Looking at the coming waves of quarterback deals

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When it comes to quarterback contracts, the player’s circumstances tend to have much more relevance to the final numbers than the broader market at the position. On Thursday, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr combined his status as a second-round pick entering the fourth and final year of his contract along with a clear message that he’s willing to do the franchise-tag dance into a long-term contract that nudges the bar a little higher than Colts quarterback Andrew Luck did a year ago.

As each franchise quarterback signs, attention turns to the next wave. Or two. Or three. Here’s a look at each of the foreseeable waves of major quarterback deals.

1. The Next Wave.

Kirk Cousins.

The twice-tagged Washington quarterback will either sign a long-term deal by July 17 or posture himself for one of several options in 2018: (1) a long-term contract with Washington signed after the season ends; (2) the transition tag of $28.7 million; (3) the franchise tag of $34.47 million; or (4) a shot at the open market, either with an offer sheet under the transition tag or as an unrestricted free agent.

His risks of letting it ride for a third straight year are simple and clear — serious injury or complete and total ineffectiveness. Either way, he will have made $44 million over two years, and at a minimum someone will pay him $5 million or so to serve as a backup in 2018, if for some reason he badly regresses this season.

What he’d make on the open market remains to be seen. The 49ers are believed to be interested, given the presence of former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. But the Rams have hired the coordinator who helped Cousins throw for more than 4,900 yards in 2016. If head coach Sean McVay decides that he both wants Cousins and hopes to keep him from Shanahan, Cousins could be in position to sit back and allow the NFC West rivals to bid the package higher and higher.

Matthew Stafford.

Stafford has a $16.5 million salary in 2017, the last year of the extension he signed with two years left on his rookie deal. With a 2017 cap number of $22 million, his franchise tender for 2018 would be $26.4 million. For 2019, it would move to $31.68 million. That’s a bare minimum of $74.58 million to be paid out over the next three years, and thus the starting point for another extension.

Bottom line? He could (should) soon eclipse Carr as the highest paid player in NFL history.

Jimmy Garoppolo.

A second-round pick from 2014 (like Carr), Garoppolo has been the subject of plenty of speculation regarding trades, franchise tags, and bridge deals aimed at paying him a lot of money to wait behind Tom Brady. For now, coach Bill Belichick merely wants to keep Garoppolo in place as insurance against a Brady injury. Come 2018, a decision will need to be made.

Some believe that Brady could retire after winning a sixth Super Bowl, especially since his wife seems to be steadily nudging him to walk off into the sunset. If that happens, the Patriots would then have a limited window for negotiating a long-term Garoppolo deal, with the franchise tag as the fallback against Garoppolo hitting the market.

The real question is whether the tag also would be the starting point on a long-term quarterback. For most quarterbacks, it is. But Garoppolo: (1) plays for the Patriots; and (2) is represented by Don Yee, the agent who has signed off on multiple below-market Tom Brady deals. Some think the Patriots will be able to get Garoppolo to take less than top dollar, like Brady has done. Others think Yee is determined to do with Garoppolo that which Brady refused to ever do.

If Brady refuses to retire after 2017 (and if the Patriots choose to keep him in place as a 41-year-old starter in 2018), they could tag and trade Garoppolo (see Matt Cassel), keep him under the tag for a year, sign Garoppolo to a short-term deal aimed at keeping him in place to take over for Brady, or let Garoppolo hit the open market and enhance their haul of compensatory draft picks in 2019.

Drew Brees.

Brees has one year left under contract, and a clause prohibiting the team from using the franchise tag to keep him in place the following year. Whether he stays or goes, Brees will count for a minimum of $18 million under the New Orleans salary cap next year.

He has said he won’t extend the deal, which means he’ll either sign with the Saints  after the 2017 season ends and before the launch of free agency or he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, like he did more than 11 years ago.

So what is a 39-year-old franchise quarterback worth on the open market? We could find out within nine months.

Sam Bradford.

Yes, Sam Bradford. The last No. 1 overall pick of the pre-rookie wage scale era, who made $78 million on his first six-year deal and enters the final season of the two-year, $36 million contract signed in Philadelphia last year. Now the starter in Minnesota, the Vikings can pay him a lot of money now or even more later, if forced to use the franchise tag to keep him in place.

The wildcard as to Bradford is Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings could end up choosing to keep him instead, if he recovers sufficiently from the devastating knee injury that compelled the Vikings to trade for Bradford last September.

