The 2018 starting quarterbacks, ranked by APY

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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, Roethlisberger 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.

30. Dak Prescott: $680,000. By rule, he can’t sign a new deal until after 2018.

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.

68 responses to “The 2018 starting quarterbacks, ranked by APY

  1. So, Tom Brady has been in the league a long time, has won 5 Super Bowls and is probably the GOAT, but he’s the 22nd highest paid QB in the NFL? He obviously needs a new agent.

  2. If AJ McCarron gets $19 million based on four years of not being able to beat out Andy Dalton, this explains why the owners need a salary cap.

    Clearly some of them are too stupid to be able to not go bankrupt if the red rifles backup can make almost $20 million.

    But seriously, this makes you almost wonder if teams at the bottom of the league would be better off just drafting two or threes in the draft until you hit on one. Like you aren’t ever going to win a Super Bowl paying McCarron $19 million unless he learns to play D, kick and blackmail referees.

  3. its a credit to the patriot’s supporting players for dragging the 22nd best qb in the national football league to multiple super bowls. and for those who disagree, the free market has spoken. i am mearly stating the facts.

  4. How are the APY’s calculated?

    I ask because it lists Tom Brady’s APY at $15 million, which places him at 22nd in the ranking.

    But searching online I came up with the following:

    “Tom Brady signed a 2 year, $41,000,000 contract with the New England Patriots, including a $28,000,000 signing bonus, $28,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $20,500,000.

    Yes, he’s still underpaid etc. but an average of $20.5 million is different than an average of $15 million.

    And I took the following from Spotrac…

    Tom Brady signed a 2 year, $41,000,000 contract with the New England Patriots, including a $28,000,000 signing bonus, $28,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $20,500,000.

    Apparently I’m missing something so if other posters could enlighten me, or one from the website I’d be grateful.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. If Flacco is getting that much , hopefully the Ravens are paying at least twice that to Jerome Boger, and whoever reffed the Broncos/Ravens playoff leading up to the super bowl.

  6. Five time SuperBowl winner and four time SuperBowl MVP. He’s between Tyrod Taylor and Mitchell Trubisky. No wonder they hate him.

  7. ..and there were many fans who scoffed at the Seahawks for extending Russell Wilson… he has a shiny ring to show off. Except for Mr. Brees, What do the other’s have except Pipe Dreams?

    Tom Brady’s pay is comical.

  8. Moneywise, I believe Bortles is a fairly accurate ranking of his place in the league. I can’t complain that the Jags got him for a decent value. You can do much worse in fact.

  9. Thank you for publishing this. The on)y QBs not averaging at least $18 million per season are those still on rookie deals, veteran QBs on the fringe, and Tom Brady who has taken huge hometown discount deals for years now. (Which coupled with the Pats motto to release a non-QB player a season too early rather than a season too late partially explains how they’ve been able to continue their dynasty so long).

    So you see everyone gasping about this player getting this much or that much don’t know what they’re talking about. There was a HUGE number of you arm chair GMs going crazy about Russell Wilson’s contract when it was signed, screaming he wasn’t worth it, blah, blah blah…..and this was from a QB who had taken his team to Superbowls in 4 years…Now Wilson is one of the best QBs in the league and one of the few that can carry an offense. His deal right now is a steal.

    Brees who most of you screamed was greedy for ensuring he got his market value with each negotiation just got through a deal that paid around $22 million last season.

    I kept telling you all that good QBs Should be getting $25-30 million per season over a year ago. PFT kept telling you guys the same thing. And this isn’t to pat myself on the back but rather to express frustration that so many on a site that is filled with people who supposedly follow the NFL closer than the average fan didn’t know something so simple. The QB market has been suppressed for years due to the Franchise tag keeping good to great QBs off the free agent market and now we’re seeing the correction.

  10. I think this was a smart move by the Jags. If you aren’t going to go after a top tier QB in free agency, why not pick up a serviceable starter like Bortles and draft his successor this year. He’ll need a year or two to develop, and you cover the QB position on the cheap, allowing you to keep the rest of your key players. Not to mention, Bortles, although not great, is improving each year.

  11. I’m probably wrong, but when was the last time a team that had the highest paid QB (sacrificing money to put a complimentary team around him) win the Super Bowl. Dedicating that much resource to one player is rarely the answer for a Super Bowl winner. It may be true that the team will have a great year, but if you don’t win the last game of the year, how successful are you in reality? Owners want to make signing headlines because it’s good for the bottom line, not necessarily good for overall achievement of the players goals.

