Getting More Guaranteed
Of the 14 notable multi-year QB contracts signed this offseason, 8 of them contain at least 50% fully guaranteed at signing, 11 with at least 40%. Matt Ryan’s $94.5M guaranteed at signing (63%) resets this market, while Kirk Cousins’ $84M over three years is a huge step in the right direction, and possibly motivation for a few more quarterbacks to consider hitting the free agent market in the near future. Aaron Rodgers’ negotiations are extremely important to continue, and extend, the push for more (or total) guarantees.
Getting Paid, on Average
There are 47 players in the NFL with an average salary of at least $15M. Of them 22 are quarterbacks. 16 of these QBs are north of $20M, and that number will continue to grow over the next 18 months. Matt Ryans’ $30M becomes the new bar for elite QB deals going forward.
Related: Top Average Paid QB Rankings
Getting Real About the Contracts
Until further notice, as stated here many times before, a long-term NFL contract isn’t as long, or expensive as it initially looks. This is true even for most of the big QB contracts that have been signed of late.
Jimmy Garoppolo (SF), 5 years, $137,500,000
With ample cap space in 2018, the Niners bypassed the franchise tag for Jimmy in early February by locking him into a 5 year contract that includes almost $43M in 2018 alone. In doing this, they’ve turned a 5-year contract in to what could realistically be a 1-year deal, as San Francisco can release Garoppolo in March at a $13.1M dead cap cost, clearing $6.9M in space. Every year after 2018 will be a “team option” essentially, as guaranteed salary kicks in on a rolling basis, and dead cap becomes very manageable.
A.J. McCarron (BUF), 2 years, $10,000,000
There are some who believe McCarron might never take a snap for Buffalo, whether that means an outright release prior to Week 1, or a year-long backup role to Josh Allen & possibly Nathan Peterman as well. Regardless, he’s locked into $5M, all in 2018. Should the Bills part ways after 2018 (likely), they’ll take on a $2M dead cap hit, clearing $5M of space.
Tom Brady (NE), 2 years, $30,000,000
Brady has a chance to reel in $20M in 2018 if he’s active for all 16 weeks, and hits Top 5 passing numbers as he’s done year after year. After 2018 is a different story. Brady has $15M cash to be earned in 2019 as it currently stands, but he’ll be 42, and the Patriots may look and feel a whole lot different by then. His retirement or release would leave behind $12M of dead cap clearing $15M of space for New England.
Blake Bortles (JAX), 3 years, $54,000,000
The Bortles/Jaguars marriage gets another year on life support, thanks to a late February extension (that surprised more than a few). Bortles gets $20M in 2018, & another $16M is slated for 2019, though Jacksonville has a “decent” out after the 2018 season. Should they move on from Bortles after this year, the Jags will incur a $16.5M dead cap hit, clearing $4.5M, but $6.5M of that dead cap does come with offsets, and could be reduced should he sign elsewhere.
Case Keenum (DEN), 2 years, $36,000,000
Keenum steps into a team that hasn’t been able to pick up the pieces since Peyton Manning’s retirement. He gets $18M in 2018, after which he can be moved on from for a $10M dead cap charge ($7M of which comes from guaranteed salary that includes offsets). Denver would clear at least $11M should they release Keenum after 2018.
Sam Bradford (ARI), 2 years, $40,000,000
A healthy Sam Bradford will earn $20M in 2018, after which his $7.5M salary for 2019 fully guarantees in early March, and a $10M roster bonus just a few days later. In other words, Bradford’s on a 1-year deal here, with a chance to earn $20M, and a guarantee of seeing $15M.
Drew Brees (NO), 2 years, $50,000,000
Brees signed this deal at the start of free agency, and it all but ensures he’s under contract through the 2019 season, his age 40 year. He’ll see $27M in 2018, and another $23M in 2019. Should the wheels fall off in 2018, the Saints could hypothetically move on from Brees, but they’ll take on $21M of dead cap (likely split into $10.5M in 2019 & 2020 each). Doing so would clear $23M in 2019 cap space, but it’s probably still not likely.
Alex Smith (WAS), 4 years, $94,000,000
Cousins out, Smith in. Washington trade a starting DB (Kendall Fuller) & a 3rd round pick just to acquire the rights to Smith last winter, then quickly locked him at a practical $71M over 3 years ($55M through 2). His $16M salary for 2020 becomes fully guaranteed next March. The D.C. squad can move on from Smith after 2020 for a $13.5M dead cap charge creating at least $10.9M of cap space ($19M if designated a post-June 1st release).
