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NFL `guarantees’ are occasionally pipe dreams

Once upon a time the Raiders traded for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who received a seven-year, $70 million contract with $24.5 million in guaranteed money.

The Raiders later cut Hall eight games into the season and paid him $8 million for his troubles.

Which brings us to Kamerion Wimbley, Stanford Routt, and the erratic way information regarding contracts is relayed in the NFL.

Wimbley was given an exclusive franchise tag about a year ago which guaranteed him approximately $11.3 million following a nine-sack season. The Raiders then renegotiated his deal to drop his salary cap number to $1.6 million. It was reported as a $48 million dollar deal with a whopping $29 million in guaranteed money.

Except Wimbley’s deal apparently wasn’t anything approaching $29 million in guaranteed money. The Raiders can get out of it by cutting him and paying him $6.5 million.

According to Adam Caplan, who has much of this contract stuff wired and was the first to report Wimbley’s situation last year, Wimbley earned $5 million last season ($4.25 million signing bonus, $750,000 salary).

This season, Wimbley’s base salary is $11 million and $6.5 million is guaranteed. Wimbley makes that amount even if he is cut. The rest of his contract ($4.5 million) is guaranteed as of March 17.

Add it up, and he earned almost $200,000 above and beyond his $11.3 million salary cap figure by agreeing to the restructure.

But as far as the Raiders owing him $29 million guaranteed, well, . . . the Raiders are off the hook for much of that figure if Wimbley is cut before March 17.

That’s a long way of saying take any “guaranteed” money with a grain of salt.

Routt’s three-year $31.5 million extension was reported as guaranteed to the tune of $20 million. Now there are reports that it was actually $15 million, with the Raiders having escaped a $5 million guarantee by cutting him what they did. A great deal for Routt, either way, he’ll get to sign another contract.

Still, contract reporting is one of the most imprecise parts of the business. That’s why you’ll see the word “reported” preceding most, if not all, contract issues that are dealt with here.

Agents are OK with overblown reports of guarantees because prospective clients will see it and figure they can get the same. Teams aren’t concerned with it because if they’re viewed as a team that pays that kind of money, what the heck? And it’s not as if players are going to step forward immediately after signing a contract and say, “You know, this isn’t nearly as big of a contract as it looks.”

So don’t reach too much into “guaranteed money” if the Raiders opt to part with Wimbley, frees safety Michael Huff ($4 million in salary, $4 million in bonus) or defensive tackle Tommy Kelly ($6 million in salary).

McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen could attempt to sign them for less or simply move on.

It’s hard to know what they’ve got planned for strong safety Tyvon Branch, a prospective free agent. San Diego safety Eric Weddle signed a contract last year with guaranteed money reported as high as $19 million, although it’s hard to know if it really approached that figure.

There’s a chance McKenzie, Allen and Co. may look at the defensive performance in 2011 and conclude that anyone coming in at a high price isn’t worth keeping and that those with reasonable salaries can be fitted in with low-level or street free agents and the end result couldn’t possibly be worse.

The other prominent free agent is running back Michael Bush, who if franchised would get more than $7 million.

It’s what makes this offseason the most interesting since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer