It seems that every time another quarterback gets a new contract or some sort of extension, the idea is to beat out the last person’s deal and have something included in the contract that screams “first time ever” or “biggest in NFL history.” These deals will only continue too as long as the salary cap goes up. But regarding the salary cap, it seems like some teams are getting away with minimal cap hits for their all-star quarterbacks. How are they doing this? I’ll analyze every team’s highest paid quarterback and measure their cap hit against the actual amount of money they’ll be making. But first let’s discuss the basics.
The first thing that players want is guaranteed money. No matter what happens to them, they are going to get this money in some form because it’s guaranteed in their contract. While this certainly makes the player happy, it can also make him content with his situation and not try to get better. This happens all the time where a player gets a new contract or extension and then plays worse than he was before, essentially not living up to the money he was given. Take a look at Ryan Fitzpatrick, the former Bills starting QB.
He took over the starting role at quarterback when Trent Edwards went down in 2009. He went 5-4 that year in a season where the Bills only won 6 games. Despite this, Edwards was still named the starter in 2010. But after the Bills lost the first two games, Fitzpatrick took over as starter again and threw for 3,000 yards, 24 TDs, and 14 INTs, which are pretty respectable numbers. He continued as the starter in 2011 and signed a huge contract during the middle of the season, worth $59 million over 6 years, including a $10 million signing bonus. Despite throwing for a career high in passing yards that season, he led the league in INTs with 24. After the 2012 season, he was released by the team completely, meaning his big contract was a failure. $24 million of that contract was guaranteed. He didn’t even have to play and he would make that money. Does that mean he definitely became content and tried less? No, not at all. But it makes you wonder…
Going over to the GM’s side of the deal, he’s mainly interested in making sure the new contract doesn’t kill the cap or break the bank. Some players could be making double digit millions in actual money, but only have a fraction of that count against the cap because of various rules and details in the contract. With contracts becoming so lucrative and descriptive nowadays, it’s getting harder for the public to see how much money players are actually making and how much it’s actually costing the franchise. Various loopholes in contract lingo allow GMs to save money by doing a number of things in order to keep cap room for other players. It’s all about the numbers for the GMs, and it’s all about the money for the players.
When you mix the players’ agents into these deals, it gets even more complicated. They’re trying to represent their clients and get them the best deals possible, while also making a ton of money themselves. And with agents having multiple clients in the same sport, players are smart enough to realize that if an agent can get one guy a huge deal, the other player “deserves” an equally big contract, or maybe even something more. And when players continuously break the records for biggest contracts, it makes the players with huge egos believe that they deserve something better, something bigger, and therefore seek a new huge contract. With players constantly comparing themselves to others and ranking each other, it creates a never ending cycle of new ridiculous contracts that make the players millionaires in a very short period of time.
And then come the details in how the money is spread out over the contract. It’s no secret that most NFL players only last a few seasons in the league, and they never know when they’re going to be out of a job and back on the streets. Some of these players don’t have in mind what they want to do after football and are basically in limbo after they’re forced to retire because of injury or have no offers from teams in the league when they become free agents. So the players are looking for a front loaded contract, where the majority of the money comes in the beginning of the deal. The problem with this is twofold.
First, the GMs don’t like these deals as much because it hurts them early and puts them in a tighter situation financially for the rest of the team. They’d rather have it spread out and put the contract in a back loaded or ascending format where the player will make more money as the contract progresses. This allows the player to have to “earn” the bigger salaries instead of just getting it right off the bat. Second, the “content” factor comes back into play. For example, if a player signs a five year contract that’s front loaded, he’ll make most of the money in the first couple of years. Once the player gets in the fourth and fifth years, he might have the tendency to slack off a little and see a decrease in production because he’s already got his big money. Or, which is arguably just as bad or worse, he will refuse to play for the lesser terms of the contract and demand a new contract where he’s getting a raise. If the GM gives in, this defeats the purpose of the contract that was originally signed because it allows the player to collect his big salary early and then just restructure when the pay isn’t as high. Both players and GMs can play the restructure card, and it isn’t always pretty.
