The top-tier safety just won NFC Player of the week for his outstanding two-interception performance. In doing so he brought up questions about his contract situation. Moore is a free agent after the 2012 season, and the Falcons would be stupid to not try and bring back one of the best safeties in the NFL.
However, as someone who should be in high demand on the free-agent market, the Falcons need to lock Moore up before he even has a shot. They should try and re-sign him as soon as the last playoff game ends so that he doesn't even have a shot to hit the open market.
Essentially, if Moore isn't the top priority for the Falcons this offseason, it would be utterly shocking to almost every fan and analyst.
Thomas DeCoud's contract isn't anywhere close to being a hindrance
One of the biggest questions about re-signing Moore is the contract that his backfield mate Thomas DeCoud signed before the season. However, DeCoud signed a very minimal contract compared to other players at his position.
His five-year, $17.5 million deal is towards the middle of the pack for starting safeties in the NFL. He has been playing at a Pro Bowl level though. If he ends up going to a Pro Bowl, he kicks in a $1.2 million escalator for each of the last three years of his contract that would bring his total deal to $21.1 million.
Even at $21.1 million over a five-year span, DeCoud would prove to be a complete and total steal. And because the value of his deal would wind up being almost half of what any deal Moore or Brent Grimes would sign, it allows the Falcons more flexibility while still keeping the talented Cal graduate.
If the choice comes down to Moore or Brent Grimes, the Falcons should re-sign Moore
As great as Brent Grimes has been this past season, the Falcons need to allow the franchise player to test the market this season. He is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2012 season according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).
In Grimes' absence, the Falcons have gotten excellent performances out of Asante Samuel, Dunta Robinson and surprisingly the young cornerback trio of Robert McClain, Dominique Franks and Chris Owens.
As valuable as Grimes has been, the fact that McClain, Owens and Franks have been able to come in without the defense completely falling apart shows that he isn't completely needed. The depth the Falcons now have at corner would leave Grimes to take a lesser contract if he wanted to stay.
And if Grimes is essentially expendable, who would take over for William Moore should he leave? There isn't the depth at safety behind Moore that there is at corner. Charles Mitchell is a very raw rookie, while Chris Hope isn't even under contract past this season and Shann Schillinger is questionable as a position player.
So if the Falcons get stuck having to decide between Moore and Grimes, they should go after the re-sign of William Moore 10 out of 10 times.
Why it's the best plan of action moving forward
William Moore is the only Falcons player to play every single defensive snap this season. He's been so crucial both on and off the field as a leader that the Falcons' defense wouldn't be anywhere close to the same without him.
While most teams don't value safety play enough, the Falcons need safeties like Moore and Thomas DeCoud to run the defense effectively. Moore was quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter:
“Me, personally, the best thing that I’ve got going for myself is that I play because I love the game,” Moore said. “I’m not just saying that because it’s the right thing to say, but I really love the game. I don’t focus on contracts or how much money is being paid. That’s all a bonus because just playing right now is all that I ask for.”
If he's truly in it for the love of the game, then the contract he signs should end up being not as cap prohibitive as others on the roster while still giving him a more-than-deserved raise. More than that, when a man plays for the love of the game, he also plays to win.
William Moore's best shot to win a championship would be to stay in Atlanta with the Falcons and remain the locker-room leader in the secondary.
What Moore's projected contract could look like
The top contracts for safeties tend to be anywhere from four to five years and in the $35 to $60 million range. Charles Woodson and Eric Berry skew the value quite a bit though. The average top safety contract is closer to $45 million over five years.
In the deal that I'm projecting for William Moore, it includes a hometown discount from the top five safety contracts. It would still be in the top 10 though and should be structured similar to the deal Ray Edwards signed.
The only real difference would be the total value of the contract would be up to $42 million, with a base value of $37 million over the five year span. It would include a $5 million signing bonus and a $4 million second year option bonus.
The first two years of base salaries could also be guaranteed to give Moore $17.5 million guaranteed. Also, there would be $1 million worth of likely to be earned incentives in each year. It's slightly different than Edwards deal.
The likely-to-be-earned incentives would be something along the lines of 50 tackles, two interceptions and a sack. These are low numbers that should be easily attainable for someone as talented as Moore. The cap breakdown would look similar to this:
|Year||Base Salary||Signing Bonus||Option Bonus||Incentives||Total Cap Hit|
The first two years would be not too much more than the savings they would get from releasing the aging Michael Turner at the end of the season. In fact, a first year cap hit of $6 million would be just $500,000 more than Turner's 2013 base salary of $5.5 million.
However, the later years of the contract would make Moore one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL. He's been worth it though.
Part of why he likely isn't too worried about his contract situation is that he knows that teams agree with a common assessment that he's one of the top strong safeties in the NFC.
All contract information is from Spotrac.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.