We'll begin to look ahead at NFL players eyeing new contracts with a dive into QBs Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, & Joshua Dobbs.
Jared Goff (Lions, 29)
The former #1 overall pick back in 2016 will be entering a contract year in 2024, set to earn a non-guaranteed $26.6M (including a $5M roster bonus due March 14th). Goff and this Lions system appear to be a match made in heaven, so it seems a lock that the two sides will hammer out a multi-year guarantee extension this spring. But to what tune?
After a lackluster 2021 campaign in Detroit (91.5 rating), Goff has now put together back to back seasons that prove he’s worth the price of admission. At the time of this piece, PFF has him rated #3 among all QBs, while his 99.1 QBR currently ranks 9th. Contractually speaking, Goff’s numbers (and career arch) line up best with Kirk Cousins, who will also be in the market for a new contract in the coming months. What does this mean financially? If the top of the QB market is seeking $50M+, Cousins and Goff are most likely mathematically falling into the $40M per year range.
Jared Goff’s current contract was signed at the start of the 2019 season. His $33.5M average annual salary represented 17.8% of the league salary cap at the time. If Detroit were to sign him to a contract extension right now (not a horrible idea by the way), 17.8% of the current cap calculates to almost exactly $40M per year. Should the cap rise to $245M next March, his assumed price could rise to almost $44M per year. Let’s not overthink this and split the difference.
The Lions extend Goff at 5 new years, $210,000,000 new money, $168M practically guaranteed
Kirk Cousins (Vikings, 35)
Torn achilles & ridiculous Josh Dobbs story aside, Cousins returning to the Vikings on a last minute extension should still be the betting odds favorite by a lot. He’s a top tier regular season QB that hasn’t found the code to get it done in the postseason just yet. There are dozens of great QBs in NFL history that have the same resume attached to them. The Vikings offensive line, and a weapon due of Justin Jefferson/Jordan Addison for the next 3-4 seasons is (arguably) as good a situation as he’ll be able to find around the league this March. So how does Minnesota keep him around?
Remember, a franchise tag won’t be plausible this time, so Minnesota will need to work quickly this January/February to lock something in, or risk having to bid against teams such as Atlanta, Tampa, Green Bay, etc.. who may have immediate interest. Statistically, Cousins’ last 5 seasons have been his best. He appears to have settled into exactly the type of player he needs to be, and for the most part, the Vikings have successfully built an offense to suit him.
Cousins joined Minnesota back in 2018 on a 3 year, $84M fully guaranteed free agent contract. He then signed a 2 year, $66M fully guaranteed extension, and a 1 year, $35M fully guaranteed extension through 2023. If we pull out these average salaries and compare them to the respective league salary cap at the time, we’re talking about 15-16% allocation here. If we assume a $245M league salary cap for 2024, 16% would afford us a $39.2M average salary for Cousins, which also just happens to be his exact valuation in our system, currently speaking.
Is it enough to bring him back? Honestly, before the Achilles injury, that answer would have been a hard and fast no. But a 35-year–old suffering an injury of this magnitude has to come with some reservation. We’ll bump the price slightly to round it off nicely.
The Vikings retain Cousins at 3 new years, $120,000,000 new money, $80M fully guaranteed
Josh Dobbs (Vikings, 28)
To say that Dobbs’ 2023 has been wild is an understatement. He’ll never be one of the more physically gifted QBs in the league, but the mental aptitude to be able to accomplish what he’s already done in 10 weeks is second to none right now. Have we seen enough to ensure that Dobbs will be a starting QB in Week 1 of the 2024 season? No.
If anything, Dobbs' ability to manage a passing game, scramble when needed, and pick up an offense on the fly is reminiscent of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who brought his own kind of “relief pitcher” magic to the game for many years. The BIlls attempted to test fate on Fitzpatrick with a 6 year, $59M in-season extension back in 2011, but it backfired on them almost immediately.
So what does the future hold for a player like Dobbs financially speaking? It’s not reckless to say that a contending team may look at what he’s done this Fall as a bonafide insurance policy for their current star QB, and make him the highest paid backup in all of football. If we’re not counting Ryan Tannehill (who was just recently handed the backup role), that award currently goes to Mitchell Trubisky in Pittsburgh, & Jacoby Brissett in Washington, each of whom have secured $8M this season (49 snaps, 0 snaps respectively). That $8M against a $224.8M league salary cap represents 3.5%. If we assume $245M in 2024, a top-tier backup QB payout (base pay) should come in at around $8.5M, with plenty of incentives built in based on playing time, wins, playoffs, etc…to nearly double that figure when it’s all said and done.