Players who want a restructured contact are basically always looking for a raise because, like I mentioned before, they enjoyed the big money in the first part of their contract, but naturally dislike the second half of it because they’re getting less money. This can put GMs in a bad situation, and depending on the team’s standing in the league and financial status, it could hurt their ability to keep the player. This situation puts the player in control and lets him pull the strings. The flip side is also possible. When a contract is in the ascending or back loaded format, the GM is likely to ask the player to renegotiate his deal so that he can stay on the team. Winning teams are more likely to do this because the players will want to have more loyalty to a team that has a shot at a championship (and believe me, every player ultimately wants to win a championship at some point). So the GM can pull the strings here and basically force the player to take a pay cut and restructure his contract so that the team has more money elsewhere to sign other players to better the franchise. Some players are actually willing to do this because they want to win, but others grumble about it if they’re more focused on the money.
Now, a quarterback can be judged in many ways, and for him to be considered elite, he has to have it all. Quarterbacks need to have the stats to back it up such as a lot of passing yards and TDs while minimizing the turnovers. If they have a ton of great stats and they can’t lead their team to wins though, then the QB can’t be elite. If he can lead his team to wins but not have great stats, then the QB can’t be elite. While I will say many times that stats don’t make a QB, it’s stats that show the main way that a QB can help a team. If the QB isn’t the one helping the team through passing yards or TDs, then it’s someone else that’s doing the work. In addition, a QB must be successful in the playoffs. A Super Bowl ring is usually necessary for a QB to be put in the top tier, but not always depending on the circumstances. It’s one thing if a QB can take his team to the playoffs, but it’s another thing if he can win once he gets there. Stats, regular season wins, postseason wins, and Super Bowl rings are the four main components of an elite QB. If a QB has them all, then he’s elite. If he’s missing one or more of these attributes, then odds are he’s not elite.
So now that I’ve explained the behind the scenes portion of football contracts, let’s look at the position that naturally receives the most money: quarterbacks. It has always been this way and should be, because they should be the leaders of their respective teams. If a QB isn’t a leader, then he shouldn’t be the starter. He has to earn the respect, but does he always earn the money? Some “high-profile” quarterbacks have recently signed humongous deals that will give them tons of money per year even though they’ve ultimately failed in the media’s eyes. It depends on what a team’s goals are. Are they looking to have a winning record? Are they looking to win the division and make the playoffs? Are they looking to win the Super Bowl? Quarterbacks are mainly judged on their ability to win Super Bowls, but we’ve seen multiple examples of QBs that have made it deep in the playoffs or to the Super Bowl who aren’t good QBs (take a look at Mark Sanchez and Rex Grossman for example). Winning games in the regular season is a great start, but when they’re not winning in the postseason, it makes the team management wonder if they are the right guy for the job. But, more often than not, they keep the guy they have and overpay him to make a statement.
Let’s look at the infamous example of this, Tony Romo. I just hinted at him a lot because of his one playoff win, which everyone talks about all the time. Here’s an example of a guy who has tons of team records and passes for tons of yards every year, so are his postseason struggles enough to hold him back from being labeled a high paid QB? The answer to that is no. 15 of the 32 QBs (going by the QB that has the largest cap hit on the team) have double digit million cap hits, and Romo is no exception. Not only will his contract count for $11.8 million against the cap, but his actual haul-in will be an astounding $26.5 million, which is 5th highest in the league. Most people will agree that he’s not a top 5 QB in the league, so why is he getting this much?