Matt Ryan (ATL), 5 years, $150,000,000
About as real deal as a contract can get. Ryan gets $74M over the first two years, and $117M through four. Atlanta can bow out of this deal after the 2021 season for a $13.3M dead cap hit, clearing $21.75M of space at that time. Most of Ryan’s contract figures are the current floor for Aaron Rodgers as he works through his negotiations.
Kirk Cousins (MIN), 3 years, $84,000,000
Fully Guaranteed, and a chance to cash in again at age 32. Cousins had a goal in mind this free agent season and scored a deal that carries just a $3M signing bonus, $1.5M in combined workout bonuses, and nearly $80M in annual base salaries. He’ll make a nice even $26M, $28M, & $30M over the duration of this deal.
Getting Younger by the Minute
While it’s not a significant drop off, the starting QB class for 2017 was nearly 30 years old on average. The projected class for 2018 is right at 29 years old, and could dip under should Baker Mayfield & Josh Rosen find their way into their respective starting lineups (or even RG3). With players like Brady, Brees, Flacco, Manning, Rivers, & Roethlisberger likely eyeing the finish lines of their careers, the league could have a vast majority of its starting QBs under the age of 30 within the next two seasons.
Related: Active QB Contract Breakdowns
Spending by Team
|Team||Signed||2018 Cap Dollars||% of Cap|
|Green Bay Packers||4||$22,493,336||12.83%|
|Kansas City Chiefs||4||$7,443,141||4.37%|
|Los Angeles Chargers||3||$23,630,000||13.73%|
|Los Angeles Rams||4||$9,763,593||5.47%|
|New England Patriots||3||$23,421,006||13.63%|
|New Orleans Saints||4||$26,488,125||15.35%|
|New York Giants||4||$24,233,529||13.61%|
|New York Jets||3||$21,499,584||12.10%|
|San Francisco 49ers||4||$38,761,965||19.46%|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||$13,221,315||7.21%|
Getting a Fresh Start
Two trades (Smith, Taylor), three free agent signings (Cousins, Bradford, Keenum), and five players drafted early over the past two seasons now lead to plenty of new blood across the league. On average, a team’s starting quarterback for 2018 is accouting for about 8.3% of their adjusted salary cap, up a point from 2017 (excluding Luck & Tannehill, who return from injury).
Related: Top QB Cap Hits for 2018
|Team||2017 QB1||% of Cap||2018 QB1||% of Cap||Change|
|ARI||Carson Palmer||14.00%||Sam Bradford||6.00%||-8.00%|
|ATL||Matt Ryan||14.10%||Matt Ryan||9.90%||-4.20%|
|BAL||Joe Flacco||15.00%||Joe Flacco||13.70%||-1.30%|
|BUF||Tyrod Taylor||5.80%||Josh Allen||2.00%||-3.80%|
|CAR||Cam Newton||11.20%||Cam Newton||11.80%||0.60%|
|CHI||Mike Glennon||8.00%||Mitchell Trubisky||3.50%||-4.50%|
|CIN||Andy Dalton||9.00%||Andy Dalton||8.60%||-0.40%|
|CLE||DeShone Kizer||0.40%||Tyrod Taylor||6.70%||6.30%|
|DAL||Dak Prescott||0.30%||Dak Prescott||0.40%||0.10%|
|DEN||Trevor Siemian||0.37%||Case Keenum||8.00%||7.63%|
|DET||Matthew Stafford||9.80%||Matthew Stafford||14.60%||4.80%|
|GB||Aaron Rodgers||11.60%||Aaron Rodgers||11.30%||-0.30%|
|HOU||Tom Savage||0.40%||Deshaun Watson||1.70%||1.30%|
|IND||Scott Tolzien||1.10%||Andrew Luck||12.50%||11.40%|
|JAX||Blake Bortles||3.10%||Blake Bortles||4.80%||1.70%|
|KC||Alex Smith||9.90%||Patrick Mahomes||2.00%||-7.90%|
|LAC||Philip Rivers||10.00%||Philip Rivers||12.20%||2.20%|
|LAR||Jared Goff||3.90%||Jared Goff||4.20%||0.30%|
|MIA||Jay Cutler||5.80%||Ryan Tannehill||4.90%||-0.90%|
|MIN||Sam Bradford||10.60%||Kirk Cousins||12.50%||1.90%|
|NE||Tom Brady||8.30%||Tom Brady||12.20%||3.90%|
|NO||Drew Brees||11.60%||Drew Brees||13.50%||1.90%|
|NYG||Eli Manning||11.70%||Eli Manning||12.50%||0.80%|
|NYJ||Josh McCown||3.80%||Sam Darnold||2.80%||-1.00%|
|OAK||Derek Carr||9.00%||Derek Carr||13.50%||4.50%|
|PHI||Carson Wentz||3.40%||Carson Wentz||4.00%||0.60%|
|PIT||Ben Roethlisberger||10.70%||Ben Roethlisberger||12.80%||2.10%|
|SEA||Russell Wilson||8.60%||Russell Wilson||13.30%||4.70%|
|SF||Brian Hoyer||2.50%||Jimmy Garoppolo||15.80%||13.30%|
|TB||Jameis Winston||4.00%||Jameis Winston||4.20%||0.20%|
|TEN||Marcus Mariota||3.50%||Marcus Mariota||3.70%||0.20%|
