It was reported to be a three-year deal, but let’s take a look at the details of the contract Alex Anzalone signed with the Detroit Lions.
Coming off the best season of his career, Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone (rightfully so) suggested he was eyeing a multi-year deal in free agency. He indeed got one from the Lions, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reporting a three-year, $18.75 million deal.
Of course, surface reports don’t have much of the details of free agent contracts, beyond guaranteed money–sometimes. So we’d eventually see the finer points of Anzalone’s deal, and see if it’s really a “three-year, $18.75 million” deal as a practical matter.
Some linebackers have gotten nice contracts in this free agent period, and at first glance Anzalone’s deal looked very, very good for him.
Diving into the details of Alex Anzalone’s contract with the Lions
According to Over The Cap, here are the details of Anzalone’s new deal with the Lions.
2023: $1.2 million base salary, $1.2 million prorated signing bonus, $2.5 million cap hit
2024: $6 million base salary, $1.2 million prorated signing bonus, $7.3 million cap hit
2025: $6 million base salary, $1.2 million prorated signing bonus, $7.3 million cap hit
2026: Void year, $1.2 million prorated signing bonus
Anzalone also has a $100,000 per game roster bonus each season. Erik Schlitt of Pride of Detroit had an interesting note about that per-game roster bonus amount beyond 2023.
Game bonuses fall under the LTBE/NLTBE (likely to be earned/not likely to be earned) bonus category….and because Anzalone played in every game in 2022, the entire $100,000 will count against the Lions cap in 2023. If Anzalone misses any games, the Lions would be credited $5,882 for every game missed, and the 2024 salary cap game bonus category would be adjusted by that amount.
A void year was tacked on to spread out the cap hit of the $4.8 million signing bonus. His $1.2 million 2023 base salary is all guaranteed, and $3 millon of his 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed– which brings the full guaranteed amount at signing to $9 million.
The Lions are effectively married to Anzalone for the next two years. To cut him in 2024 is not terribly beneficial, with $3.1 million in cap savings and $4.2 million in dead money if he were designated as a post-June 1 cut (according to Over The Cap). A pre-June 1 cut would leave behind $6.6 million in dead money in 2024.
But in 2025, according to Over The Cap, the Lions would clear $4.9 million in cap space with $2.4 million in dead money if they cut Anzalone before June 1. It moves to $6.1 million in cap savings as a post-June 1 cut.
So Anzalone indeed got the multi-year deal he was right to seek, but it could be as short as two years paying him $12.2 million.