The free agent safety market finally budged Monday when veteran Ron Parker agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons, but as Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (Twitter link), the details of Parker’s contract indicate the remaining crop of free agent defensive backs could have trouble garnering any significant money before the regular season gets underway.
Parker, who had been earning $5MM annually with the Chiefs before being released earlier this year, inked a minimum salary benefit pact with Atlanta, per Yates. Minimum salary benefit contracts, or MSBs, allow teams to sign veteran players at a cheaper salary cap cost, while still allowing the player to collect the minimum salary for his years of NFL service. Parker, for example, will earn a base salary of $915K in 2018, but he’ll only count for $630K on the Falcons’ cap.
Pro Football Rumors has examined the minimum salary benefit in the past, but in its simplest form, the rule is designed to favor veteran players. The rule is especially effective at this time of year, when clubs are attempting to fill in the back end of their respective rosters. If two prospective additions are comparable players, a team might prefer to sign the free agent with fewer years of NFL experience (who will in turn require a cheaper minimum salary). But thanks to the MSB rule, veterans such as Parker are able to collect their rightful paycheck while not overly affecting a club’s salary cap.
The macro effect of Parker’s deal with the Falcons on the safety market isn’t yet clear, but his low salary is far from good news for remaining free agent defensive backs such as Eric Reid, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro. However, Parker is older than all three of those players, graded worse than Reid and Boston in Pro Football Focus‘ positional rankings, and placed below all three safeties in Pro Football Rumors’ early March free agent breakdown.
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