Monday, August 5, 2013

Brown’s workout clause was a throw-in for his $2 million escalator

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has said that he hopes the matter of cornerback Tarell Brown’s squandered $2 million escalator eventually will resolve itself in a way that allows everyone to laugh about it.

For now, the Niners may be laughing nervously.  (Or possibly in sinister fashion, with a “mwu” preceding the “hahaha.”)

Lost in the notion that Brown lost $2 million by not showing up for offseason workouts is the reality that, per a league source, Brown triggered the $2 million escalator by participating in more than 80 percent of the snaps in 2011 and 2012.

The 49ers had no comment regarding the details of Brown’s contract.

At the time Brown signed his current deal, no one expected Brown to become a starter.  He did, and he thrived.  And Brown unlocked the $2 million by participating in well over 80 percent of the snaps each year.
So the clause didn’t expressly hinge $2 million on Brown showing up for 2013 offseason workouts.  The key factors were playing time in 2011 and 2012.  Brown met them.

Granted, he didn’t show up for offseason workouts, which allowed the Niners to take away that which they had given. 

Against that background, what can the Niners do to allow everyone to laugh it all off later?  It’s hard to believe the 49ers didn’t know $2 million depended on Brown showing up for the offseason.  Some believe that the Niners specifically sat back and kept quiet, so that the $2 million escalator they didn’t expect to owe at the time the contract was signed would go away.

While Brown has legal rights against his former agent, Brian Overstreet, the NFLPA-required malpractice insurance policy provides only $1 million.  And it’s unlikely that Overstreet’s insurance carrier will simply hand the money over without litigation, which means that Brown will have to spend a chunk of the money on lawyers.

Overstreet may have other insurance or assets that could be targeted for his arguable negligence.  But Overstreet may not concede that he made a mistake.  Overstreet could say he told Brown that he needed to show up for the offseason program in order to get the money.

While Brown eventually could get the $2 million from Overstreet or his insurers, it’ll take stress, efforts, expenses, and most of all time.

That’s why the cleanest and easiest way to get Brown in a laughing mood will be for the 49ers to give him the money that primarily hinged on what Brown accomplished — being on the field for more than 80 percent of the snaps over the last two years.

Harbaugh already has said that a ‘”starting, top-end player” shouldn’t be earning the minimum (actually, Brown will earn $925,000).  The challenge becomes harmonizing Harbaugh’s public statements with the organization’s behind-the-scenes actions.

It’s easy to say Brown should have known about the workout clause, and that he should have shown up.  But it’s just as easy to say the 49ers should have known, too, and that they should have in all fairness reminded Brown that he had two million reasons to participate in voluntary workouts.

If they actually knew about the workout clause in the escalator, they definitely should have told him.

And now they definitely should pay him.

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