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Big money for pass rushers goes up in smoke


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Congratulations, Mario Williams, on being born in 1985. Had you arrived a year later, your net worth might be a lot less than it is now.

Williams, the Buffalo Bills' defensive end, signed a six-year, $96 million contract last March. That figure is astronomical compared to the deals given to the top pass rushers this year.

Arguably, Cliff Avril was the top pass rusher heading into free agency. And when he signed a reported two-year, $15 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, the players behind him must have gasped. Well, the news only gets worse.

The deal's actual base value is $13 million, according to a person who has reviewed the contract. The person, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because the terms weren't to be discussed publicly, said Avril received $6 million fully guaranteed, not the $11 million previously reported.

The additional $5 million is part of his $7 million base salary for 2014 and is guaranteed for injury only. It doesn't get fully guaranteed until the fifth day of the 2014 league year.

Last year, Avril turned down a three-year, $30 million offer to remain with the Detroit Lions. Now, he's going to earn a little more than half of that average per year.

The numbers on Avril's deal with Seattle are bad news for John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora - three of the top available pass-rushing defensive ends who hoped for Avril and others to set the market much higher. At the ages of 31 (Umenyiora), 33 (Freeney) and 34 (Abraham), those veterans will have a tough time convincing general managers they should make as much as Avril, who, at 26, is in his prime.

And how does Elvis Dumervil feel right now? If he had accepted the Denver Broncos' offer of a restructure in time to file the paperwork before last Friday's deadline, he'd be in line to earn $8 million this season, which is $2 million more than Avril will earn. (Avril has another $700,000 in sack incentives this year and next. The number of sacks needed to trigger those incentives was not available.)

The NFL is a league built around quarterbacks. So if disrupting the passer remains paramount, why, suddenly, are pass rushers such bargains? A flat salary cap is one factor, as is a deep draft class for defensive linemen. Also, "run stopping" isn't often mentioned as a strong point of the available players.

Quarterbacks, however, are still getting paid. Just ask Joe Flacco, who signed for $20.1 million a season.

Elite wide receivers are also making out well. Former Pro Bowlers Mike Wallace (five years, $60 million) and Dwayne Bowe (five years, $56 million) both hit it big.

And though Jake Long didn't crack the $10 million mark, as he'd hoped, left tackles are still getting more than $8 million a season.

The squeeze on salary had to come somewhere, and some of the positions getting pinched are cornerbacks and defensive ends.

Things should pick up on the pass-rushing market this week. Here's a breakdown of where things stand, according to several people informed of the talks with pass rushers. Those people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because negotiations were to remain private:

-- Dumervil, after firing his agent, is represented by CAA's Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, who also have Freeney and Umenyiora as clients. At this time last week, CAA was working to get Freeney to Denver. Now it might soon be sending Dumervil, who would prefer to stay with the team that drafted him, back there.

-- Umenyiora has drawn interest from the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions and a few other teams. And a return to the New York Giants is not completely out of the question.

-- Abraham received an offer from the New England Patriots during his visit. The details were not available, though money is only one factor for him. Abraham wants a chance to play in a Super Bowl and the opportunity to pad his career sack total as he makes a push for the Hall of Fame.



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This is a good trend.

The tight cap and new CBA is beginning to level the salaries amoung players. Just beginning.

The new, and lower, slotted money for the draft is a huge help.

The very high priced QB's, CB's, LT's, and WR's wreck what the average NFL player can earn. The highly talented and productive players at these positions deserve more because of the impact on a game that they bring....but not so much more that it also wrecks a teams ability to compete.

The QB market is ridiculous.


This will be something to watch closely this year and for the next few years.

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