The Jared Goff, Carson Wentz contracts become a cautionary tale

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks
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In 2015, the Buccaneers and Titans made quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota the first and second overall picks, respectively, in the NFL draft. Both finished their four-year rookie deals, stayed for a fifth season under the team-held options, and exited as free agents.

In 2016, the Rams and Eagles made quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz the first and second overall picks, respectively, in the NFL draft. Both got second contracts at market value after their third NFL seasons. Both will be traded after their fifth NFL seasons.

Goff’s performance (especially in Super Bowl LIII) prompted many to suggest that the Rams should wait. If they had, they wouldn’t have had to throw a first-round pick into the one-and-a-three package for Matthew Stafford to get the Lions to take on Goff’s deal.

Wentz’s problems were less about his play and more about his injury history. After the 2018 season, many suggested that the Eagles should keep quarterback Nick Foles, the Super Bowl LII MVP. The Eagles let Foles go, and then signed Wentz to a massive contract.

The deterioration of Goff and Wentz after getting their second contracts should prompt other teams with first-round quarterbacks on rookie deals to reassess their plans for offering second contracts. Currently, 2018 first-rounders Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson seem poised to extend their stays with the Browns, Bills, and Ravens, respectively. Any of those three teams, if they do long-term deals now, could find themselves regretting it within two years.

The importance of prudence is balanced by the significance of urgency. The sooner a young quarterback gets his second contract, the cheaper it will be to re-sign him. Even if the quarterback market evolves, as it should, away from the next-guy-becomes-the-highest-paid model and toward a tiered system, quarterback dollars keep rising, not falling.

So if Mayfield, Allen, and/or Jackson don’t get second contracts this year and keep playing well, it will become more expensive to sign them in 2022 or 2023. (Indeed, the Cowboys bungled their relationship with quarterback Dak Prescott by not signing him to an extension the moment as he became eligible for a second deal.)

Each team has to make the decision regarding whether to extend now or later. And no one knows their quarterbacks better than their current teams. The Rams and Eagles have learned the hard way that a quarterback who performs well through three seasons isn’t guaranteed to continue to do so. With the benefit of 2019 and 2020, both teams surely wish they’d done what the Buccaneers and Titans did — let the five years play out, and then let the quarterbacks walk away as free agents.

58 responses to “The Jared Goff, Carson Wentz contracts become a cautionary tale

  1. Wow, isn’t 20/20 hindsight great?!

    Looking back at the original contract signing of Wentz in 2019, you specifically said, “In the end, it can be characterized as a win-win deal”.

  2. You can add Deshaun Watson to the list. If your highly compensated QB wants out, you’re stuck with his contract regardless of how well he plays.

  3. Most GMs are not smart. Sometimes they get lucky, and other times, they get exposed. Why would you extend a rookie contract before the point at which you have to pay or release?

  4. I fully agree that it’s absurd that every young QB who has been half-decent has been getting ridiculous money. But as for the suggestion in the final paragraph, that maybe it’s best to let your young first-round QB play out his five years and then let him leave so that you can draft a cheap young replacement … man, that’s incredibly risky. Take the Browns for example. Prior to drafting Mayfield, they’d spent close to 20 years searching for a decent QB, with zero success. Now that they’ve FINALLY got a decent young QB, are they going to let him walk after five years and bank on the draft to produce a suitable replacement? Uh, no. If they do that, they might go back to the bottom of the standings for another 20 years. Like it or not, when you finally obtain a good young QB, you pay what you need to pay in order to keep him. Because Lord knows how long it might take to find another good one.