|WAS||Kirk Cousins||13.50%||Alex Smith||10.30%||-3.20%|
Team by Team QB Outlook
The Cardinals aren't likely to roll with Bradford, Rosen, & Glennon in 2018, and for now, Glennon is the obvious last man standing here. Many thought Rosen had a chance to supplant Bradford and his $15M guaranteed this summer, but a hand injury is limiting his crucial preseason time. It's looking more like Bradford will have the keys to the team until further notice. He holds $20M option ($5M dead cap) for 2019, and will need to shine this year to keep Rosen from taking over. Glennon's expected release will only clear $1M in 2018, leaving behind $3M of dead cap to 2019 as well.
Matt Ryan is locked in securely for another four years based on his new contract's structure, and is a perennial MVP candidate to boot. Matt Schaub appears safe to serve as his backup for another year and will reel in $3.25M to do so. Atlanta will be in the market for a QB2 in 2019.
One of the more interesting groups to watch over the next few weeks, as an overpaid Joe Flacco tries to regain his production from a few years ago to keep hold of the starting role in Baltimore. Many thought newly drafted Lamar Jackson would press him hard this summer, but it's actually been a rejuvenated Robert Griffin III who's taken a hold of the QB2 role to date. Baltimore appears likely to keep all three to start the year. Flacco is a strong cut candidate for 2019, when his dead cap drops to $16M (a savings of at least $10.5M).
The early plan had to be A.J. McCarron as the early season starter, eventually giving way to newly drafted Josh Allen for the stretch run of 2018. But an injury to McCarron and strong improvements from Allen have the rookie inline to take the reigns. What might be a down year in the standings for Buffalo might be a big step in the right direction for the franchise from a QB standpoint. McCarron's $5M for 2018 is fully guaranteed, and he represents no cap savings if released this year.
Cam Newton remains the man in Carolina, especially now with a group of inexperienced youngsters behind him on the depth chart (Heinicke, Gilbert, Allen). Newton's contract becomes very team-friendly after 2018, as he turns 30 years old, so it's somewhat of a big year for him to show he's still the franchise leader they drafted him to be. Look for Carolina to improve their depth here at some point.
It's Mitchell's team now, and with a few sneaky good signings around him, there's reason for optimism in Chicago. Trubisky is fully guaranteed through 2020, with a 5th-year option available in 2021. He won't become extension-eligible until after the 2019 season. Behind him, the Bears overpaid a bit to bring in veteran backup Chase Daniel away from the Saints. Daniel gets $7M guaranteed across 2018 & 2019, and is the safety net barring a Trubisky injury or bust.
Andy Dalton's tenure in Cincy gets another lifeline in 2018, even though his guarantees & dead cap charges are all but gone. It stands to reason this could be a final shot for Dalton (and a lot of the Bengals' core) before a bigtime rebuild comes forward. Releasing him after 2018 leaves $0 of dead cap, clearing $16.2M of space. Matt Barkley, Jeff Driskel, & recently drafted Logan Woodside round out the depth for now.
The Browns have been forthright all summer about Tyrod Taylor as the Week 1 starter, and outside of an injury scare with his hand last week, all signs still point to this. Taylor's owed $16M in 2018, which ranks 17th among active QBs. Should he play well (but not too well), it will put Cleveland in a very interesting position, as their #1 overall draft pick, and very capable looking Baker Mayfield waits in the wings. A midseason trade of Taylor isn't out of the question.
Dak took a bit of a step back in 2017, and the Cowboys have shaken things up a bit around him. Toss in an ailing offensive line, and the Cowboys' & Dak specifically could be in for a rude 2018, though running an offense through Zeke Elliott for 16 weeks isn't the worst plan in the league. Dak becomes extension-eligible after 2018.