The answer may be that Owner and GM Jerry Jones has no idea what he’s doing. The real answer is that no one really knows. He may have one of the highest QB ratings in the history of the game, and he may have thrown for four 4,000+ yard seasons in his career, including a career high 4,903 yards last year, but he hasn’t gotten it done in the playoffs. He has one playoff win, which means he definitely hasn’t won a Super Bowl. He may be getting it done in the stat column, but the goal of every franchise deep down is to win championships, and Romo has not been this guy. Does that mean that his regular season stats should be overlooked and he should get a couple million a year? No, but he certainly doesn’t deserve his contract extension, which will pay him $108 million over 6 years, with $55 million of that guaranteed. Now just read those numbers again and soak it in. $55 million guaranteed for Romo? That’s just insane! How can the team afford this. Easy: $25 million of that is a signing bonus, and it’s prorated, so he gets the money up front, but the salary cap hit lasts over a bunch of years, saving the team cap space. And in that situation, it’s a win-win situation. But that still doesn’t justify his new contract, which will begin with the 2014 season. His cap hit will then basically double, but it’ll still save the team money in the long run. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Another player that fits into this category is Matt Ryan. While he’s much more of a fan favorite, he is in the exact same situation as Romo. What many people fail to realize is that over Ryan’s five years as the team’s starter, he also only has one playoff win. He may have just broken career highs for pass attempts, completions, completion %, yards, and TDs, but he still has a 1-4 record in the postseason. While he’s getting it done in the regular season, he’s not winning the most important games. And like I’ve said, quarterbacks are measured on their success in the postseason and Super Bowls more than yards and TDs. This year will be his final year of his original contract, in which he’ll earn $10 million, about what he deserves. The cap hit is actually $12 million, but that’s likely due to prorated signing bonuses that I discussed earlier. Then his new contract extension comes into play, which is a 5 year, $104 million deal. This will also put him in the $20+ million club, but again, does he deserve it? He has an amazing winning percentage in the regular season, especially at home. He’s a likable guy and the clear leader of their offense. But with $59 million guaranteed, it means he has the second most guaranteed money among players in the NFL. Is he worth that? Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Matt Schaub is one of the better QBs in the league, especially while he’s been with the Texans. He has passed for over 4,000 yards in all three seasons where he’s started all 16 games, but he tends to get injured a lot. He’s been a key part of the Texans offense and the early stages of their franchise, but he still falls into the exact same category as many other starting QBs in the league. He has one playoff win. How can a player deserve $10.75 million (Schaub’s cap hit this year) if he’s only won one playoff game in his entire career? Normally a player gets a lot of money after his team and the player has a great season, but in this case, he’s only getting the money after having a great individual season. Now the Texans just started making the playoffs and have only been in existence for 10 years, but either way, he only has one playoff win and he’s getting the big money. Final verdict: he probably doesn’t deserve his contract.
Jay Cutler probably doesn’t deserve his contract either. Do you think his cap hit should be $10.37 million? Well, in his four years as a starter for the Bears, he’s only won one playoff game (that seems to be a trend, doesn’t it?) and hasn’t finished a full season since 2009. And not even his stats are showing that he deserves to be this highly paid. He has only passed for over 3,500 yards once in his four years with the team; while I said that stats shouldn’t be looked at solely for a QB’s monetary worth, Cutler doesn’t seem to fit the bill of a $10 million quarterback no matter how you look at it. 19 TD passes in 15 games? That’s terrible, and it’s not going to get the team wins. The main reason that the team is winning at all is their defense, which is holding Cutler up. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Does anyone remember the first overall pick in the 2005 draft? His name is Alex Smith, and he’s going to be the starting QB for the Chiefs this year. This is a guy that we’ve been very patiently waiting to break out, but I’m not really sure if that’s happened yet. He was never the franchise QB in San Francisco…in fact, he only played in all 16 games two out of eight seasons he spent with the 49ers. He finally made his first playoff game in 2011, but he only won once before losing. The 49ers made the playoffs the next year, but he was beat out midseason by Colin Kaepernick and didn’t start for the team in the playoffs. So that means that Smith has…one playoff win. Hmm, just like the rest of them. But the Chiefs traded for him and will be paying him $8.5 million this season, a number that far outweighs his worth. Is he a good QB? Nobody really knows yet because he hasn’t produced the stats or the playoff wins. He’s gotten it done in the regular season and posted an amazing 19-5-1 record in the past two seasons, but is that really enough to deserve $8.5 million? He’ll be entering his ninth year in the league, meaning he’s in the second half of his career. The Chiefs seemed to have jumped the gun here and given an ultimately unproven QB a lot of money. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Matthew Stafford is another player that comes to mind, except he’s even lower than these guys in the level that they deserve their contracts. First of all, the team has only had one winning season in the four years that he’s been on the team. Yes, he doesn’t deserve all of the blame considering he was out for a bunch of games during that time, but that just brings up another point. He missed 19 out of 64 possible games over his career and has had multiple shoulder issues. Can the Lions really trust him in the future? He has managed to play every game in the last two seasons, throwing for over 10,000 yards in the two years total. He had a nice ratio in 2011 with 41 TDs and 16 INTs, but that ratio dropped off to almost 1 in 2012. He threw only 20 TDs and had 17 INTs. The team also finished with an 8-game losing streak and missed the playoffs yet again. Stafford has only taken the team to the playoffs once, and they lost, meaning he hasn’t even won a playoff game yet. His career record as a starter is 17-28, and the team doesn’t seem to be moving in the right direction. So what do they do? They give Stafford a 3 year, $53 million extension with $41.5 million guaranteed through the end of the contract. Somehow it was done so that the team saves cap space, but he’s still making a ridiculous amount of money. And this year doesn’t even include the extension yet, and he’s still making a ton. His cap hit is the second highest among QBs in the league at $17.82 million, but the actual amount that he’s making is $31.5 million. $31.5 million? That seems like quite a lot for a guy that’s never won a playoff game and has barely won games in the regular season. Final verdict: he definitely does not deserve his contract.