  12. Brady playing for well below market value has been a largely ignored factor in NE’s current run. Having an extra 5 mil plus every year is a huge advantage.

  13. So Tom Brady is in #22nd, and Nick Foles would be around #24th if ranked at 7M/year.

    The league MVP, SB MVP & both SB contestants are in the 20’s! Take a look at the 5-6 guys ahead of these two….it’s pretty shocking.

  14. Writers on this site love to “complain” about Brady being woefully underpaid (over $200 million career earnings and who knows how much with endorsement deals–poor Tom Brady). I say it’s incredibly stupid for other QBs to try to break the bank (except for Stafford, see below).

    Brady is obviously more interested in winning Superbowls (uh, 8 appearances and 5 wins in case you lost track). You can’t go back to the Superbowl almost every other year on average for 17 f-ing years if you demand to be the highest paid player in the league, leaving little squiggle room to sign free agents.

    It’s all a trade off and depends on your goals. Want to be the highest paid player of all time or do you want to be known as the winningest player of all time? It’s not like if you substitute winning for money you’ll be destitute after you stop playing (unless you woefully mismanage your money, of course).

    Maybe if Brees took less money, they’d have played the Patriots this year in the Superbowl? Maybe they’d have gone to more than one. Also looking at you, Aaron Rodgers. Stafford’s the only QB in the top ten I don’t begrudge the huge pay day because, well, getting paid is his consolation for playing for the Lions. All the rest are only in it for the money. Again, looking at you Rodgers, who should have at least four superbowl visits by now–him and Brees should be going almost every other year. What wasted careers. I know, boohoo, they’re crying all the way to the bank. But I wager that 10 years from now they’ll wish they’d taken less money and been to the Superbowl multiple times (and STILL be gazillionaires, by the way).

  15. Just proves that teams better figure out to stop trying to outdo each other and pay the rest of their rosters. The only thing the guys at the top of the list have in common is that none of them win anything after their team’s cap gets lopsided. Just think about it, Tom Brady is woefully underpaid, and the Patriots still have a hard time scraping together a top end roster that anyone would be afraid of on paper if it wasn’t for the great coach. When a team figures that out and says okay, I can replace you for a cheaper option while I have this stacked roster and win while you go to Cleveland and be Neil O’Donnel with the Jets, that team will have split the atom as far as beating the parity narrative of today’s NFL.

  16. he’s the 22nd highest paid QB in the NFL? He obviously needs a new agent

    Lack of ego, and a desire to win. Nobody else like him.

  17. #7 should be a huge cautionary tale on overpaying one position to the detriment of your team. It’s even worse when the guy you are overpaying is underperforming.

  18. Still think it’s fishy that the Patriots can get away with paying Brady like this.

    Perhaps in the next few years the real reasons they can do so will come out.

  19. >.18. A.J. McCarron: $19 million (projected). Not bad for a guy with four career starts.

    Thats silly. No one is going to pay him that. Not after witnessing back to back disasters with Osweiller and Glennon. No team will pay that. They might offer incentives that will bring his pay to that level, but not a base.

  20. Brady’s deal is bogus.

    Read back and you’ll also find stories (confirmed)!about side “businesses” he is on. And he received a guarantee of 28 million in a 2 year deal for 41 million. It’s all BS numbers.

    And let’s stop the GOAT talk, Montana 4-0 in super bowls in a league where there was zero protection for the QB and defenses weren’t handcuffed.

  21. Tom Brady doesn’t need a new agent? If he didn’t have a super model wife, he’d probably be around where brees is around in terms of dollars, but then he also might be playing for another team. Yeah, for what he’s done he’s done he’s grossly underpaid. With a wife that probably knows just as much if not more about money as he does he can afford to sacrifice the big bucks so he can try and win championships. Oh, ps. I’m not a Brady fan, but facts are facts. Only time they lose in the superbowl is when a team comes outta nowhere (Eagles and my beloved giants (maybe they have a problem with nfc east?)) to beat them because of bradys ridiculously low salary they can afford to bring in talent. Just the facts as much as people hate to admit it (even me) bradys a team first guy, but given the facts of his situation he can afford to be.

  22. bjwbrown2011 says:
    February 24, 2018 at 11:48 pm
    If AJ McCarron gets $19 million based on four years of not being able to beat out Andy Dalton, this explains why the owners need a salary cap.