  5. dont forget 2017 qbs’ cautionary tales:
    trubisky: dont take a qb from north carolina this high ever. its a basketball school
    mahomes: n/a
    watson: dont sign your qb to a massive deal without him being able to pick your gm and coach

  6. Until the league and the NFLPA agree on putting limits on percentage of the cap, players salaries can be by position, this will keep on happening. And there is no way that the league and NFLPA will ever agree on that…

  7. The one sure way for the Cowboys to “bungle” the Dak Prescott situation is if they don’t simply get rid of him.

  8. The Dak and Cousins deals were cautionary for different reasons. So is the Watson deal. The only contracts safe for the team were Tom Brady and Andy Dalton. The problem is that those deals stink for the player. Mike you usually advocate for the player first. Sounds like you are arguing against yourself here.

  9. Teams are paying any starter franchise money and that is proving to be a big mistake. I have been saying for years that it is a lot easier to win when you are drafting high and paying your QB on a rookie deal. After you win, draft later and your QB can’t carry a bunch of average players the QB gets frustrated and losing starts to happen.

    There only about 5 or 6 QBs worth their pay. The guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers you pay. Many of the others won’t keep you competitive after you dump your full cap into their paycheck.

  10. The bigger the supposed star, the more a team tries for some economy with a longer contract. Yet the better their performance the sooner they want more, and if worse you’re soon saddled. There’s no economy in a longer contract, just a bunch of risks and fewer options, which seem to more than offset keeping a young QB’s ego happy, or an ageing one’s for that matter.

  11. The Jared Goff situation is much different. He was drafted #1 overall and in his third season, helped take his team to the Super Bowl. That’s what’s asked of #1 picks and you can argue that he wasn’t that good or he got lucky, but Goff accomplished it nonetheless. The Rams felt obligated to sign him because he held up his end of the bargain and nobody could blame them at the time. The Wentz deal was dumb all around. He had shown nothing in playoffs due to injury and got resigned due to Philly’s low (sports) self esteem. Out of Mayfield, Jackson and Allen, only Josh Allen deserves a new deal. He’s exceeded expectations and has gotten better every year he’s played in the NFL. Mayfield’s had only one decent year and Jackson is one lower body injury away from being a backup QB.

  12. Goff and Wentz at their heights had much more success than did Jameis and Mariota.

  13. I 100% disagree that it would be more expensive to re-sign a QB if they wait. I’m pretty sure the Rams and Eagles could have kept their QBs for much much less if they had waited to let the market determine their true value.

    With the plethora of available veteran free agent QBs (Cam, Dalton, Fitzpatrick, etc.) that can be had at a bargain, the supply will soon exceed the demand.

    The QB market is a bubble and it’s about to burst

  14. Jerry should just tell Dak, hey look at Romo and Aikman’s post NFL careers. Do you want a post football career like them? If so, then sign the contract. Otherwise, here is a non-exclusive franchise tag.

  15. Actually, the true cautionary tale is that the Rams and Eagles determined that Goff and Wentz were “proven” franchise QBs, overlooking that both had thrived behind awesome Offensive Lines and had yet to be tested in the face of a consistent pass rush. Actually, that’s only entirely true of Wentz – Goff’s veteran OL wore down late in his third year, coinciding with Goff’s struggles numerically and on tape. So the Rams actually had evidence to be cautious, and ignored it. We saw the same thing to a lesser extent with Lamar Jackson, who enjoyed a monster OL in his MVP season and, unsurprisingly, was not as effective when his line took a step back. Mayfield’s success so far has also only come when his line has been very strong. Allen, on the other hand, has not depending on his OL and looks like a safe investment, similar to how Prescott has faced breakdowns multiple times with his line and kept his head above water (by the way, it’s a myth that QBs get more expensive if you “wait” to sign them…QB pay rises with the cap, but the percent of the cap a QB gets holds essentially steady…so, relatively speaking, it’s the same money).

  16. Dallas should not sign Dak unless it’s a very reasonable deal. Place the non-exclusive tag and call it a day. I would let him walk and get the comp. picks, but I’m, obviously, not the owner.

