If anyone is doubting Jordan Morris’ ability to return from ACL surgery, it’s not the Seattle Sounders front office. That has to be the biggest takeaway from a recent report in The Athletic that says Morris has already signed a new five-year contract that will pay him about $1 million per year. The first three years of the new contract are reportedly guaranteed, with two more option years.
Sounder at Heart has confirmed the broad parameters of The Athletic report. One thing of note, though, is that the guaranteed portion of the contract would average out to less than $1 million per year. There are also some significant performance bonuses that factored into the overall reported valuation. Morris was apparently entering the final year of his contract and that the Sounders wanted to avoid him going into the season with the possibility he could sign a pre-contract elsewhere during the summer.
While that’s certainly a lot of money to invest in a 24-year-old with just one very good professional season under his belt and who is coming off a serious injury, in the accounting of MLS it is not particularly risky. Morris could end up hitting the salary cap at a very team-friendly $150,000 a year, assuming the Sounders use TAM to buy his charge down. If the contract is backloaded, it might not even cost the team that much TAM in the early stages. For example, the deal could start out paying him as little as $550,000 in Year 1 and ramp up to about $1.5 million in Year 5, while still averaging about $1 million annually over the life of the contract.
Still, that would represent a rather significant pay raise. Morris had been making a little less than $250,000 a year after signing the most expensive Homegrown Player contract in league history before the start of the 2016 season. As a HGP, he was also completely off the salary cap.
This deal would generate some budget flexibility, though. MLS teams are each allocated a set amount that they can spend over the cap on Homegrown Players. Morris had been taking up virtually all of that money. Moving him to the senior roster would free up the HGP budget to sign players like Trey Muse or Sam Rogers in the near term, while also allowing for the possibility of signing one of the younger players on S2 to the First Team.
The Athletic report also says the Sounders are working on an extension for Cristian Roldan, although that should come as little surprise to anyone paying attention to the hints left by Brian Schmetzer and Garth Lagerwey over the last few months. Sounder at Heart has learned that the two sides have effectively agreed in principle, but are still working out some of the details. Although his deal is unlikely to be quite as lucrative as the one signed by Morris, it will likely make him a TAM player as well.