As the 2022 NFL season kicks off, the compelling and captivating stories surround the various elite quarterbacks in the game.
With the quarterback position being so vital in the NFL, big paydays have become the norm. In some cases, that position can consume as much as 35 to 40 percent of a team’s salary cap. That’s why it’s imperative for teams to invest heavily in their roster and try to win while that position is still on its rookie deal.
This shrewd maneuvering is something the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes and the Seattle Seahawks did with Russell Wilson in 2012. Both were young quarterbacks developing into stars but had enough guts, talent and surrounding pieces to navigate their teams to Super Bowls, well before they were slated to receive the big payday.
Quarterback Musical Chairs, Mad Money Marked NFL Offseason
The 2022 offseason saw some massive lucrative long-term contracts being handed out around the league. None bigger than the Deshaun Watson five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal which he signed with the Cleveland Browns. That deal totally disrupted the market and led to other huge deals being given out.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers cashed in with a new three-year, $150 million extension.
The Cardinals signed diminutive dynamo Kyler Murray to a five-year, $230 million deal, with a reported $160 million guaranteed. Murray’s deal was then followed by Russell Wilson’s new five-year, $245 million deal that featured $165 million in guaranteed money.
In 2021, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott agreed to a four-year, $160 million deal with $95M guaranteed that reset the market and inspired some belly-aching from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Those deals surpassed the deal signed by the aforementioned Mahomes, who in 2020, signed an extension potentially worth $503 million over 10 years, but in actuality it’s a seven-year, $150 million deal, which is peanuts compared to what inferior quarterbacks are commanding of late.
But unlike the others, Mahomes seems OK with taking less to keep his team intact.
In August, Mahomes told “Football Morning In America” that he values winning and legacy over money.
“For me, if you watch some of the great quarterbacks, man, it’s not always about getting the most money. It’s about going out there and winning and having a legacy that you can kind of live with forever. For me, that’s what I want to have at the end of the day.”
“Obviously, I want to make money and be able to buy everything I want and that different type of stuff. But that’s not the reason I started playing football. The reason I started playing football was to win Super Bowls, to enjoy these relationships that I’m building on this field with all my friends that are my teammates. I think, at the end of the day, if I do that, I’ll be a happy guy at the end.”
Sometimes less can equal better results on the field. Mahomes is following the Tom Brady approach of taking less to keep a championship caliber team together. It’s worked for Brady, who has seven Super Bowl wins. These two quarterbacks are also probably the two most recognizable faces in the sport and can afford to take less, because of their enormous off-the-field earnings.
The Guaranteed Money Is A Real Sticking Point: One Must Take Injuries And Attrition Into Consideration
One quarterback who was due a new deal but didn’t receive one is Baltimore Ravens superstar star Lamar Jackson, the 2019 unanimous MVP. After an offseason of posturing and pandering, the two sides failed to come to an agreement by last Friday, which was Jackson’s self-imposed deadline to have a deal done.
Jackson was reportedly looking for guaranteed money in the neighborhood of what Watson received, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a number. Jackson’s playing style is a bit of a deterrent; he missed the final six games of the 2021 season due to a nagging ankle injury. Ravens brass seemed to balk at going too high with guaranteed cash for a quarterback who runs as much as some running backs.
Injury risk plays a huge role in any deal, but especially one that can take up so much of a team’s cap space. That in itself makes franchise QB deals really hard to hammer out. For instance, the aforementioned Prescott was hurt in the Cowboys’ season-opening loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Prescott broke his thumb and is now out four to eight weeks. That’s a huge development. Especially when you consider owner Jerry Jones recently said Dak’s $40 million per year deal played a big role in the team’s compromised roster decisions.
Decisions like trading stalwart wideout Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns or letting edge rusher Randy Gregory leave via free agency after refusing to match the offer he received from the Denver Broncos.
They also lost starting right tackle La’el Collins in free agency, all residual effects of the huge quarterback salary being shelled out to Dak, whose most recent injury is exactly why Jones fussed when the deal became official.
He knew he had to pay the overachieving fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, but also knew it would eat up money needed to fortify other positions.
ESPN’s “ManningCast” Changes The Broadcast Game: Retired Quarterbacks Getting Paid
Active quarterbacks aren’t the only ones getting huge bags to flex their talents. The presence of legendary former players in the broadcasting world is causing the price of business to go up in that field as well.
In 2021, ESPN, along with former NFL greats Payton and Eli Manning created an in-game show where they provide their own analysis and commentary of the action with a unique “Omaha” spin. The show also features special guests like NBA superstar and philanthropist LeBron James, Alabama head coach Nick Saban, and most recently Pro Football Hall of Famer and FS1 personality Shannon Sharpe.
It’s an entirely new perspective with two former multi-Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks breaking down the action from their viewpoints. And then you add in the guests and it’s wild at times, but also very informative. It’s another way to display how much information an NFL quarterback retains and is responsible for on a weekly basis.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as many former QBs are now in the broadcast booth. Troy Aikman, now with ESPN after many years at Fox, is a huge star in the booth. And the new star of CBS, Tony Romo, rakes in a whopping $17M per year for his color analysis and play recognition.
To replace Aikman, Fox has already reportedly agreed to a 10-year, $375 million deal with Tom Brady when he calls it a career at the end of this season. The $37.5 million per year deal would be the most lucrative in sports television history.
Any way you slice it, it pays to be a quarterback.
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