I just read the Beldsoe contract explanation from the offical Patriots' web site from the your Bills' link.

The overall numbers, 10 years, (2001-2010) $103 million, are for show and essentially meaningless. And according to Patriots Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Wasynczuk, the deal falls short of the actual value of Brett Favre's recently agreed upon contract meaning Bledsoe is not the league's highest paid quarterback.

In fact, the only part of the contract that Bledsoe is basically guaranteed is a four-year portion worth just more than $30 million, a deal similar to that of Favre, who reportedly received $10 million up front.

Bledsoe will receive $8 million up front on an option that gives the team the quarterback's rights for four years. Bledsoe also has $6 million in guaranteed injury insurance over the first three years of the contract that are included in his base pay, which climbs from $3.5 million to $8 million in the first four years.

The team has several options throughout the life of the contract. After year one of the deal, the team could pick up an option for the entire 10 years by paying Bledsoe an additional $7.2 million bonus. That bonus amount also is prorated through 2006 (the year the current collective bargaining agreement expires) and factored in to his current cap number, but it is unlikely that the team would pick up that option for the full 10 years after one season.

The next option decision for the team comes on Nov. 1 2004. That is when the team must decide to pick up the option on years 5-7 at which time it would pay Bledsoe another $7 million bonus. But note that if the CBA is extended before that time, the proration of that bonus could conceivably be spread beyond 2006.

If the team picked up that option, Bledsoe's cap number would climb into double figures during year four of the deal and then climb to upwards of $12 million. At that point, the two sides could restructuure the deal, something Dunn indicated was common after even three years of a franchise quarterback's contract. He also pointed out the unusual circumstances around the pact Bledsoe signed in 1995 because it actually got through six years before a renegotiation was agreed upon.

Under the actual terms of the deal just signed, the team also holds an option in year seven in which it can buy years 8-10 with an $8 million bonus. That decision will never have to be made because the contract will never reach that point. Bledsoe will either be gone by then or will have restructured the contract. The team also has the option to secure the entire 10 years of the deal at any of the designated option decision times.
http://flash.patriots.com/news/FullA...0&type=general

The $7 million option to extend the contract on Nov 1, 2004 to year 5-7 or the full 10 years, 2005 - 2010, does seem like the option referred to in *Side Letter 10/21/96: Sec. 4. What source indicates that the option should not be included in the 2004 cap until it's renounced???