Nowadays in the NFL, it seems that if you’re a quarterback and you have one good season, you’re suddenly entitled to a $100 million dollar contract.
Recently, groundbreaking contracts have sprung up so quickly and so abundantly, that they’re no longer groundbreaking, barely even tremors in the football landscape. Mediocre quarterbacks have somehow gained an unbelievable amount of leverage in contract negotiations to the point where teams are willing to rest the fate of their franchise and handcuff their cap-room to a single player who has yet to prove he can achieve sustained success.
If you want proof, look no further than Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. After 5 seasons that portrayed him as nothing more than an above-average game manager and one cinderella-story Superbowl run, the Ravens decided that Flacco was worth $120 million over 6 years. Huh? At no point has Flacco ever come into the “elite QB” conversation in his career, and yet an organization deemed him worthy of becoming one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at some of the big contracts some quarterbacks have received in recent years, as well as their stats from the previous year that somehow garnered these contracts:
Andy Dalton: 6 years, $115 million, 33 TD-20 INT, 4,476 total yards
Colin Kaepernick: 7 years, $126 million, 21 TD-8 INT, 3,721 total yards
Joe Flacco: 6 years, $120 million, 22 TD-10 INT, 3,839 total yards
Jay Cutler: 7 years, $126 million, 19 TD-12 INT, 2,739 total yards (only played in 11 games in 2013)
These are just a few of the big contracts handed out to quarterbacks. Andy Dalton’s yardage and touchdown totals are not a result of his superiority and talent, but rather just an inflation due to the Bengals’ pass-heavy offense; his 20 interceptions reflect this. Flacco had never thrown for over 4,000 yards in a season, Kaepernick was still in the process of proving he was a starting caliber quarterback, and Cutler had ever hardly shown flashes of brilliance. So what has happened that has given all the power to the quarterbacks when it’s time to negotiate, and why do teams seem so willing to just throw money away?
It is becoming more and more obvious that the NFL is becoming more and more pass-centered on offense. Up until 2008, only one quarterback, Dan Marino, had thrown for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. Since then, the feat has been accomplished 7 times by 4 different quarterbacks. Because teams are so worried to be without a signal caller in this revolutionized league, they are willing to overpay to keep their current quarterback.
As more quarterbacks enter a system that plays to their strengths and increases their stats without ever really increasing their efficiency, their numbers become misleading, and their contracts become undeserving. The elite quarterbacks have lived up to their elite contracts with elite play, including Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. These quarterbacks earned their contracts through sustained success over the course of several seasons, not over the course of 16 games.
Several quarterbacks have regressed horrible the season after being handed their new extensions, and you would think that this would be a lesson to teams contemplating how much they should spend on a quarterback. Instead, the problem only seems to be getting worse. Teams are shooting themselves in the financial foot with these deals, too wrapped up in the glee of having someone under center to notice the danger they’ve walked right into. What teams don’t realize is the long term impact these ridiculous contracts are creating. They aren’t just blindly throwing money at a player and praying that he’ll succeed, they’re setting the precedent for other teams to do the same.
Teams have lost perception of player value. Andy Dalton and Aaron Rodgers should not be worth the same amount of money. Not even close. And neither should another certain famous young quarterback.
According to multiple reports, the Seattle Seahawks plan to make Russell Wilson the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. The way I see it, your contract should reflect how good you are. Russell Wilson is a very good quarterback. He doesn’t make many mistakes, and he knows how to lead a team. But he is far from an elite quarterback. Russell Wilson’s success is derived from a great offensive line, a powerful running game led by Marshawn Lynch and a defense spearheaded by three pro-bowl defensive backs in Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas III, and Richard Sherman. Peyton Manning broke the NFL record for passing yards and passing touchdowns with a Broncos defense that had more holes than Swiss cheese and a journeyman as a feature-running back. Imagine his numbers if his offense could have been on the field longer with an elite defense.
Many people will agree that Wilson is not a better quarterback than Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, or even Ben Roethlisberger. Yet the fear of losing your quarterback to free-agency beats out any logic the Seahawks have when negotiating this new contract. The precedent set by fearful and desperate teams has now carried over into teams in totally different scenarios. If not for the utter destruction of quarterback value perception, the Seahawks might have been in the position to be able to keep its core together. Instead, they were forced to pick who gets extended and who gets cut. We’ve seen what happens when a non-elite quarterback gets an elite extension before, we can only wait and see if it happens to Wilson.
This is a trend that doesn’t seem to be heading in the right direction, nor does it seem like it’s slowing down any time soon either. There is a solution however. For the horrible overvalue of quarterbacks to end, all it takes is a few teams to stand up to their quarterbacks when they demand insane money. As easy as it sounds, it’s a difficult bluff to call. A team must grow a spine in negotiations and remain firm. They’re called negotiations for a reason. $20 million per year should be reserved for elite quarterbacks, not starting quarterbacks. Learn the difference.
Make the quarterbacks learn that their selfish pursuit of more money will result in a failure to get a contract at all. And if you believe that your non elite quarterback is worth $100 million before negotiations even begin, take a step back and reevaluate the situation before you make the problem worse. With other young quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Cam Newton due for extensions in the near future, and rookies Bake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Teddy Bridgewater due in a few years, it’s interesting to see how their respective teams will handle their contracts.
The quarterback market has been destroyed by fear of losing an essential cog in today’s NFL system. And so, a team is faced with a fork in the road. One path, the easier one, leads them to wasting a huge chunk of their cap space on a stopgap quarterback. The other, the jagged one, leads them to letting their quarterback walk and making him someone else’s problem, but also leaving them with no one to fill their new void. Or, they can forge their own path, one that gives a quarterback an appropriate amount of money, allowing the franchise to allocate that money elsewhere for other needs while supplying the quarterback with enough money to satisfy their needs.
You know, when it’s worded that way, it’s surprising that more teams haven’t tried that.
Contract details courtesy of www.spotrac.com
Stats courtesy of www.espn.go.com