    This is my truth on a Sunday. I don’t know why everyone is so excited about AJ McCarron. He can’t beat out a truly mediocre QB in Dalton, he has 4 games under his belt – and yet someone will pay him because of the hype. Dak Prescott was the Second Coming last year too – until someone got a year of tape on the guy and now he went from Dak 2.0 to Dak 0.5. I know teams are desperate for starting talent, but paying these guys (including JG) with little to no body of work seems stupid to me. Incentive laden contracts feel like a better move as a businessman.

  23. Bortles contract just got more interesting – and palatable – to me. First off, he is actually getting paid less than expected in 2018, and it is actually only a two year contract with an option for a 3rd. That’s hedging your bets effectively from a business standpoint. What’s more, it’s incentive laden – so if he actually performs he gets his money, but if he doesn’t, he doesn’t. When I think of the unproven QBs on this list – JG, AJM come to mind – that is how they should have been structured.

    I also am not as confident that Luck will be earning his money. 1) we do not know what that injury really did to him. 2) he still makes bad decisions where I come from.

  24. Brady is in a unique position given the many years of earnings on and off the field along with his wife’s wealth. He has chosen to take less to make the team more competitive. Others (e.g., Gronk, Amendola, Edelman) have followed his lead. Compare and contrast him to Peyton Manning and Flacco who hamstrung their teams by needing the affirmation of the largest contract.Veterans of the NFL will continue to come join him for the ride of a lifetime.

  25. Sportsfan18 is correct on Brady’s numbers. I would add that the structure provided the Patriots with an ability to financially engineer the contract that not only gave Tom a lot of up front cash (think time value of money) it let them manage the cap because they trusted Tom to give maximum effort in years his pay was relatively very low.

  26. And let’s stop the GOAT talk, Montana 4-0 in super bowls in a league where there was zero protection for the QB and defenses weren’t handcuffed.

    Can we PLEASE Stop with the revisionists history

    “Zero protection for the QB”.

    The “roughing the passer penalty” was a rule long before Montana played

    The hit from the Giants player that injured Montana is a legal hit on the QB today

    Im not a math genius but I’m pretty sure 5 is more than 4
    And Brady has been to double the SB.

  27. So, Tom Brady has been in the league a long time, has won 5 Super Bowls and is probably the GOAT, but he’s the 22nd highest paid QB in the NFL?”

    You realize he chooses to take less so he has better players and depth around him don’t you? That he’s made over 150 million in NFL money plus many more in endorsements? That he his wife averages something like 50 million a year and between them they are worth half a billion dollars or so?

    Tom would rather win that be greedy after all the money he’s made. Not everyone is so greedy that once they make a huge stack of millions they feel the need to get twice that much.

    And the people claiming he’s paid under the table are laughable. He has the very profitable TB12 clinic that is also making money hand over fist on top of the half a billion he and his wife are already worth. Tom just isn’t a walking bag of greed like you people are. I feel that you’re effectively saying if you were in his position you’d be taking under the table payments so Tom must be. You only expose yourselves as corrupt individuals by making those claims

  28. stylzinc says:
    February 25, 2018 at 12:11 am
    The patriots can’t be trusted. I think Tom Brady is getting paid under the table.

    —————

    It worked for the Broncos. They were even caught – twice.

  29. A player that is on his second contract should not be called underpaid as that second contract was negotiated compared to the the rookie contract which is largely based on draft position.

  30. LOL Jimmy Garoppolo was 5-0 in the meaningless or insignificant games he started in 2017, but Kirk Cousins was 2-3 in his last 5 games of the season, because Washington had no chance of reaching the playoffs by that time, even if they were not already mathematically eliminated until they lost to the Chargers. So, according to people who make their living analyzing sports, Kirk Cousins is a better qb and deserves a lot more money than Jimmy Garopollo!

  31. When a guy like Tom Brady takes less money, and his team wins super bowls, that puts him in position to make hundreds of millions in endorsements. It’s a risk, but it’s paying off for guys like Peyton and Tom. If you think you’re good enough to win the super bowl, take less money. If you don’t, get all the money now, and the heck with the team.

  32. Maybe tomorrow Brady has won 5 super bowls because he doesn’t take up 90% of the cap space and they can build a team around him? Who will you remember 50 years from now, the greatest to ever play or the highest paid quarterback?

