2014: Do NFL QBs really deserve their contracts? (part one)

Every year that passes proves that the game of American football is becoming more and more of a quarterback’s game. They have always been the clear leader on the offense (and sometimes the whole team), but quarterbacks have become more and more important to a team’s success and production. Teams are recognizing that and paying their quarterbacks accordingly though. The point is, it’s getting out of control.

This is my second annual installment of the “do quarterbacks deserve their contracts” series that I hope to continue as long as I’m writing. For those that didn’t read my 2013 version, I will be looking at the cap hits of the QBs in the NFL and determining whether or not they deserve their contracts. I would like to give a huge thanks to overthecap.com for providing all of the salary information for this series of posts. I couldn’t have done it without their website.

Since it’s hard to determine ahead of time all 32 starters in the NFL, the QB that I’ll be analyzing per team is the team’s highest paid QB in terms of cap hit. An example from last year was the 49ers. Even though it was clear that Colin Kaepernick was going to be the starter quarterback for the 49ers, Colt McCoy was actually the highest paid QB on the team with a cap hit of $1.5 million. I used McCoy as my example of the QB when talking about San Francisco because he would have the most effect on the team’s salary cap. In some situations though, I will mention both the highest paid QB and the starter if it’s important.

Many big name QBs signed new contracts prior to the 2013 season, making it more of a pressing issue that QBs were being overpaid, but a number of guys also received big deals after this past season in preparation for the 2014 season. In my 2013 edition, I explained all the various reasons why QBs are getting these insane deals and the details of how the teams make them work. You can look at the entire 2013 post here for reference.

I will do a brief recap here though. Basically, players know that they can be hurt at any time and be out of the NFL for their whole career, meaning they’re all trying to get as much money as possible before they’re forced to retire. I don’t blame them at all. If I were in their situation, I’d want the same thing. It’s not being greedy, it’s being practical. Plus, if big contracts for QBs is the norm and teams are willing to shell out triple digit million dollar contracts to their “star” QB, then why not take it?

Teams know how to distribute the money so that the contract works for them though. They give players massive signing bonuses that the players receive up front, which are then prorated through their cap hit to help ease the effect of the contract on the books. This is a very smart maneuver and there’s nothing illegal about it. Teams also have been known to restructure contracts of their QBs (already, even after a couple years into their new huge deal) in order to save them cap space. This is also completely legal, although I think it’s unfair that it’s this easy to get away with things like that. So it’s unwise to completely freak out when looking at the yearly breakdown of a QB’s deal before taking a moment to realize that he probably won’t play out that full contract just the way it is.

One thing that people also need to take into account is that sometimes a QB gets a huge deal because the team has no other options. Not in the idea that they’re forced to give one specific player a huge contract, but meaning that they don’t have another QB that deserves to start, and they want to formally commit to the guy they have as the starter. This makes sense in a way, but sometimes the amount of money these guys get is outrageous. Pressure from the player and other players’ contracts around the league also have a big effect on what the next guy will make though, so sometimes the GM really does appear to have no choice if he wants to keep the player.

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