The three-year deal with a base value of $54 million gives Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles an average of $18 million per year. That sounds good in isolation, but it puts him near the bottom of all NFL starting quarterbacks not constrained by a slotted rookie deal.
Here’s the list of 2018 starters by annual average, with actual numbers for those with contracts and projected numbers for those who will still be signed.
1. Kirk Cousins: $29 million per year (projected). The number could go higher depending on the number of suitors and the zeal with which they pursue him.
2. Drew Brees: $28 million per year. Whether he signs with the Saints or someone else, Brees always has gotten paid handsomely. As he should. If the Saints want to keep him, they’ll possibly need to match or beat the package given to the guy who has started seven largely inconsequential games.
3. Jimmy Garoppolo: $27.5 million per year. The highest paid player in the NFL won’t be the highest paid for long. He may not be in the top five for long.
4. Matthew Stafford: $27 million. He’ll have another chance to get to the top of the market when he signs his fourth big-money, multi-year NFL contract in a few years.
5. Derek Carr: $25 million. If the Raiders hadn’t signed him last year, the Raiders would be faced with a fascinating decision. Keep Carr or pursue someone like Cousins, most recently coached by Jon Gruden’s younger brother?
6. Andrew Luck: $24.594 million. He hasn’t done much to earn his money, but that should change this year.
7. Joe Flacco: $22.133 million. But for a crippling cap hit, the Ravens would be considering replacing the Super Bowl MVP from five years ago.
8. Aaron Rodgers: $22 million. When it’s all said and done, he’ll be north of $30 million.
9. Russell Wilson: $21.9 million. He’s already overdue for a new deal.
10. Ben Roethlisberger: $21.85 million. The Steelers have mentioned the possibility of an extension. As more and more quarterbacks get paid, Roethlisbeger may demand one.
11. Alex Smith: $21.7 million. Combining a four-year, $94 million extension with a 2018 salary of $14.5 million puts Smith on the fringe of the top 10.
12. Eli Manning: $21 million. A middle-of-the-pack quarterback has nearly middle-of-the-pack pay.
13. Philip Rivers: $20.812 million. Dollar for dollar one of the biggest bargains in the league.
14. Cam Newton: $20.76 million. The new Carolina owner’s first order of business should be to address Newton’s deal.
15. Matt Ryan: $20.75 million. The 2016 league MVP is grossly underpaid.
16. Case Keenum: $20 million (projected). That’s 10 times what he made a year ago.
17. Ryan Tannehill: $19.25 million. And now you know why the Dolphins aren’t rushing to get rid of him.
18. A.J. McCarron: $19 million (projected). Not bad for a guy with four career starts.
19. Blake Bortles: $18 million. Kind of puts it the new contract in perspective, doesn’t it?
20. Andy Dalton: $16 million. The Red Rifle may be looking for more green, soon.
21. Tyrod Taylor: $15.25 million. Whether he plays for the Bills or someone else, it’s a pretty good deal.
22. Tom Brady: $15 million. Fake Don Yee was right.
23. Mitch Trubisky: $7.258 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2017, as the No. 2 pick.
24. Jared Goff: $6.984 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2016, as the No. 1 pick.
25. Carson Wentz: $6.669 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2016, as the No. 2 pick.
26. Jameis Winston: $6.337 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2015, as the No. 1 pick.
27. Marcus Mariota: $6.053 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2015, as the No. 2 pick.
28. Patrick Mahomes: $4.1 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2017, as the No. 10 pick.
29. Deshaun Watson: $3.463 million. Slotted rookie deal from 2017, as the No. 12 pick.
The list doesn’t include 32 quarterbacks, given the possibility that one or more rookie quarterbacks will be Week One starters. Wild cards include Sam Bradford, Josh McCown, and Nick Foles, any of whom could also be starting when the season begins.