A.J. McCarron.

Yes, A.J. McCarron. Other teams have been interested in trading for him, but the Bengals have wanted too much for the man who nearly helped Cincinnati nail down the No. 2 seed — and who did everything in his power to win a 2015 wild-card game against the Steelers — after Andy Dalton broke his thumb. Will someone break the bank for McCarron? He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

2. The Second Wave.

Matt Ryan.

The Falcons quarterback has two years remaining on his current deal, with a 2018 cap number of $21.65 million. This means that he’d make $25.98 million, at a minimum, under the franchise tag in 2019. With $35 million in cash due to be paid out over the next two seasons, the Falcons could approach Ryan about trading it in for a long-term deal that puts north of Carr in annual average, or Ryan could wait for the market to keep going up — and in turn for his leverage to increase.

However it plays out, another major payday is coming for Ryan. There’s currently no reason to think Ryan will push it to the brink and force the Falcons to play the franchise-tag dance.

Jameis Winston.

Winston won’t approach free agency or the franchise tag until after the 2019 season, but he’ll be eligible for a second contract after 2017 . Given that the Buccaneers have never (never) given a second contract to any quarterback the franchise drafted, they may want to make a statement by committing to Winston as early as possible — and possibly at a number far lower than it would be if he’s closer to the franchise tag.

Marcus Mariota.

Mariota, the second pick in the same year Winston was drafted No. 1 overall, also becomes eligible for a new deal after the 2017 season. The Titans will need to decide whether to move quickly or let it play out a bit, with Mariota under contract through 2019, once they pick up the fifth-year option. The decision could, in theory, hinge on how quickly the Buccaneers extend Winston, and vice-versa.

3. The Third Wave.

Aaron Rodgers.

Some would say Rodgers should be in the first wave. But here’s the rub: He doesn’t seem to be inclined to complain about his current contract, even though he’s woefully underpaid. It’s the Jo(h)n Voight Phenomenon; Rodgers did a bad deal, committing himself for seven full seasons in 2013 without accounting for potential spikes in the salary cap. As a result, his aging $22 million-per-year contract doesn’t compare well to new Derek Carr’s $25 million annual deal.

In March, as rumors and reports grew that the Bears would be giving Mike Glennon $15 million or more per year in free agency, Rodgers said as to whether this would compel contract talks for him, “I think it has to.” In response to the PFT item on the issue, Rodgers downplayed the obvious implications of his words and brushed our interpretation off as “#fakenews.”

Interpretation of the reaction to the interpretation? He plans to keep driving the LeBaron once owned by Jon Voight the actor, resisting any and all suggestions that it was actually owned by John Voight the periodontist.

Russell Wilson.

As Wilson entered the last year of his rookie deal in 2015, the Seahawks rewarded Wilson for a pair of Super Bowl appearances (and avoided the franchise-tag dilemma) with a four-year extension worth $21.9 million per year. Wisely, Wilson ensured that he’d get back to the market sooner than later, which likely puts him in line for another extension after the 2018 season, when once again approaches the final year of his current deal in 2019.

Dak Prescott.

The fourth-round phenom becomes eligible for a new deal after the 2018 season, and 2019 will be the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. The Cowboys will need to decide whether to do a top-of-market deal before Prescott approaches the franchise tag, or risk inheriting a Kirk Cousins conundrum. How he plays, and what the team achieves, over the next two years will be critical to answering that question.

47 responses to “Looking at the coming waves of quarterback deals

  1. It seems odd that Rodgers does not seem inclined to complain about his current contract, since he does seem inclined to complain about everything else. I’m guessing he’s making it known behind the scenes that he’d better get taken care of or he’ll cause even more discord within the team than he already does.

  2. All that money, good grief. No wonder ticket prices are what they are but…this golden goose is dying. Someone else will have to pick up my 10 season tickets next year.

    Unless the Jags re-sign Bortles for what he’s worth; if so, I’ll keep 2 tix for another year.

  3. Bradford is an interesting case. If he puts together a productive season, he’s in line for a big contract from somebody because there aren’t enough legitimate quarterbacks to go around. The Vikings may not want to give him that big contract because they have Bridgewater in their back pocket and they have a lot of young stars who are coming up on some big contracts. The better he does this year, the less likely he is to return to the Vikings.