Case Keenum brings a lot of hope to a Denver franchise that has been in limbo a bit for the past two seasons. Many think this was the best acquisition of the offseason at the QB position, as Keenum is essentially on a 1 year, $18M contract, and brings a simple, effective style to a veteran-heavy passing game. Behind him, Paxton Lynch is dropping even more down the depth chart, though he's got another $2M in salary guaranteed, while Chad Kelly could be inline to win the backup role this month.
Matthew Stafford's $26.5M cap figure is the 2nd highest in all of football, while backup Matt Cassel comes in on a veteran minimum deal ($1,105,000/$720,000) for security. Stafford's locked in financially through at least 2020 based on guarantees & dead cap, and the contract as a whole runs through 2022, when he'll be just 34 years old. There's a very great chance for another big payday in his future.
Green Bay Packers
Rodgers is under contract through 2019, but a long-term mega deal is surely on the horizon. Brett Hundley continues to look good when needed, and Green Bay somewhat oddly acquired Deshone Kizer from Cleveland to compete with him for the backup role. All things Aaron for the time being.
Deshaun Watson has an awful lot of expectation based on a ridiculously small sample size, but if he pans out as hoped, Houston should have a 2-3 year window where their finances & production = lots of success. Joe Webb & Brandon Weeden man the ship behind him, and with Watson's recent injury, it stands to reason they both stick for the upcoming season.
Welcome back Andrew Luck? It's a big year for Luck individually as he fights back into the lineup after two years missed from injury. He can be released in early March 2019 for a $12.8M dead cap charge, representing almost $15M of savings to Indy, who might be reluctant to keep Luck around on a cap figure that rises to $27.5M next season. Behind him, Jacoby Brissett has shown flashes of adequacy, and is under contract and cheap through 2019.
The Jags surprised a few when the re-upped with Blake Bortles this February, but at a practical 2 years, $36M, this is a fairly smart deal for a team ready to win. Jacksonville can move on from Bortles after 2018 for a $16.5M dead cap charge but with Cody Kessler and Tanner Lee behind him currently, there's not much to think this would be the case. A trade for Teddy Bridgewater soon would certainly change that thinking.
Kansas City Chiefs
Out goes Alex Smith, off the bench comes Patrick Mahomes, who officially takes over a wide open, young, fast, and fun offense. Mahomes is fully guaranteed through 2020, with a 5th-year option available in 2021. He becomes eligible for an extension after the 2019 season. Chad Henne was signed away from Jacksonville as a safety net for the youngster, on a pretty stable 2 year contract ($5.1M of $6.7M guaranteed).
Los Angeles Chargers
The consistency of Philip Rivers for the Chargers has almost over 15 years has been so good, it's almost been boring. The 36-year old enters year 4 of his 5 year contract, and could be heading into a pivotal season, as it's possible a short extension is in play, but it's also possible the Chargers look to get younger here in 2019. Geno Smith & Cardale Jones don't appear poised to push Rivers at any point, and it's likely one of these are released in the coming weeks.
Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff saw his WR1, RB1 and RT get paid this offseason, and will become extension eligible himself after 2018. This could prove pricey if the Rams have the kind of season many expect them to. Sean Mannion stands to be his backup again, though he enters a contract year.
Ryan Tannehill returns from an ACL tear that actually started in late 2016, but was fully injured in August of 2017. He has $55M left to be made over the next three seasons, but is likely on a 1 year "show-me" deal from here out. Miami can move on from Tannehill after 2018 for a $13.4M dead cap charge. Behind him it's a battle of the busts for backup role as Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty try to secure a role.
Welcome Kirk Cousins & fully guaranteed $84M over the next three years to a team that is very ready to win. He'll have huge expectations, but a much better running game around him than he was offered in Washington as well. Behind Cousins, Trevor Sieman comes over from Denver as an experienced backup on a $1.9M tender.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady's going to decline at some point. Right? New England sweetened his deal with likely incentives that raise his 2018 compensation to $20M, which ranks 8th among veteran QBs. This figure drops back down to $15M in 2019, but it'll be a "who knows" situation for both he and the Patriots. Brady holds $12M of dead cap next year, and $15M of savings should he retire or be released. Behind him, Brian Hoyer carries a nice and light $915,000 salary in 2018, and is under contract at $3M in 2019.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints and Drew Brees agreed to a 2 year $50M, including $27M in 2018. Financially speaking, he's locked in through 2019, then will leave a $10.5M dead cap hit to the Saints in 2020 as he (likely) parts ways. Everyone in New Orleans raves about undrafted signed Taysom Hill, who might be inline to take over the reigns after Brees.
