Details released on Obi Melifonwu’s new two-year contract with the Patriots

Following the Patriots’ announcement of their signing of former Raiders defensive back Obi Melifonwu on Tuesday, more details have been released regarding his contract with the team.

According to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, the Patriots inked the former UConn product to a deal that potentially keeps him in Foxborough through the 2019 season.

The signing doesn’t impact Melifonwu’s 2018 cap figure of $261,176, which is an eight-week proration of the $555,000 minimum salary that a player with one credited season receives. Here’s how his 2019 salary cap figure breaks down:

  • Salary: $645,000 ($100,000 of which is guaranteed) — the minimum for a player with two credited seasons.
  • Roster Bonus: $30,000 — earned by making the team out of training camp.
  • Workout bonus: $25,000 — not technically classified as guaranteed, but an easy way for a minimum salaried-player to earn offseason cash.
  • Per-game bonuses: $125,000 — $7,812.50 for each game in which he active next season. The likely to be earned (LTBE) total that will reflect on the Patriots’ 2019 cap sheet will be determined by how many times he suits up in 2018. If he is active for the next eight games — which seems quite improbable — the team would carry a $62,500 charge into 2019 for them.

In total, Melifonwu’s 2019 cap charge will be $762,500, which will decrease by $7,812.50 for each game that he is inactive for this season.

The Patriots obviously see the potential in trying to develop a player like Melifonwu who possesses premium athletic pedigree and comes from an Oakland Raiders organization rife with dysfunction. Melifonwu is now the ninth defensive back and fifth safety currently under contract with the Patriots in 2019.

The move brings very little financial risk and some solid upside. Initially, on would think that his athleticism would translate to a special teams unit or two while he learns the defense and develops. Presumably the 2019 goal would be to him provide potential competition for veteran Patrick Chung at the box safety spot, or as depth at the “big” corner spot currently occupied by guys like Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe — each of whom are not under contract with the team in 2019.

For a second-year defensive back looking for a place to get his career off the ground, New England provides an solid landing spot. However, it’s also an excellent opportunity for third-year safeties coach Steve Belichick — who gets an athletic blank canvas like Melifonwu and ten months to help mold him into a chess piece for de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

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