  4. I know what I am about to type is probably a insane and many will probably call it a stupid idea but I almost wonder if they should figure out a way to pay QB’s separately?

    Anyhow I think Carr is a very good QB but for him to get that kind of money what does that really mean for the value of Rodgers, Brady, Brees and other top tier proven QB’s? 35 or 40 million?

  5. Jay Cutler vs Matt Stafford

    Passing Yards
    Cutler 32,467 Stafford 30,303

    Cutler 208 Stafford 187

    Cutler 146 Stafford 108

    QB Rating
    Cutler 85.7 Stafford 86.8

    Avg. Yards
    Cutler 7.23 Stafford 7.07

    Completion %
    Cutler 61.9 Stafford 61.5

    W-L Record as Starter
    Cutler 68-71-0 Stafford 51-58-0

    Cutler is ran out of the league because the media unfairly painted him as the Anti-Christ and now Stafford may become the highest paid player in NFL history?

  6. allight59 says:
    Jun 22, 2017 1:29 PM
    Sell some more fake stock and give Rodgers 30 million a year, and pay minimum salary DBs…..

    ……or leave things exactly as they are and STILL own the Vikings.

  7. Although I can clearly see a photo of Arthur Fonzarelli, I do not see him mentioned in the actual article? Ehhhhhhhhy.

  8. “Dak Prescott…How he plays, and what the team achieves, over the next two years will be critical to answering that question.”

    The team could achieve two more one-and-dones in the playoffs, and Dak will still get paid.

    As much fun as we have at Jerry Jones’ expense, he is not Dan Snyder.

  9. @philtration – another idiot who just doesn’t understand NFL QB contracts and value of players.

    Stafford leads his team and you see that on the field. Cutler does not. Go ahead and throw out stupid stats like you did earlier. The market speaks for itself. Cutler didn’t get another gig because of the media..

  10. It would be nice to find a way to cap QB contracts moving forward though. Some of these dunces will take so much money it hurts the rest of the team as Carr will eventually find out when a few of their promising younger players are let go due to a lack of finances. I hope Arod leaves his deal alone with his outside ventures he should be comfortable and like Brady does it allows the team another supporting cast member.

  11. Remember, Bradford didn’t start until the second game of the season so he finished below .500 (7-8 on the season)

    If Spielman thinks that is worth north of $20 per season, I think he’s wrong but I’d be happy to see the Vikings squander that money. After all, they squandered $15 million on a RB for the last two seasons and looked at the return they got on that investment.

    The point being, if you waste your money, you tend to finish in 3rd place and even then, they must be looking over their shoulders’ at the Bears.

  12. If Dak Prescott is in this conversation, why isn’t Carson Wentz? He’ll be eligible for an extension after the 2018 season as well. The Eagles have obviously bet their near term future on Wentz, so they should be thinking about locking him up as soon as they can.

  13. Raiders did do a nice job of bringing in a few bigger free agents the past two years (OL, Smith) and paying them a little more to start instead of backloading knowing they have these rookie contracts coming up.. that being said, I didn’t see Carr getting this big a deal. (Not a Raiders fan)

  14. There’s no question Rodgers is worth more than any other NFL QB except maybe Brady. Carr isn’t in his league. It is a bit strange that a guy admittedly that smart would tie himself to a 7 year contract without escalators, but its not like he’s starving at $22M/yr .

    Neither Teddy nor Bradford are near that range, but it is good that the Vikes appear to at least have tolerable QB options.

  15. @philtration

    Cutler pulls himself from the game with playoffs on the line, letting a 2nd then 3rd string QB play, stafford plays through tendon damage in his finger and guts out 8 comeback wins last season! Cutler came from a successful Denver team and came to a team in the Bears that went to the Super Bowl because of the defense… stafford joined an 0-16 lions team devoid of talent… know your stuff before you spill your nonsense

  16. Phantom stranger, maybe try letting one packer article go without trolling it? You’ll be ok, I promise. Also hilarious that your first post only talks about Rodgers and the Pack when Bradford and the vikes were mentioned in the same article. Telling.

  17. The free market dictates player salaries in all sports.
    Some positions (like QB) don’t have enough pro-talent to go around and this causes their pay to sky rocket.
    If there were 15 QBs with the skills of Jay Cutler, so that any team would always have an “Eh” or so-so QB, then you wouldn’t see the QBS who aren’t elite getting paid so much.
    The problem is there aren’t 15 Jay Cutlers. Instead you have lots of Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith level QBs.

