It sure seemed for a moment there last night that the San Francisco 49ers had found a way around the "30 percent rule" that limits salary increases on existing contracts, while the NFL is in the final year of its CBA. But today, it looks a bit different -- the five-year, $50 million extension given linebacker Patrick Willis probably does not provide a blueprint for reworking DeSean Jackson's deal, even though Jackson, like Willis has two years remaining on his exisiting contract.
An Eagles source said today that the big difference is, Willis was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and thus had a much higher annual base than Jackson, the 49th pick in the 2008 draft. The 49ers took care of the two-year problem by giving Willis two signing bonuses -- reportedly, $15.5 million this year and a $4.8 million "supersede" bonus in 2011. The second bonus is a neat twist, because it apparently is guaranteed only against injury; one of the reasons teams have been reluctant to get around the 30 percent rule with huge signing bonuses is that once you pay them, you can't recover any of the money, even if the player gets arrested or banned or whatever.
But the upshot here is, because of the lower base salaries, the Eagles would have to hand their third-year wideout much larger signing bonuses than the 49ers gave Willis. They don't seem inclined to do that, with a 23-year-old player over whom they would then lose all meaningful control.
Of course, the Birds maneuvered around the rule last week with Kevin Kolb's extension, but that was relatively simple, since Kolb was only under contract through this season. One signing bonus did the trick.