  17. Winston, Mariota, Goff, & Wentz had brief ascensions and then either stagnated or regressed. It appears the gamble is knowing if your young star QB is going to continue to grow or fall back to the pack.
    So far Mayfield & Allen look to be on the rise. Jackson’s 2020 season showed some worrisome signs.

  18. Some of the urgency is because the rules changes and the changes in the ways rules are enforced have made the QB position more crucial to the entire team success. Money has shifted from RB to QB.

    I like the old style better, but things change.

  19. Will disagree with “market value” contracts as both set records. “Record breaking” contracts are the cautionary ones. If “market value” for who they are, probably would still be with teams.

  20. Wasn’t it the 49’ers and the completely crazy contract that they handed Garoppolo that started this big mess?

  21. “Indeed, the Cowboys bungled their relationship with quarterback Dak Prescott by not signing him to an extension the moment as he became eligible for a second deal.”

    But they did offer him an extension at that time, a very rich 5-year deal, which has stayed on the table ever since. Prescott has stonewalled for two offseasons over wanting 4 years instead.

    So now the price per year has maybe crept up a few mil, tops, and any deal he signs will end up keeping him on the team longer than the original contract length he wanted.

    Sounds to me like Prescott is the one who bungled it, and the team comes out ahead!

  22. Each one of these QB situations is different so there is no “playbook” for making these decisions. Basically it’s a 50/50 crapshoot taking a QB at the top of the draft and it’s pretty similar when you’re making the decision on a second contract. The problem is that the stakes are so huge – if you make the wrong decision you end up in a Goff or Wentz situation. That’s why you need a great GM/talent evaluator more than anything else. That’s why it’s all about the owner – if they create the right structure you have a better chance of making these decisions correctly. If not you end up in a nightmare like the Eagles.

  23. And Watson’s is even worse. When you are getting paid more than the GOAT or Brees, that’s a problem.

  24. Big difference is that teams need to stop thinking about where guys were drafted, when considering long time commitment. Too often teams fall to the notion that they have to pay their top picks . Everyone knew that Goff needed instructions spoon fed to him and is useless to make any adjustments, Wentz showed flashes but has incredibly bad intangibles and is a health risk. Both teams decided to part with any discretion and paid the two simply because of the draft capital that was used to get them.

  25. Like most cautionary tales, this one will be taken by most GMs as applying to the other GMs but not himself, because he’s smarter than they are. . . until he isn’t.

  26. Not a Dallas fan but they didn’t bungle anything with Dak. It could actually be one of Jerry’s finer moments, he didnt bid against himself. What team is giving Dak what he wants especially now coming off injury.

  27. Rams screwed up giving Gurley big money. Losing him was the real problem not Goff. No first rounders for 5 years hasn’t helped either.

  28. Until the NFL/NFLPA caps QB contracts as a percentage of the overall cap, good and great qbs will bankrupt their teams and they will no longer win as much. The Seahawks are a shining example of this!

  29. So, signing a QB to an extension early could be bad or could be good? It just depends on how it turns out later?

    Thanks for the advice (?)

  30. I think maybe instead of the 5th year option, perhaps a rfa year like the nba does would be a better idea. That way the market could set value as opposed to guessing. Instead of signing wentz early the eagles let him go into rfa and see what he can get on the open market. Then they can match or let him go for compensatory pick. Seems much more fair to both sides. Also end the franchise tag or limit it to once in a players career. Thats not fair at all.

  31. That actually holds true for most market setting contracts…

    Gurley and Zeke Elliot are also cautionary tales.

  32. Lamar Jackson is going to get killed. His style is going to get him injured, I’d be hesitant to sign him to a long term contract.

  33. Are the chiefs listening? $500 million over ten years sounds like a bigger cautionary tale than any of the other QB’s mentioned.

  34. The signing of Wentz, will pay dividends if they get a decent OL like Luck wanted and needed

  35. ‘Even if the quarterback market evolves, ***as it should***, away from the next-guy-becomes-the-highest-paid model and toward a tiered system, quarterback dollars keep rising, not falling.’