While Phillip Rivers looked like a stud QB a bunch of years ago, he’s already starting to drop off. He took his team to the playoffs four years in a row and also has four 4,000+ yard seasons. Not bad, right? Well, let’s look at his playoff record. He is 3-4 in the playoffs and hasn’t even reached the postseason in the past three years. In those three years, he’s perfectly average at 24-24 as a starter and has largely been a disappointment. But he’s proved that he can get it done already, right? Well, sort of. That was a long time ago, and the Chargers have been synonymous with the words “disappointment” and “collapse” in the past few years. Those aren’t words that you want associated with your team, and Rivers needs to take some of the blame since he’s the leader of the offense. Somehow, he will receive $12 million next year, which doesn’t sound like a ton, but he has one of the highest cap hits of $17.11 million. That number does not sound like something the team should be spending on a QB that is getting them no better than average. Maybe it’s time that the team looked elsewhere for a new QB because Rivers just isn’t getting it done anymore. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract anymore.
Among all of the guys discussed in this piece, no one else gets as much criticism as Mark Sanchez. He had the lowest QBR among any QB last season and is considered a huge waste of money by many people. He had an embarrassing 13 TDs and 26 turnovers in the fifteen games that he started last year. That is just completely unacceptable, and is far worse than the average quarterback in the league. But somehow, he is getting far more money than the average quarterback. Next season he’ll make $8.75 million, but his contract will count for $12.85 million against the cap. Like Vick, this is a guy that might not even be the starting QB at the beginning of the season. While the Jets may have made it to the Conference Championship in both of his first two seasons as the starter, it was definitely not because of him. In fact, if they had had a more talented QB, then they might’ve actually made the Super Bowl. And his poor play has caught up with him by now after having two pitiful seasons back-to-back, looking like one of the worst starters in the league. If the Jets want to save themselves, then they need to ditch this guy and his contract quick, or they’re going nowhere. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
And then comes someone who people often forget about: Michael Vick. This guy is barely even the starter on the Eagles, much less a quality QB anymore. He hasn’t played more than 13 games in his three seasons as the starter for the team, and he lost the only playoff game that he took them to. He’s been struggling to stay healthy and the team’s starter for the entire time that he’s been with the team, yet he still has a huge contract. How does a 6-year, $100 million contract with $40 million guaranteed sound? Sounds like he’s being overpaid, right? Well, that was the contract he signed with the team after the 2011 season. Then he went on to have his worst season of his time on the Eagles in 2012 and only played in 10 games. But, this year he’s still slated to make $7.5 million in actual money with a cap hit of $12.2 million. And remember, this is a guy that has not even secured a spot as the team’s starter. Does this sound like a good deal? No. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
This next guy may not be making an insane amount of money overall, but it’s insane for what he’s worth. His name is Sam Bradford. Sure, this guy was a standout in college, but that doesn’t mean he automatically deserves big money in the NFL. In three seasons as a starter, he has a record of 15-26-1, which is pretty bad. He had an okay season last year if you measure a QB based on passing yards, but that’s not what gets teams wins. He’s definitely never been to the playoffs, and it doesn’t look like the team is even close to that. Yet Bradford will be making $9 million next year with a cap hit of $12.595 million, much higher than he likely deserves. Sure, they want to lock him up as the team’s “franchise quarterback,” but does he really deserve that title with the way he’s played? Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Another under the radar guy is Josh Freeman. This is a guy that has been a starter for the last four seasons, but has never finished higher than third in the division. He hasn’t made the playoffs and only has one winning season with the team. The team is getting a lot better now and is looking to build around him, but does that mean he deserves $8.43 million in payment right now, with a $9.76 million cap hit? No, absolutely not. That sounds like a lot of wasted money if I were making the decision. Sure, it’s a lot lower than a lot of the starting QBs in the league, but when comparing his accomplishments to the money he’s receiving in return, it’s just not a good deal. This guy has talent, but his contract overrates him. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
So I’ve called out quite a few starting QBs who only have one playoff win, but it’s better than zero. Carson Palmer has zero, and he has more starts than all of the guys mentioned so far. In nine seasons in the NFL where he’s started a game, he has never won a playoff game, and has only started in one. That was last in 2009, meaning he hasn’t made it to the playoffs in the last three years. In fact, in those past three years, he’s been on a downturn in his career with only 61 TDs and 55 turnovers. With a ratio that close to 1, it doesn’t make sense that he would get a lot of money. Yet the Cardinals are making him their starting QB and paying him $8 million. Why does he deserve that much money? He’s had no more than an average career and has a pretty bad career record of 54-67. This is another example of a former number one overall pick who hasn’t lived up to his expectations. There’s no way he deserves to be a starting QB at this point, much less make $8 million in one season. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Speaking of unproven QBs, let’s look at Matt Flynn. This guy has started two games in five seasons in the NFL, and he’ll be receiving $6.5 million next year. What? How did he deserve that? Oh, I’m sorry, having an amazing game in one of those starts was good enough. I mean, he does have the all-time record for most passing yards and TDs in a game in Packers history. That’s good enough, right? No, it most certainly is not. One win in the NFL does not equal $6.5 million. Last year he signed a 3 year, $19.5 million deal with the Seahawks in which $10 million of that was guaranteed. That means he was guaranteed $10 million for winning one football game in his career. Wow. I’m not really sure how much dumber they could get, especially since Flynn didn’t start a game for the Seahawks last year and was beat out by a rookie. The guy may have talent, but he just hasn’t gotten a chance to show it. Therefore, he hasn’t gotten enough time to earn that kind of money. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Now comes one of the most controversial topics in the NFL when dealing with contracts. Did Joe Flacco really deserve his contract? I mean, this is a guy who’s won a playoff game in all five of his seasons with the team, and he just won a Super Bowl with the Ravens last year. That sounds like a guy that deserves a big contract, right? Well…maybe not. When he signed his deal, it made him the highest paid QB in NFL history, and that’s where the ridiculousness begins. While his cap hit is only $6.8 million this year, lower than the majority of players at his position who start, he’s actually making $30 million in cash due to his signing bonus. To say that Joe Flacco led the Ravens to the Super Bowl just simply isn’t true. Is this guy a good quarterback? Yes, of course he is, but no more than good. He’s solid. He’s a good guy to have as your starter, but he’s nowhere near the caliber of “highest paid QB in NFL history.” That’s just embarrassing for the sport to know that he had that moniker when he signed the new contract.
