Over the past few years, NFL teams have made a habit out of handing out new contract after new contract to quarterbacks, with in many cases the latest quarterback to sign becoming the highest-paid player in league history.
Since June 2017, Derek Carr passed Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford passed Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo passed Stafford, Kirk Cousins passed Garoppolo, Matt Ryan passed Cousins, Aaron Rodgers passed Ryan, and Russell Wilson passed Rodgers, pushing the maximum from $25 million per year to $35 million annually.
From those eight quarterbacks we move to another eight quarterbacks, each of whom have contracts lasting one or two years. There’s a growing sense that, at some point, a team faced with high salary demands from a quarterback will say, “No thanks,” trading the quarterback or letting him walk away via free agency. Here’s a look at the likelihood of that happening with any of eight quarterbacks whose contracts are coming up for renewal.
Carson Wentz, Eagles: Howie Roseman says that the team wouldn’t hesitate to do the right deal, for both organization and player. But what’s the right deal? Wentz may eventually fall somewhere in the $10 million divide between Carr’s $25 million per year and Wilson’s $35 million. For now, Wentz’s value is closer to the range of $25 million to $30 million. A season that doesn’t end with a December injury and does end with a Super Bowl appearance or something closer to it puts him in the range of $30 million to $35 million. (A Super Bowl win potentially would put him north of $35 million per year.) The real question is whether Wentz will accept the best offer made before Wentz embarks on a fourth NFL season that could dramatically increase his value, if he decides to roll the dice on his ability to continue to play.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys: Prescott quietly took a significant step in his development in the 2018 postseason, beating Russell Wilson in the wild-card round and then performing at a very high level against the Rams, at a time when the running game wasn’t giving Prescott the kind of support he usually has when playing well. For now, the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between $25 million and $28 million, especially since Prescott isn’t the quarterback of [insert name of not very relevant team] but is the quarterback of America’s Team. He already makes seven figures in endorsements, and that will continue as long as he quarterbacks a franchise that drives TV ratings like no other. Throw in the pathway to the broadcast booth that awaits his retirement, and Prescott would be wise to take whatever the Cowboys will offer, as long as he’s at least in the range of Garoppolo.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: G.M. Jason Licht has made it clear that they’re taking a wait-and-see approach with Winston, whose contract expires after 2019. Some would say there’s no reason to wait, because they’ve arguably seen enough from the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Coach Bruce Arians told ESPN during the draft that Winston needs to stop “throwing the ball to the other team.” That’s easier said than done, especially when Winston has a bad habit of trying to do more than his physical abilities will allow.
Marcus Mariota, Titans: Owner Amy Adams Strunk has expressed hope that Mariota will become the team’s franchise quarterback. This implies, obviously, that he isn’t there yet. After four years as a starter, there’s a chance he may never be. Unless he’s willing to accept something closer to $20 million than $25 million, Mariota may not get another deal in Tennessee — especially if Tennessee believes it has a viable alternative elsewhere.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: Rivers seems to be at peace with the possibility of having his contract expire, wherever that may lead. He said similar things four years ago, however, before signing a new deal with the Chargers. Then, the team moved to get a deal done. In 2019, will they apply a Band-Aid that keeps Rivers around while they plan for the future, or would they risk the bird in the hand as they search for a different, younger bird that may or may not be in the bush?
Andy Dalton, Bengals: The least relevant team in the NFL has the league’s least relevant starting quarterback. Which means they’re a match made in purgatory. The Bengals seem to be ambivalent about keeping Dalton, and he’s a prime candidate to become a free agent after the season, to look around for viable offers elsewhere, and ultimately to take the best offer the Bengals put on the table, like his former head coach did on multiple occasions when becoming a free agent.
Cam Newton, Panthers: With two years left on a deal that averages less than $21 million per year, Newton is woefully underpaid. So when does that get rectified? For starters, Newton needs to show that his shoulder has healed. Then, he needs to stay healthy, adjusting his playing style to avoid the kind of contact that results, inevitably, in more injury. He also needs to play at a high level, like he did when becoming the league MVP in 2015. If he can get back to that form, he should get $30 million per year, like another former league MVP who made it to a Super Bowl from the same division in which Newton plays. If Newton isn’t healthy or effective, new owner David Tepper will have a big decision to make.
Jared Goff, Rams: The Rams gave up a lot to get him three years ago, but that doesn’t mean they should pay a lot to keep him. Coach Sean McVay inherited Goff, and through two years McVay has surely seen enough to know whether he wants Goff to stick around. Balanced against that is the reality that McVay may be thinking about how another quarterback may be able to better run the offense, especially in light of a season-defining failure to: (1) anticipate that Brandin Cooks would be wide-ass open in a key moment of the third quarter of the Super Bowl; (2) spot Cooks once he was wide-ass open; and (3) deliver an accurate pass that would get the ball to Cooks before he was no longer wide-ass open. That one play could eat at McVay enough during the offseason to persuade him to consider slamming an otherwise wide-open door into Goff’s ass.
The unofficial over-under for quarterbacks who won’t get new contracts is 2.5. So what do you take, over or under? Chime in below.