The Denver Broncos had Charles Woodson in for a visit, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the 36-year-old defensive back. Woodson ended up visiting with the Oakland Raiders and signing a contract that is worth a maximum of $4.3 million, according nfl.com.
That seems like a lot of money for an older player in the twilight of his career, but the Broncos offered Woodson a seemingly comparable contract worth a maximum of $3.7 million, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. It certainly looks like Woodson chose money over the ability to play for a contender.
If the Broncos were serious about signing Woodson, they should have upped their offer before he visited the Raiders. It sure seems like the Broncos miscalculated Woodson’s interest in returning to the Raiders and ended up losing a player they would have liked to add to their secondary.
Champ Bailey was on 102.3 FM in Denver on Tuesday and said there was “no freaking way” Woodson wanted to go to Oakland; he also called the visit a “negotiation tactic." Bailey’s thoughts may or may not have echoed the sentiments of the organization.
The Broncos may have assumed that they had the advantage if the money were equal. Not only would Woodson have a chance to win a ring in Denver, but his tax burden would have been lower playing more games in Colorado and fewer games in California.
Woodson will now play nine games in California instead of two, which means his base salary will be taxed at a higher rate for seven more games. Any incentives earned will also be taxed at the California tax rate. The cost of living is also much higher in California, so Woodson’s expenses will also be higher.
Based on these differences, Denver’s offer was probably nearly the same, even if the total dollar amount was $600,000 lower. What it likely came down to is the structure of the incentives, Woodson’s role with the team and the signing bonus.
According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, the base value of Woodson’s deal is $1.8 million, which included a signing bonus of $700,000. The Broncos reportedly offered realistic incentives with a base salary near the league minimum. As far as we know, Denver’s offer didn’t include a signing bonus.
Although the total amount of the deal was comparable, the Raiders' offer was better by at least $700,000. The base salary would have been nearly the same. The other factor could have been the structure of the incentives.
Although the incentives may have been realistic in Denver, the Raiders' offer may have been impossible for the Broncos to match. For Woodson, the opportunity to play free safety probably wasn’t on the table in Denver.
Woodson’s contract should, in theory, allow him to reach his incentive triggers more easily playing free safety for the Raiders than he would have playing strong safety for the Broncos (assuming interceptions are one of the incentives). Woodson may have also felt like he had a better chance to stay healthy not playing in the box at his age.
It didn’t make a lot of sense for the Broncos to offer Woodson more to play strong safety when they have a perfectly capable one in Mike Adams. In fact, ProFootballFocus graded Adams higher than Woodson last season (subscription required).
In a weird way, Woodson signing with the Raiders and not the Broncos could be a win for all parties. Both teams wanted to sign Woodson to help their team, but obviously more than the on-field factors were considered by all sides.
The Raiders need all the help they can get on defense, a good leader and something for the fans to be excited about. If Woodson doesn’t hold up physically or athletically, they have a realistic fallback plan in Usama Young.
Woodson gets to finish his career where it started, close to his winery in Napa, playing free safety and making more guaranteed money. For a player who has already won a Super Bowl, that’s not a bad consolation for playing for a rebuilding team.
The Broncos avoid overpaying for a player who may or may not be even better than their projected starter. If Woodson doesn’t have much left in the tank, Peyton Manning should be able to exploit him in pass coverage.
Even if Woodson does have something left, he isn’t likely to make a significant enough impact on the Raiders to make them a threat to the Broncos. Fans in Denver can also continue to dislike Woodson with the fervor they did when he played in Oakland for the first eight years of his career.