Wow. With one fell swoop, the Houston Texans paid running back Arian Foster like one of the top players at his position. Literally.
As in, Foster should be the fifth-highest payed running back next season, going by base salaries. If you go by average salary, that number jumps up to the fourth-highest paid guy. Foster will have a cap hit of $8 million and a base salary of $5.5 million.
That's pretty reasonable, too, given what we know of Foster's production the past two seasons. Only one running back (MJD) has more rushing yards than Foster's 2,740 over that stretch and no one has more rushing TDs than his 26. I know we can look at Foster and see injuries possibly posing problems in the future, but the contract has an out with only $20.15 million of the contract guaranteed.
Who wins in this deal, then?
Well, I think the Texans win by not having to make the contract have a sixth year. Of the recent big-money contacts signed by running backs, most have featured a sixth season. Guys like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson may have signed for more money, but they also signed for longer. Also, guys like Michael Turner and Stephen Jackson signed for similar money or less, but got that sixth season.
The Jackson contract is the most interesting when thinking about Foster. Jackson signed it after his Age 24 season, after rushing for 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in the previous two seasons. He only appeared in 28 games of the 32 he could have played over that stretch.
Foster has more rushing touchdowns and more yards and one more game played while playing the 2011 season a year older than Jackson. So, basically, the Texans could have used Jackson's contract as a guide, lopping off a year to counter the year older that Foster will be.
It also takes him through his Age 30 season, when we all know running backs turn into pumpkins. Oh, and if there's more evidence needed for the similarities between the two contracts, Foster has only $250,000 more guaranteed money than Jackson got.
It's a fascinating comparison when you think about all the running back contracts signed recently, including the four-year extension that Marshawn Lynch got on Sunday. Lynch had a year less guaranteed, with $2 million less on his contract and a whopping $13 million less to the total value of the deal. That's even more impressive for Foster when you consider he's the same age as Lynch.
All in all, not a bad gamble for the Texans, who know they have a young, cost-controlled backup in case Foster gets injured. But, they also signed a player who was perfect for their system. They didn't get a discount, but the Texans did lock up a franchise player to a pretty good deal. All in all, not a bad day.