Sure, he fits the bill for “successful QB” because he has a ring and can get it done in the playoffs, but statistically he just doesn’t help the team enough. While he doesn’t throw a lot of INTs, he doesn’t throw a lot of TDs either, meaning the points are being scored by someone else. Someone else is making it happen. Someone else is winning the games for the Ravens. While this may just be the way the Ravens run their offense, it doesn’t mean that he deserves elite QB money just because he’s the QB on a team that’s doing well. Their defense seems to always be in the top 10, many times in the top 5, and have been dominating this league for a while. Now that the team has lost about half of their starters from that side of the ball, this year will be a better indication of how good Flacco really is. He’s already lost Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin on offense, so he’ll be tight-pressed for high-quality talent. If Flacco can get it done this year and have a great year, then he’ll prove that he deserves elite QB money. But at this point, there’s no way he deserves his contract. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Another name that fits in the controversial section of this discussion is Eli Manning. If QBs are labeled solely on Super Bowl wins, then he’s a top three quarterback in the league. But if you take into account how much he helps the team during his career (including the Super Bowl wins), then he may even struggle to make the top ten. There’s no doubt that this guy has shown flashes of greatness, especially in the playoffs like Flacco did. He’s won two rings in nine years with the team and has accumulated 31,000 passing yards. He’s been the clear leader of this team’s offense. But does he really deserve to be considered elite? While it’s obvious that “you can’t win them all,” it seems like Eli prefers to either win it all or win nothing. He’s made the playoffs five times with the Giants: two times they won the Super Bowl, the other three times they lost in their first game. Also, he’s often been considered a turnover machine. He’s had 174 turnovers in 134 games with the Giants, meaning he’s guaranteed to turn it over at least once a game. Flacco has only 74 turnovers in 80 games, a much lower ratio. One a game is reasonable, but Manning’s ratio is a little out of control. In addition, he’s rather inconsistent and has had too many head-scratching plays and seasons overall. But somehow, Eli has the highest cap hit among any QB in the league this year at $20.85 million. That’s much too high for Eli’s accomplishments and where he is in his career. While he’s certainly a very good QB, he definitely shouldn’t be hurting the team’s cap by that much, especially knowing that it’s higher than any other player at his position in the league. Final verdict: he does not deserve his contract.
Now come the elite QBs that are getting a ton of money. These guys are getting ridiculous amounts of money, but they’ve deserved it over the years. The first guy is Peyton Manning. Some people questioned whether he was still worth a lot after having neck surgery, but he definitely proved that last year. He will make $25 million in cash with a $17.5 million cap hit, but honestly, he’s probably worth that. He has made the playoffs in 12 of his 14 years as a starter, and he won the Super Bowl in 2006. He’s passed for nearly 60,000 yards and has over a 2:1 TD to INT ratio. He’s an amazing leader and is considered one of the smartest QBs in the league. This is the example of a guy that deserves $20+ million a year. He has more than proven that he’s worth it, and he’s a sure-fire Hall of Famer once he retires. He most definitely deserves his contract, and it’d be a flat out lie to say otherwise.
Aaron Rodgers is not as good as Manning yet, but he’s a lot younger and has already performed excellently for the Packers. In five years as a starter, he’s made the playoffs four times. He’s averaged over 4,000 passing yards in each of those season and has a mindboggling 3.7:1 TD to INT ratio over his career. He’s won two thirds of the games that he’s started in the regular season and won the Super Bowl in 2010. He has attained the elite status so quickly that it’ll be amazing to see what he can do in the future. Now, the elite status means you should probably be getting in the $20 million range, which is why I’m hesitant to say that Rodgers deserves his contract. His cap hit is only $12 million this season, but he’s actually making $40 million, the highest by far in the league. That is a staggering number (likely due to a signing bonus) and is just too high. Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league right now, but that doesn’t mean he deserves $40 million in one season. Nonetheless, that’s what he’s making this year, and he probably deserves it more than anyone else in the league.
Among the elite quarterbacks is Drew Brees, who also has a Super Bowl ring (in 2009). He has twice as many TDs as INTs and has almost 46,000 passing yards throughout his career. He’s got the ring, he’s got the stats, and he’s got the leadership. He’s also got the playoff experience too, making the playoffs in five different seasons. He actually has the record for the most guaranteed money in his contract at $60 million. He just recently signed a huge extension, valued at 5 years, $100 million. 2013 is actually the year where he’ll make the least amount of money (only $10 million), but his cap hit is $17.4 million, the third highest in the league for QBs. He actually made $40 million in 2012 which is just insane, but that was due to a $37 million signing bonus. Regardless of how much money he makes, he’s such a huge part of the Saints offense that they would be terrible without him. That’s a big indication of how good a quarterback is…how valuable he is to his team.
