When it was first learned that the Redskins were giving Donovan McNabb a five-year contract extension with $40 million guaranteed, it was natural to freak out about that guaranteed contract figure. As we noted, it puts McNabb in elite company, when he's probably not an elite quarterback.
However, new details have emerged about that guaranteed money that make it seem a lot more palatable. In fact, they almost make the contract look like a steal. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Redskins will only have to pay McNabb $3.75 million if they decide to cut him or trade him after the season.
One of the contract's most significant points is a payment due this offseason, when the Redskins must decide whether or not to pay McNabb a $10 million option bonus. If they do, it would trigger the rest of the contract and make Washington liable for McNabb's $2.5 million base salary in 2011.
So in essence, the Redskins paid McNabb $3.75 million in 2010 for the right to pay him $12.5 million in 2011 and control his rights. If the Redskins cut him after this season or trade him, they are only on the hook for the $3.75 million.
If the Redskins want to keep McNabb after the season, he will have a $2.5 million base salary in 2011, a $12.75 million base salary in 2012, a $13 million base salary in 2013, a $13.75 million base salary in 2014 and a $13.55 million base salary in 2014. In other words, it enables the Redskins to essentially delay their decision over whether McNabb is the right man to lead this team in the future to the offseason. If so, he'll be given a big contract. If not, they can get rid of him with little financial repercussions.