The Rams released safety Blake Countess because he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut. The Eagles claimed him and within two days he had agreed to … a pay cut.

Welcome to HowieBall.

Although there’s certainly no guarantee Countess will become a productive player for the Eagles, the way the Eagles handled the Countess acquisition is just another example of how Howie Roseman and his staff — led by contract and cap expert Jake Rosenberg, the Eagles’ Vice President of football administration — use financial creativity to lock up promising players the Eagles like with very little risk.

Now that we have the Countess contract details, we can take a look at exactly what the Eagles did.

First, some background: The Eagles drafted Countess in the sixth round in 2016 and released him in the final cut, hoping to bring him back on the practice squad. He signed instead with the Rams’ practice squad, was promoted to the 53-man roster in November of 2016 and remained there through the Rams’ Super Bowl run this past February.

Roseman always regretted losing Countess and had it in the back of his mind that if ever became available, he would pounce.

• Countess, now 25, played in five games as a rookie and all 36 regular-season and postseason games the last two years. In his 41 games with the Rams, he played 370 snaps on defense and 814 on special teams. 

• The Rams released Countess on May 2, and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Countess had declined to take a cut from his $2.025 million base salary for 2019. None of that $2.025 million was guaranteed.


• By claiming him, the Eagles were awarded Countess’s existing contract, which included a $2.025 million cap hit and left Countess as an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season.

• Last Tuesday, the Eagles reworked that contract, both lowering Countess’s cap hit and securing his rights through 2020.

So Countess agreed to a pay cut … literally a week after the Rams released him because he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut.

Here’s how:

• The Eagles lowered Countess’s 2019 base salary from $2.025 million to $900,000 and guaranteed $180,000 of that salary, so that’s money that Countess gets no matter what happens. It’s not a ton but it’s more than he was guaranteed before.

• The Eagles added three separate $50,000 roster bonuses that Countess can pocket in 2019. One pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 53-man roster for any one game during the season. Another pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 53-man roster for eight or more games. And the third pays him $50,000 if he’s on the 46-man game-day active roster for at least eight games.

• Because Countess played in 16 games for the Rams last year, those three bonuses are considered “likely-to-be-earned,” and they count against the Eagles’ 2019 salary cap. So Countess’s 2019 cap figure is $1,050,000 - the $900,000 base and $150,000 in roster bonuses. That’s roughly half of what it was before the restructure.

• For 2020, which is technically an option year, Countess has a base salary of $1 million with a $300,000 roster bonus that he will get if he’s on the roster on the third day of the league year, which will be sometime in mid-March. There’s no signing bonus, so nothing pro-rates. The $300,000 disappears with no dead money if the Eagles release Countess after the season. The 2020 cap figure is $1.3 million - the base and the roster bonus.

• There is also a $500,000 playing-time escalator that increases Countess’s 2020 salary to $1.5 million if he meets a certain snap-count plateau. This doesn’t count against the cap unless he triggers the escalator. 

So Countess’s combined cap figures as of now for 2019 and 2020 are $2.35 million — or just $300,000 more than his original 2019 cap figure when he got here last week.

It’s a smart deal for both sides.

For the Eagles? They secure Countess’s rights through 2020 but only if they want him without having to pay him more than $2 million this year. 

For Countess? He gets a nice chunk of money guaranteed now with the security that the more he plays and the better he plays, the more money he’ll make over the next two years without worrying about hitting the open market this offseason.

HowieBall strikes again!

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