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Most players don’t make it to Year 3 of a multi-year deal

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 23: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 23, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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NFL contracts are often not what they seem.

Many contracts signed in the NFL last week were referred to as three-year deals and four-year deals and five-year deals, but most of them don’t last that long.

Peter King writes this week in Football Morning in America, using data from, that the majority of contracts that are initially reported as lasting three years or longer actually last only one or two years: In 2015 and 2016, there were 197 contracts of three years or more signed by free agents, and 121 of those players never made it to the third years of their deals. So 61.4 percent of those long-term deals weren’t so long-term after all.

Multi-year contracts are sometimes structured with later years that neither side expects to materialize, solely for salary cap purposes such as spreading the cap hit of a signing bonus into future years. Other times, the player wants to fulfill his contract but the team cuts him. And still other times, as was the case with Antonio Brown, a player signs a long-term deal but forces his way out of it and gets a better deal from a new team. Whatever the reasons, most of those multi-year contracts don’t make it to the end.