Sam Stejskal reports for mlssoccer.com that Bradley Wright-Phillips' new contract with New York Red Bulls perhaps justifies the hype the club attached to it when announcing the deal.
Per Stejskal, BWP has been handed a three-year contract ("guaranteed through the 2019 season') that will pay him "between $1 and $1.5 million in each year of the deal": i.e. seven-figures for each year of the contract. It's not even close to the largest deal in MLS, nor is it a return to the days when RBNY happily splashed cash ($4-5 million per year, each) on the likes of Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and Tim Cahill. But BWP was reportedly the highest-paid player at RBNY in 2016, when the MLS Players Union put his guaranteed compensation at $715,000. His new deal will apparently get close to doubling the value of Wright-Phillips' prior contract.
Stejskal also explains why BWP's deal shows up on the roster as a Designated Player contract. RBNY had previously bought Wright-Phillips' prior DP-level contract down with Targeted Allocation Money, thereby keeping one of its DP slots open. Slapping the DP tag on BWP maxes out RBNY's Designated Player roster spots (Sacha Kljestan and Gonzalo Veron occupy the other two slots), for now - per Stejskal:
Because he’ll make between $1 and $1.5 million in each year of the deal, New York will only be able to use Targeted Allocation Money to buy Wright-Phillips down from Designated Player status in MLS’s secondary transfer window. According to league rules, clubs are not allowed to use TAM on players who make more than $1 million per year unless they apply the funds midseason. If TAM is used midseason, the player it is being used on may earn a maximum of $1.5 million on a prorated basis.
And RBNY could simply buy down Veron or Kljestan - if there is enough allocation money in the kitty - to free up a DP spot for a future acquisition. Since the pool of available players on the transfer market increases dramatically in the summer transfer window, it seems likely the Red Bulls will refrain from further roster reshuffling for a few months, at least - but the club's prized roster flexibility remains well within its reach (as long as it hasn't spent all its available resources already).
Some RBNY fans will balk at the Red Bulls' decision to extend a three-year, seven-figure deal to a 32-year-old striker. BWP will be 35 in the 2019 season, and there aren't many 35-year-old soccer players who aren't visibly past their best by that age. Equally, some fans will note that Dax McCarty was extended a big multi-year contract in 2016, and was blithely flipped out to Chicago Fire before the start of the 2017 season. BWP's guaranteed deal doesn't guarantee he'll be at RBNY when it ends.
But perhaps the most significant aspect of the information uncovered by Stejskal is it signifies RBNY can increase its payroll substantially - he is more-or-less earning what Veron and Kljestan were reported to be on (around $1.2 million) combined in 2016. The full implications of BWP's deal won't be understood for a while. It could be a step in the direction of heavier spending on players, a signal to those on the roster and those who might join in future that the team can and will reward its top performers (BWP is RBNY's all-time top scorer and an exceptional striker by the standards of MLS overall). Or it might not: the team may have busted its budget to hang on to an extraordinary player for whom it has no clear replacement; it might be thinking ahead and clearly stating BWP's value for a future trade.
All it means for now is Bradley Wright-Phillips is getting paid - which seems well-earned compensation for his past work, and will hopefully be justified by his continuing performances for RBNY.