    So the choice is: over pay for an average QB who takes an 8-8 team to 8-8 or 9-7. Or save 15MM and get a Mark Sanchez who can take a 8-8 team and go 6-10 or 4-12.
    I’d rather over pay 15MM and not suffer a few extra losses.

  18. pkrlvr says:
    Jun 22, 2017 3:59 PM
    Phantom stranger, maybe try letting one packer article go without trolling it? You’ll be ok, I promise. Also hilarious that your first post only talks about Rodgers and the Pack when Bradford and the vikes were mentioned in the same article. Telling.

    I’m no Sherlock, but this isn’t a Packer only article. Phantom also talked about Bradford in his second post. So I’m not sure what you find hilarious.

  19. AJ McCarron may not be a free agent in March.

    The belief is McCarron is classified as a third-year player in 2017, as he did not accrue a full NFL season in 2014 during his rookie year. When the Bengals originally drafted him in 2014, he had a previous arm/shoulder issue that led to him beginning the year on NFI (the Non-Football Injury list), where he remained until Week 14, preventing him from accruing a season of free agency.

    It looks like it will go to arbitration. Neither side will know until after the season.

  20. Teams will be hiring scouts to look for talent among College quarterbacks. They won’t be riding these waves, especially if they are not playoff caliber. It is silly for a team like Cleveland to sign a free agent quarterback commanding Derek Carr like money.

  21. steves11 says:
    Jun 22, 2017 3:06 PM
    If Dak Prescott is in this conversation, why isn’t Carson Wentz? He’ll be eligible for an extension after the 2018 season as well. The Eagles have obviously bet their near term future on Wentz, so they should be thinking about locking him up as soon as they can.


  22. Some thoughts:
    1. $22 million is a lot of money. And it sounds ignorant to say that Rogers is underpaid at $22 million. Seriously an extra 1-3 million will not change his lifestyle. All it does is give him the opportunity to say he is the highest paid player at his position. And even then his contract will be surpassed by someone else.

    2. I understand that you either have a quarterback or you don’t. But that doesn’t change the fact that these athletes are grossly overpaid. Seriously there is zero relateability between fans and players. An average joe is lucky to make 50-100k a year. And these clowns have the audacity to complain about their measly $20 million dollar salaries. Newsflash a starting nfl quarterback makes more money in one month than an average joe makes in his entire lifetime.

  23. Hahaha I see the loudmouths deplorables are still talking about Colin Kaepernick.

    And you think his “protests” weren’t working. LOL

  24. steves11 says:
    Jun 22, 2017 3:06 PM
    If Dak Prescott is in this conversation, why isn’t Carson Wentz? He’ll be eligible for an extension after the 2018 season as well. The Eagles have obviously bet their near term future on Wentz, so they should be thinking about locking him up as soon as they can.

    THe real reason is that 1st round picks have the fifth-year option, so teams have them under control for an extra year.

  25. I was going to post about that guy saying Cutler is better than Stafford but glad to see several people already beat me to it. Ehh…why not:

    Srsly dude? Cutler isn’t even on a team anymore!!!! Body language, attitude, and heart get a team a lot further than empty stats. Most of those are in heavy garbage time with 30 more games played. He was ok in Denver, but couldn’t even start for the Bears at the end. Stafford is TNBT, a savior for a city on its knees!

  26. By all accounts, Bridgewater staged his “injury” in an attempt to put Minnesota in his rear view mirror. How else do you explain separating the top half of your leg from the bottom half during non-contact drills? Unfortunately for him, the EMTs that arrived had a better than Minnesota public school education and they were able to save him.

    If Bradford agrees to stay in the land of 100,000 sewers, pay him!

  27. steves11 says:
    Jun 22, 2017 3:06 PM
    If Dak Prescott is in this conversation, why isn’t Carson Wentz?

    Prescott was a 4th rounder and can be extended after 3 years. Wentz was a 1st, in addition to the team being able to exercise his 5th year option he can’t be extended until after his fourth year.