If we’re talking about elite quarterbacks, we have to include Tom Brady. He’s won more Super Bowls (3) than any other active QB in the league and has made the playoffs in ten of eleven seasons as the Patriots’ starter. Another crazy stat is that he is 14-7 in the playoffs…any quarterback that has that good of a record in the postseason deserves the title of elite. He’s always had an excellent TD to INT ratio and has passed for nearly 45,000 yards. He may be making $31 million in actual cash this year, but his cap hit is only $13.8 million. Plus, he signed a three year extension recently that will save the team cap space due to a pay cut that Brady is taking. That’s the perfect example of a team player who is more focused on winning than the money. Even though his salary is very high this year, it is only going to decrease from here on out because he cares more about the team than himself.
This next one could go either way. Ben Roethlisberger is a very underrated quarterback and could easily be considered elite, but people tend to leave him out because he doesn’t pass for crazy amounts of yards every season and doesn’t have the name Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. This is a guy who’s made the playoffs 6 out of 9 seasons that he’s been in the league, and he has won 2 Super Bowls. What else could you ask for in a QB? He has a really solid TD to INT ratio (close to 2:1) and often does very well once he gets into the playoffs. The one drawback is that he gets injured more than most players in the league, but when he’s healthy, he’s been one of the most reliable QBs in the league over the years. He is a guy that a team should spend $13.595 million in cap space for because he has been known to perform well over the years.
So after analyzing all the elite QBs as well, there are still guys that haven’t been named. Some of them are just bad starting QBs that are getting lower salaries such as Kevin Kolb and Brandon Weeden. Then there are other guys who are young in their careers and are growing, but still have low salaries such as Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, and Jake Locker. And then there are starting QBs who have great deals such as Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck. But then there’s a completely different category: backup quarterbacks who are making more than the starting QB. This is likely the example of a team getting an amazing deal for their starter such as Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, whose combined salary for 2013 is just over $2 million. And in case you were wondering, both of these guys won a playoff game in their first season as a starter. In fact, Kaepernick made it to the Super Bowl last season. Pretty good for two guys that are that young.
Then there are the actual backups that are getting more than the starting QBs. Why would a team even do this? Can’t they use the excuse that if the starter is getting such little money, then why should the backup get any more? This can’t always occur because often times a guy will become the new starter after the team doesn’t necessarily expect him to. This happened for both the Seahawks and the 49ers. The Seahawks are paying Tavaris Jackson the most money among QBs for their team, but it’s only $840,000. That’s the lowest that any team is paying their highest paid QB. This is amazing considering the Seahawks made the playoffs last year too. The 49ers highest paid QB is Colt McCoy, who will receive $1.5 million this year. As long as Wilson and Kaepernick stay healthy though, then neither Jackson nor McCoy will ever play. Matt Cassell (Vikings) and Chad Henne (Jaguars) are also in this category. Christian Ponder is going to be the starter for the Vikings, so it’s strange that they’d pay Cassell $3.7 million. That just seems like a waste of money. Same with the Jaguars, who will start Blaine Gabbert at QB, while they waste $4.5 million in cap space on Henne. That just doesn’t make any sense.
After analyzing every team’s highest paid QB, it’s clear that very few of them deserve their contract. While so many of them are overpaid, there are even a couple of guys who are underpaid (although that list is only a few people). In a league that values the quarterback at so much, it does kind of make sense that teams are paying their offensive leaders so much. But the amounts that they’re receiving is becoming out of control and will only continue to increase over the years. Among the 32 QBs analyzed, their average salary is over $10.4 million, and the average cap hit is over $8.8 million. With the amount of bad QBs that are still starting for NFL teams, this number is way too high. If the average salary was more around $5 million, then it would be much more understandable. But since the salary cap just continues to increase every year to the point where it’s ridiculous, it doesn’t look like it’ll ever go down.
This only means that the QB in the NFL is going to receive even more money in the future. With it all about competition and who can get the biggest contract, there will be no shortage of mind-blowing deals. It’s a never-ending cycle of people trying to top the last guy, where players look like they care more about the money than actually playing football. Something needs to change because it’s getting out of hand. No NFL QB deserves $40 million, but if this keeps up, that could be a typical salary ten years from now.