Examining the NFL's young quarterbacks on rookie contracts
By James Simpson
Last Updated: 30/04/19 10:19am
Which quarterback will be next to sign a bumper contract? Which teams can take advantage of cheap deals for their young passers?
After this year's NFL Draft, the QB landscape has become more clear.
Three 'should-be' starters were taken in the first round, with Kyler Murray likely to step right in and play for the Arizona Cardinals, and Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins seeing clear paths from backup to No 1 in New York and Washington.
Cardinals make QB Murray No 1 pick
Arizona opted for the thrilling talents of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick in Thursday's 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville.
So now, with every team seemingly set, which ones have the chance to take advantage of their window by building a strong team around a cheap rookie contract?
Big QB contracts
Before looking at the young players, we need some context.
Last summer, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan signed a five-year, $150m contract extension, making him the first $30m a year player in NFL history, and the highest-paid QB ever.
This offseason, Aaron Rodgers topped Ryan with a $33.5m per year deal, and more recently Russell Wilson inked a four-year, $140m deal averaging £35m a season.
2019 Highest-Paid Quarterbacks
|Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions||$29.5m|
|Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings||$29.0m|
|Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts||$27.5m|
|Tom Brady, New England Patriots||$27.0m|
|Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers||$26.5m|
It is understandable that the contracts are ballooning - it is happening across every position. However, what does it mean for the rest of a team's roster?
If a massive amount is spent on one player, can the team afford to surround them with weapons? Does it lessen their chance to be strong everywhere?
The teams who have a young, cheap starter can take advantage and spend money to surround them with top talent.
Let's examine some players still on their rookie contracts...
Rookie quarterbacks (yet to sign)
- Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
- Daniel Jones, New York Giants
- Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins
- Drew Lock, Denver Broncos
It has been well documented that two-sport star Murray turned down a $5m deal with the Oakland Athletics to play baseball. Last year's No 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield signed a four-year, $32m deal and Murray's contract is likely to look similar. If he can turn around the Cardinals immediately, they will have three-four years with a top QB on low pay.
Both Jones and Haskins are pegged to start on the bench, but considering the recent and expected level of play from Eli Manning and the Colt McCoy/Case Keenum combo, could step in sooner rather than later.
Similarly, second-rounder Drew Lock - who Denver traded up for - may well be able to supplant Joe Flacco.
If these teams can get high-level play from these QBs immediately, they could look to spend big around them and exploit the cheap contract window.
- Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins - $1.28m (in 2019 - 52nd among quarterbacks)
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens - $2.15m (41st)
- Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills - $4.81m (28th)
- Sam Darnold, New York Jets - $6.87m (25th)
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns - $7.43m (24th)
Of last year's rookies, only one made the playoffs - and he will be the 41st-highest paid QB in the league this season, behind Brian Hoyer, A.J. McCarron and Drew Stanton. Lamar Jackson managed a 6-1 record as a rookie and looks to be one of the biggest contract bargains in the league.
Cleveland looked to be a much-improved team with Mayfield at the helm, but still ended with a losing record. That said, they have gone all in to surround their young star with the weapons to win now - including the massive addition of Odell Beckham Jr - and are following the blueprint perfectly.
- Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans - $3.78m (32nd)
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs - $4.48m (29th)
- Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears - $7.92m (23rd)
It was an outstanding debut season as a starter for Patrick Mahomes after he'd sat behind Alex Smith in 2017, and with 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in just his second year, there's no doubt the Chiefs will eventually hand him a whopping new deal. But how soon will that be? His four-year deal only averages $4.1m a season.
Both Watson and Trubisky led their teams to the postseason in 2018 too. Watson has proven himself with a 45-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio and two fantastic seasons, but the Bears might have a decision to make with Trubisky. He was good in 2018, but didn't put up the big numbers expected from star players (just 20th in passing yards, 14th in touchdowns and 16th in rating).
- Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys - $2.12m (42nd)
- Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles - $8.49m (22nd)
- Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams - $8.89m (21st)
A massive bargain is 2016 fourth-round pick Prescott, who was signed to a four-year deal worth just $2.7m. But he won't be for much longer, as he is in the final year of it. The question is: what comes next? Are the Cowboys willing to pay close to $30m a season? Vice president Stephen Jones has said he wants a new deal to be 'team friendly' so the two sides could go on a collision course.
The first and second overall picks in that draft - Goff and Wentz - will soon join the NFL's elite in terms of pay. Over the past two seasons, Goff has a 24-7 regular season record paired with coach Sean McVay, and Wentz had an MVP-level 2017 followed by an injury-plagued 2018.
Who do you think is in line for the next big contract? Will they be worth it?