  28. magikskillz says:
    Jun 22, 2017 4:29 PM
    Some thoughts:
    2. I understand that you either have a quarterback or you don’t.
    I appreciate your thoughts. I just want to point out that some QBs are made or developed. It might take 2 or 3 years to know if it will work out. Even the guys that become icons in the league didn’t start out like a 10 year vet. Brees took a couple years, Rodgers had 3 year to develop, but if his brief playing time in years one or two are any measure, it would have taken some time if he had to play right away. But even if development happens, it still takes a team to become special. Without a good scheme and players that fit it, without an OL to block, and without guys to catch the balls he throws, any QB would be nothing, and not accomplish much.

  29. Winston is going to have another great year and he’ll be right behind carr. Luckily we have 25 mil cap space to split between him and mike Evans

  30. There are quarterbacks who make mediocre receivers good and good receivers great. Tom Brady is one of them, and he is not even close to being the highest paid QB in the league. He loves winning, and he will accept less money to be able to win more Super Bowl rings.

    In contrast, you have a guy like Joe Flacco, who proclaimed himself the best QB in the NFL, and demanded so much money after winning the SB that his team had to allow good players to leave or be traded, and he has little hope of ever getting a second SB ring.

  31. If only one could go back in time and make changes…

    Having grown up in Tampa and witnessing a horrible franchise in action, I can say that the Bucs have always made terrible decisions when it’s come to the QB position.

    For starters, Doug Williams should have been paid what he was worth and not allowed to walk to the USFL. That led to the Bucs being in desperation mode and trading a 1st round pick to the Bengals for Jack Thompson. The pick ended up being 1st overall in the 1984 draft. A pick that could have given Doug Williams a great WR in Irving Fryer to throw to.

    Then the Bucs were given a gift when Steve Young fell into their laps at the end of the USFL’s history, Young would start for a season, be told that his hands were too small, and get traded to the 49ers for a 3rd round pick.

    At which point, the Bucs turn around and draft Vinny Testaverde 1st overall in 1987 (having blown the 1st the year before on Bo Jackson)

    Testaverde really wasn’t THAT bad considering what he’d had around him and what the Bucs had managed to do with the previous 7-8 years worth of draft picks. Out of all the Buccaneer QB’s, he should have been brought back in 1993 and allowed to further develop into Wyche’s offense.

    Craig Erickson was an up and coming QB that performed well in 1993 and 1994 but wasn’t considered by Wyche to be a “prototypical” QB so they went out and, like the Steve Young debacle, traded Erickson to the Colts and drafted Trent Dilfer.

    For most of his career, Dilfer was a trainwreck and sticking with him at QB is what ended up leading to Tony Dungy getting walked out the door, despite trying to bring in Brad Johnson at the last minute. The putrid offense the Bucs had with Dilfer led Dungy to handing the reigns off to Shaun King which was an even bigger disaster.

    From the time Brad Johnson left, the Bucs were saddled with the likes of Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Josh Freeman, Chris Simms, and Mike Glennon.

    The Bucs now have a guy who is already considerably (arguably) the best QB in the franchise’s history, they need to give Winston a deal that will keep him Tampa for the better part of the rest of his carrer.

  32. I’m crying big crocodile tears for all of them. Can they possibly make a go of it for $22 million?..A year?
    16 games…?
    Across the U.S., perhaps millions of people will be losing their health coverage and face possibly bankruptcy.

  33. Florio,

    As a result, his aging $22 million-per-year contract doesn’t compare well to new Derek Carr’s $25 million annual deal. Boo F’in Hoo. Really? $22 million annually doesn’t “compare well” to $25 million? In what world do you live in?

    Tom Brady signed a 2 year $41 million dollar contract, and the majority would argue (outside of Wisconsin) he deserves to be paid more than Rodgers. If Rodgers wants to get paid $3 million more per year, than maybe he should win another SB. If it is on the QB when it comes wins and losses in the playoffs, then Rodgers hasn’t carried his team the way he should, and some would argue he is overpaid as a result.

    I would argue ALL NFL QB’s are overpaid. It is the fan’s money paying their salaries, and if most fans had their way, they wouldn’t pay $250 per game in the regular season, and several thousands for a crappy seat at a SB game (and tens of thousands for a prime seat) versus watching it in the comfort of their own homes.

    If you want to talk about a salary that doesn’t compare well, let’s talk about Goodell. Goodell had to take a “pay cut” in 2016, where his salary went down to $34.1 million. Disgusting and robbery are the words that come to mind for me. And this year, the league doesn’t have to disclose what this clown is going to make, as they are not longer under the not-for-profit status.

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