I've been thinking about Geno Atkins contract extension. I think it should be very possible to extend Atkins to a 5 year extension at around $10M/year.
Everyone talks about Ngata's contract, and how much he made in the first two years. That shouldn't matter. That is all about the signing bonus, and is easy to match. Ngata's contract is still worth only $9.7M/year over the 5 year deal.
If I'm Mike Brown... here's my offer:
2013 - $1M base salary + $5M signing bonus = $6M cap hit.
2014 - $3M base salary + $5M signing bonus = $8M cap hit.
2015 - $5M base salary + $5M signing bonus = $10M cap hit.
2016 - $7M base salary + $5M signing bonus = $12M cap hit.
2017 - $9M base salary + $5M signing bonus = $14M cap hit.
2018 - $14M base salary + $0 signing bonus = $14M cap hit
2019 - $16M base salary + $0 signing bonus = $16M cap hit
2020 - $20M base salary + $0 signing bonus = $20M cap hit
That's a 8 year $100M contract with a $25M signing bonus.(It's important to note that no player who has signed a $100M contract has ever actually been paid $100M). The last three years of the deal can be phony if the Bengals wish. He can be cut at no cap penalty. The contract is actually a 5 year $50M, or a 6 year $64M contract. At best, it's a 7 year $80M deal... and that's if he's still the best DT in the league at the age of 31. (For comparison, Richard Seymour was due more than $19M this year at the age of 33, which was why he was cut. This contract similarly offers Atkins $20M at the age of 32. It's very unlikely, but not impossible, that he would actually get that money).
When I make the offer, I explain that if he plays out the 2013 season, he will only make $1.5M. Then the Bengals can place the franchise tag on him in 2014 for $8.45M. Then the Bengals can place the franchise tag on him again in 2015 for $10.14M. That's a total of about $20M in 3 years... none of which is guaranteed. He must stay healthy... and then hope he gets a big deal from another team in 2015.
Or, he can have $25M right now - fully guaranteed. Instead of making only $20M in three years, he makes $34M through the first 3 years of the contract (not to mention another potential $66M over the last 5 years of the contract). The signing bonus gives him security, as the Bengals would have a very hard time parting ways with his contract prior to the 2017 season (which is essentially guaranteeing him $41M if he doesn't get injured). In 2018, he will be 30 years old. If his play declines, the Bengals can renegotiate his contract, or even just cut him outright. If he's still worth $14-$16M/year - so be it. (For reference, Ngata's cap hit will be $16M in 2014 and 2015). Who knows how big the salary cap could be in 6 years?
The Bengals win by getting the best DT in the game under a long term contract at a fair price (less that $11M/year over 6 years). His cap number is very favorable over the first 3 years... and by the time his cap number gets to what he is actually worth, the overall salary cap should be larger. He can be cut anytime after 2017 if he's not earning his salary... but he'll be able to brag about having the most lucrative DT contract in the NFL. Win/win.
The Bengals don't like to give contracts with phony money in them... but for Geno Atkins, I make an exception. Give the man a $100M contract to keep him here for the next 5+ years. It's actually a pretty team friendly deal.
P.S. This is all very simplified. I am not even getting into roster/work out bonuses and option bonuses that are almost always present in a contract this size... that could make the deal even more team friendly.