  33. speicher145 says:
    February 25, 2018 at 8:49 am
    GB needs to lock ARod up ASAP so they can focus on other portions of the roster that desperately need upgrades

    //////////////////////

    Hope you can step in at the CB position, because Aaron is going to get 30+ million per year. Not a lot left over for other top positions that are desperately needed.

  34. no one has ever performed anywhere nearly as consistently on the big stage under the most pressure as brady has. he became the GOAT because he is the greatest competitor in history. if others want to grab the most nickels and settle for being another flash in the pan, that’s fine. brady wants to win every year until they carry him off. there’s other qbs with as much physical talent, never been one with his guts and fire.

  35. Super Asterick 47 MVP Joe Flacco is really really really high on this list. He’s basically taken the last four years off since penning that contract.

  36. For those saying Tom Brady is being paid under the table you do realize he makes millions of dollars outside of football right? He probably gets closer to 25 million dollars a year if you include commercials, speeches, and his football career.

  37. At some point, someone is actually going to realize that there’s a direct correlation between Tom Brady continually leaving money on the table and the Patriots making deep playoff runs for the better part of two decades. The “do your job” mentality only works because Belichick is able utilize that bit of financial flexibility afforded to him by Brady to build out a complete 53 man roster with “backups” who are also adequate players. Teams that pay that high a % of the cap to one player might be able to sustain a playoff run of a few seasons, but it doesn’t work long term. It’s not rocket science.

    PS- if Matt Patricia learned anything from Belichick and the Patriots about managing the cap, I doubt Matt Stafford is going to be getting $30m in a couple of years.

  38. Brady can accept being paid low dollars because his wife is a gazillionaire. And he has won because he plays in a non competitive division that has no rival QB. This isn’t the NFL of yesteryear, where QB’s had to face other solid QB’s, and defenses that weren’t hamstrung by rules. The NFL changed the game to be an offensive game, and since Brady has been in the league he’s had every advantage. Heck, with his poor division he should have won 10 SB’s minimum. Tell the truth about it.

  39. Not a single one of those QBs should be paid more than Rodgers. I’m not sure why QBs that good sign anything more than 3 year deals given the yearly market increases.

  40. I’m a McCarron fan and I hope Arizona signs him, but no way should it be for $19 million per year. I’d say a 3 year, $42 million dollar deal with $28 million guaranteed. $14 million for a guy I think will rank in the top half of NFL QBs…good deal for both sides.

  41. skawh says:
    February 25, 2018 at 5:12 pm
    Brady can accept being paid low dollars because his wife is a gazillionaire. And he has won because he plays in a non competitive division that has no rival QB. This isn’t the NFL of yesteryear, where QB’s had to face other solid QB’s, and defenses that weren’t hamstrung by rules. The NFL changed the game to be an offensive game, and since Brady has been in the league he’s had every advantage. Heck, with his poor division he should have won 10 SB’s minimum. Tell the truth about it.

    Actually the worst division in the AFC since Brady has been in the league is the AFC South

    But yet we NEVER hear this lame excuse as to why Manning didn’t win more.

  42. 32 48 Rate This
    stylzinc says:
    February 25, 2018 at 12:11 am
    The patriots can’t be trusted. I think Tom Brady is getting paid under the table.

    —————

    Brady guarantees he has a chance to win by keeping his salary down. Winning has made him way more money then he could have ever made on the field and the fact he has won 5 Super Bowls means he will make way more money when he’s done playing then any player that has ever played before. So he’s making good decisions.

    The Patriots are not paying him under the table.

  43. Say what you want, but Andy Dalton looks like a good bargain for the 10th rated active QB (by passer rating, according to PFR).

  44. Comments just make me realize how little fans realize about NFL contracts. It’s not guaranteed. It’s not one for one. Brady was guaranteed more yes. But if they wanted to kick him this year, none of that signing bonus etc counts. Football is physical, so you can and likely will get hurt. You can guarantee money up front and get him for 10 years, but if he’s hurt game one ur screwed. Yes there’s a risk Brady could have been hurt, but when u get a track record that consists of one year on a freak tackle now outlawed…it’s now game theory. He knows how not to get hurt, play well, and help the cap. It’s why the Patriots keep being successful.

  45. The three no name guys who held on the game winning “kickoff return” should be getting Flacco money. They’re more instrumental to a championship than Flacco, who along with Kiser, were the only quarterbacks unowned on any fantasy football last season.

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