In a move planned since the day Eli Manning signed his rookie contract, the New York Giants have exercised a $5 million "buyback" option, raising to $20 million the amount of total bonus money that the quarterback has earned since he entered the league as the top overall choice in the 2004 draft.
Without the buyback bonus, the 2007 season would have been the last on Manning's deal, and he would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. Even with his inconsistent performance at times, the Giants weren't about to allow that to happen. The buyback means that Manning, who has been the team's starter since the second half of his rookie campaign, remains under contract to the Giants through the 2009 season.
There was a published report on Monday that the Giants had extended Manning's contract through the 2012 season, but that was erroneous. Manning remains under the six-year deal, worth $45 million-$54 million, that he signed in July 2004 and there have been no major alterations to his contract.
Under that contract, Manning received an initial signing bonus of $3 million in 2004. In March of 2005, the Giants paid him a guaranteed $9 million option bonus. But under the terms of the contract, Manning could void the 2008-2010 seasons by reaching minimum playing time standards in any of the first three years of the deal, which he accomplished.
By reaching those thresholds, Manning triggered a guaranteed $3 million roster bonus, which was paid earlier this month. That raised his total bonus money to $15 million.
The Giants then had the right to "buy back" the 2008-2009 seasons, which had been voided, for an additional $5 million bonus, which they did. Essentially, the team restored two years that had voided, retaining Manning through 2009.
The buyback clause, basically a mechanism for adding bonus money to a deal, has become fairly conventional in recent years for contracts signed by quarterbacks chosen early in the first round. Last year, the Houston Texans paid quarterback David Carr a buyback bonus of $8 million to restore three seasons of his contract that had voided.
By paying the buyback in Manning's deal, the Giants set his base salaries at $8 million for 2008 and $8.5 million for 2009. The former University of Mississippi star can earn further performance bonuses of $1.5 million each in 2007-2009, but those are conditional on the Giants making the playoffs and Manning ranking among the top five quarterbacks in the league in a variety of statistical categories.
Manning, 26, has appeared in 41 games, with 39 starts, in his three seasons. He has completed 690 of 1,276 passes for 8,049 yards, with 54 touchdown passes, 44 interceptions, and a passer rating of 73.2.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.