewed Payne’s contract said: “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
in Phoenix 26.-29. The March NFL owners’ meetings have long been considered the first possible time in the league’s calendar when concrete sales news can come. Snyder’s control of the franchise, which he co-owns with his wife, Tanya Snyder, is a primary topic, however.
If the trade doesn’t happen, the other owners, with input from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, could decide to remove Snyder if 24 of the 31 owners vote in favor. Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters at an October meeting that it could “potentially happen.”
On Nov. 2, the Snyders announced the hiring of Bank of America Securities “to consider potential transactions.”
The same May 12 bonus payment date is also included in the one-year contract that free agent quarterback Jacoby Brisset signed on Wednesday, according to a person who has seen the completed deal. Brissett’s $8 million guaranteed includes a $4.5 million signing bonus.
As of 2020, Dan Snyder has been the subject of several investigations and news reports regarding sexual harassment and possible financial abuse within the organization. That includes an ongoing 13-month investigation into Snyder’s actions by attorney and NFL appointee Mary Jo White. However, Snyder’s financial considerations are believed to be the leading – if not the leading – factor in the sale of the franchise he’s owned since 1999.
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In March 2021, the NFL approved a $450 million debt waiver for Snyder to buy the 40.5 percent of the franchise owned by his three minority partners for $875 million. ESPN reported last month that federal prosecutors were investigating Snyder and the Commanders for bank fraud after his former partners alleged that Snyder took out a $55 million line of credit without their permission.
The sale of the historic NFL franchise is expected to top last year’s $4.65 billion purchase of the Denver Broncos, a record price paid for a North American sports franchise.
Snyder’s financial considerations and the looming potential sale fueled speculation about whether the owner would allow contracts with significant upfront payments during this trade period. Washington signed Payne and several outside free agents this week, but delayed bonus payments would be the responsibility of the team owner on May 12 if the sale takes place before then.
The number of installments of NFL signing bonuses can vary between “cash-rich” and “cash-poor” teams, but typically within 15 to 30 days of the contract taking effect. Payne’s $28 million bonus payment will be paid in three installments: $7 million on May 12, $9 million on September 15 and $12 million on April 1, 2024.
The Athletic revised the payment schedule components of the McLaurin, Allen and Williams contracts. They also show that the gains are spread over time, but all were within the normal timeline.
Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection for Washington in the 2010s and now a star with the 49ers, signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension in 2015 that included an $8.5 million signing bonus. The agreement stated that the $6.25 million would be paid “within 15 days (after execution and approval by the NFL Board of Governors).”
Allen, Payne’s internal tag-team partner on Washington’s defensive line, signed a four-year, $72 million deal — with a $30 million signing bonus — hours before the team opened training camp in July 2021. The first of two $15 million wins had a 21-day deadline from the contract’s execution date. The remaining $15 million fell due the following April.
McLaurin signed a three-year, $68.2 million contract extension last July. The agreement says the first eight-figure payment “is due … within 28 days of the execution of the agreement.” Four additional installments of varying amounts, including another eight-figure payment this April, will expire on April 1, 2024.
Several potential bidders have explored the possibility of buying the franchise, including a group led by Josh Harris, owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Billionaire businessman and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has also expressed interest.
The wild card is Jeff Bezos. Amazon’s founder has been working with investment bank Allen & Co. in considering interest, although he was shut out of the bidding process.
(Photo of Dan Snyder by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images