    ‘As it should’? Why do you say that? What’s wrong with the former model over the latter one?

  36. Could think of the early deals as insurance against having to pay bigger money. The GM likely assumed that the quarterbacks were being locked in long term at today’s rate. They ended up paying for an event (superstar qb) that did not happen

  37. A bit odd to hear about these “cautionary tales” from somebody who is all-in even post-injury on Dak getting a huge deal and who also has advocated for QBs demanding a percentage of the salary cap which would be an even bigger monetary disaster if/when they didn’t play exceptionally well.

  38. Is the cautionary tale here, about front offices and GMs, skill assessment. QBs are the thing in question, but not the question. If you have a front office that knows how to play it’s cards, doesn’t act emotionally, and has a plan that extends beyond this week. Is this really about do you have a TOP GM and front office, or not?

  39. Your contradictions are usually spread out over multiple posts but you succeeded in just one here.
    How can Goff and Wentz be cautionary tales for the big second contracts, yet Dallas bungled it by not giving Dak one?

  40. In the Goff/Wentz situations the teams gave up a lot of draft capital to get those guys, which hurt the team in the long run. It also made it more imperative to keep the guys around. In the Winston/Mariota situations the teams were only out the picks, which made it a lot easier to walk away. Sometimes giving up the farm for a guy leads to bad decisions when it comes to extensions (see also, Laremy Tunsil).

  41. Most young quarterbacks need a few things to succeed. They need good coaches. They also need the same coaches, especially the same offensive coordinators for at least a few years. I don’t know how many quarterback were ruined by changing their offensive coordinator every year.

    Quarterbacks need to progress in a single system. THe most successful teams have the most consistent coaching staffs.

    Alex Smith went through his first 5 years with 5 different offensive coordinators. THe Niners almost guaranteed that he would fail. Luckily, he went to KC and was able to salvage some of his career.

  42. radar8 says:
    February 19, 2021 at 6:54 pm
    Most young quarterbacks need a few things to succeed. They need good coaches. They also need the same coaches, especially the same offensive coordinators for at least a few years. I don’t know how many quarterback were ruined by changing their offensive coordinator every year.

    Quarterbacks need to progress in a single system. THe most successful teams have the most consistent coaching staffs.

    Alex Smith went through his first 5 years with 5 different offensive coordinators. THe Niners almost guaranteed that he would fail. Luckily, he went to KC and was able to salvage some of his career.


    While most of what you say sounds right, it’s actually not. Great QBs typically are great and successful right away, and keep their coaches employed. Sometimes QBs stink initially, get a good coach, and play better. In fact Jared Goff is a prime example of this. He had Jeff Fisher and was terrible. Then he got McVay and had a Pro Bowl year. Coaching stability is overrated. Wentz had Pedersen his whole career and regressed when the team around him got worse. There’s no tried and true formula to getting a QB to perform. Either he can do it or he can’t.

  43. It’s kind of odd to be talking about how draft picks are a gamble, but trading them for players with established skills is wrong. I’ll take Jalen Ramsey over anyone in this year’s draft. Stafford has a cannon of an arm and can take the Rams to the Super Bowl.

    I’m not a fan of Wentz, but I hope things go well for him. Goff is a known commodity to people in Detroit and hopefully they can make that work. I view Goff as a Jim Hart style QB. Death by 1000 cuts. Short and medium passes with high completion rates. But that won’t take you far in the playoffs.

  44. Dak reminds me so much of McNabb. Big guy, can run, but also very good in the pocket vs. Lesser competition. Prior to the 2020 playoffs I would have said the same thing about Mayfield. But Mayfield wins vs good teams. Dak piles stats vs. The scrap heap. Mayfield with that running game, pass-rush and a couple good DBs almost beat KC.