New York Giants
Eli Manning gets a few new toys to play with in 2018, and the Giants could be a surprise team in the NFC this season. He holds fairly reasonable cap figures of $22.2M & $23.2M through 2019 at which point he'll be 38. The backup role is still up in the air, as newcomer Kyle Lauletta is making a case over Davis Webb currently.
New York Jets
Who knows? Sam Darnold appears to be the leader in the clubhouse heading towards September, and that's good news for the Jets. Financially speaking, Josh McCown is owed $10M guaranteed in 2018, an awful lot for a potential year-long backup. Teddy Bridgewater appears to be on the trade block, but the Jets probably prefer to wait for a team to have a pressing need for a QB (due to injury). Bridgewater holds $1M in dead cap currently.
Derek Carr looks to rebound from a down 2017, and lead a recharged Raiders team back into contention. His contract is year-to-year from here forward, so Oakland can keep him on a short leash should things not improve within reason. Carr can be released after 2018 for just $7.5M of dead cap ($15M saved). Behind him, former 1st-round pick E.J. Manuel remains the backup, while Gruden-favorite Connor Cook would be third should they choose to keep him.
Super Bowl winning QB Nick Foles carries a cap figure ($13.6M) that's nearly double that of likely Week 1 starter Carson Wentz ($7.2M). Add in a terrible offseason for Foles, and a somewhat concerning return for Wentz (possibly with a setback?), and Philly's repeat chances might be murky. Wentz is fully guaranteed through 2019, with a 5th-year option available in 2020, and becomes extension-eligible after the 2018 season.
A year ago Ben Roethlisberger was contemplating retirement. Now, with Le'Veon Bell entering his final year in Pittsburgh (most likely), the Steelers appear "all-in" on 2018. Where they go from here is a different story. Ben is set to make $17M in both 2018 & 2019, but holds just $6.2M of dead cap after the upcoming season, when he'll be 37 years old. Landry Jones enters his sixth season behind Ben, while newly drafted Mason Rudolph could be the QB of the future in Pittsburgh. For now, it's very much Ben's team.
San Francisco 49ers
The Niners wasted very little time putting their foot down with Jimmy Garoppolo has their next franchise QB. Though, structurally speaking, this could very easily be a 1 year, $42.6M contract, with just $13.1M of dead cap to deal with after 2018. It's probably safe to assume Jimmy gets 3 years before any realistic consideration of moving on comes into play. Behind him an injured C.J. Beathard is being pushed by 2017 UDFA Nick Mullens, who has a real shot to make the squad.
The Seahawks look a lot different around him, but this is still very much Russell Wilson's team. Wilson's projecting to be a Top 5 QB yet again, despite the loss of a few key weapons. Austin Davis is back on a veteran minimum deal ($880,000/$720,000) to fill in behind Russell, who enters year four of a five year contract. His future in Seattle may be a hot topic come the turn of the calendar.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston has been given every opportunity to prove he's the franchise QB the Bucs were hoping for when they selected him #1 overall back in 2015. Now staring a 3-game suspension in the face, it's plausible to question with Tampa Bay will actually lock in Winston and his $20.9M 5th-year option for 2019. While they've exercised the year, the salary won't become fully guaranteed until the first league day of 2019. A release prior to that will incur $0 of dead cap. Long-time backup/fill-in starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will take the reigns to start 2018. Tampa is a possible destination for a Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor should they look for a shakeup.
Marcus Mariota took a bit of a step back last year after a really strong 2016 campaign. But a lot of really smart people think the offense around him is ready to breakout in 2018, which should mean plenty of good fortune for the 24-year-old. He's entering year four of his rookie deal, with a $20.9M 5th-year option already exercised for 2019. A strong start to the upcoming season should put him in extension conversations. Behind him, journeyman Blaine Gabbert looks to take hold of the backup role (though he's looked shaky), while newly drafted Luke Falk remains in competition for the QB2 role.
The Redskins barely let Kirk Cousins get off the field in Week 17 last year before acquiring the rights to Alex Smith, and locking him in to a long-term extension. With a banged up running game, Smith will have to show he can run an offense through the air for Washington to be competitive in 2018. Structurally speaking, Smith is locked in for at least 3 years, reeling in $71M through 2020. His backup, Colt McCoy was just signed to a 1-year extension, giving Smith a nice safety net should Washington need it.