  45. The Saints usually wait until the last second to sign big money contracts. Not all the time, but usually.

  46. Finally a great and respective article!!

    But what this says to me is that Derek Carr’s performance amd contract situation is one of the best in the league, a year in year out 4,000 yard high completion QB on a very serviceable contract that won’t hold the team back from getting better.

    How many pay cuts did we hear about with TB12 over the years? Keeping the team viable is not the Dak/Watson way. Selfishness might sell tickets, but it won’t win championships.

  47. Wentz=MVP Season and team won SB without him. Goff got team to SB. If both of their 2nd contracts were mistakes, then how is it also a mistake for just offering Dak a reasonable contract for not getting to the NFC championship and not lifting average teams into the playoffs? If Cowboys had already re-signed Dak for Wentz/Goff money, article would be Rams, Eagles, Cowboys all cautionary tales.

  48. I forget which one said it (either Tarkington or Meredith) after watching a Jets QB get chased around on MNF but it is a quote every GM should take to heart heart “No quarterback in this league can pass from the seat of his pants.” And the other when negotiating (credited to Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher) is “Son Ive lost with you, I can lose without you.”

    Dumping 15-20% of your salary cap into ONE player when you have to pay 53 guys is just stupid UNLESS he has handed you a Superbowl Trophy. But then notice that the guy who has appeared in and won the most SBs never maximized his dollars knowing that he couldn’t win without good players around him.

    The problem is that owners (thru their GMs) get enamored with pretty toys (QBs, WRs, RBs) and forget it takes a TEAM to win consistently in the NFL.

    Never resign a young QB before he hits the market unless he has won you the SB (ala Wilson). Let him hit the market, that determines what his price is, not what he and his agent thinks his price is, and then determine if you want to pay more than what EVERYBODY else thinks he’s worth.

    Now people will scream “But we’ll lose out GUY!” But then 2 years later they are screaming “He’s a bum! We never should have paid him!”

    Listen to the fans (or the media) and in a short while you’ll be sitting with the fans.

    Draft a young QB every year until one of them wins the Superbowl for you. That’s your guy for the next 4-5 years and then draft his replacement 2-3 years into his contract.

    If you tie up that kind of money in a QB and a couple of 8 figure salaries in the pretty toys (WR & RB) don’t be surprised when your OL gets treated like a turnstile at an amusement park or you DL gets treated like Swiss cheese mounted in a concrete block, or your DBs are the Toast Brothers.

    And you are watching the SB from your living room.

  49. Goff was so exposed in the Super Bowl. The game was too big for him. He was flustered, confused, amd he panicked. Belichick knew he couldn’t win the game for the Rams and he was right. Other teams copied the patriot model of making him identify defenses after the head set dropped off and he was pretty mediocre in the two seasons that followed. Mcvay amd Snead panicked after the Super Bowl. Rather than admitting that Goff’s limitations were visible to smarter NFL people then them, they doubled down and signed him to a stupid contract. Things better work out with Stafford(who is a huge upgrade) or Mcvay and Snead are finished with the Rams they have given big showy extensions to Goff and Gurley that were more about making statements about themselves amd how smart they were for choosing them, then they were about a long term bison for the franchise

  50. Gurley is the straw that burned the rams chances.

    Watson can’t win 5 games with a. 27th ranked defense

    Trubisky is the new Ryan leaf

    Amd Wentz keeps hospital gowns in his glove box.

    All of this nonsense is driven by the agaents- right dak?

    Need I say more.

    For 15 years only 3 QBs in the afc went to the SB.

    If you don’t have a top 5 QB. You better have a hell of a team

  51. Missing the point completely. You don’t get rid of QBs that win super bowls and win in the playoffs – period. Unless you have an all time great QB coming up behind them (Rodgers, Young) you’ll never get back to the same organizational success. Goff will be fine in Detroit. And both teams got out of the contracts fairly easily given the outsized investment.

  52. The Watson contract is equally as controversial. He chokes in every big game. He’s Sam Darnold with professional WRs. Yet somehow his epic failures never get mentioned.

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