Posted on June 22, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Oakland Raiders have been trying to find a franchise quarterback for years. Seventeen players have started at least one game for the Silver and Black since Rich Gannon’s Pro Bowl season in 2002 (according to Pro-Football-Reference). But they believe they have finally found their man in Derek Carr.
So—they made sure Carr wouldn’t feel the need to test free agency after next season and made him the highest paid player in NFL history (five years, $125 million).
At $25 million a season he takes over the spot previously held by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck ($24.6 million). But with at least two quarterbacks expected to sign extensions soon, chances are very good he will not be the highest paid player in history for long.
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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is up for a new extension. Lions team president Rod Wood has already gone on record with the team’s willingness to do whatever it takes to keep Stafford in Detroit.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins is slated to make $23.9 million this season under the franchise tag. But Cousins and the Redskins have until July 17 to agree to a long-term deal.
It remains to be seen what the Redskins will do. They didn’t want to pay him $20 million a season last year, but here the Redskins are paying Cousins $23.9 million. Cousins will certainly not take anything lower than that and could easily make an argument that his salary should match if not exceed Carr.
Stafford and Cousins will likely beat Carr’s $25 million a year mark whenever they sign their new deals. If Cousins doesn’t do it in Washington, he probably will in San Francisco next year. But the more interesting question is no longer who will be the first $25 million man.
Who will be the first $30 million one?
Lions team president Rod Wood hit the nail on the head when talking about why Detroit is willing to do what it takes to keep Stafford:
“It’s [quarterback] a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and be competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”
Yes, teams have won without marquee quarterbacks on the roster, but it is much harder without one. So—when a team is lucky enough to find one, they do need to do whatever it takes to keep him. With the current state of economics in the NFL being what they are, that means guys like Carr, Cousins, and Stafford are worth $25 million a season.
But what does that mean for guys that are more established? What about guys that have multiple MVP awards? Or Super Bowl wins?
Drew Brees is already making $24.25 million a season. Aaron Rodgers is making $22 million. Matt Ryan, the reigning MVP, is only bringing home $20.75 million. All three are much more accomplished quarterbacks than Carr, Cousins, or Stafford. Could one of them become the $30 million man?
Of the three, the least likely is Brees. He does not get near the credit he deserves, but he is also 38 years old. The Saints are going to be understandably leery about paying him so much. But with how salaries are escalating, it is entirely possible Rodgers or Ryan could make it happen.
Ryan is 32, coming off his best season, and a trip to the Super Bowl. He has two years left on his current deal. But should he get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl next season, his agent could make a pretty good argument for a significant hike. However, his age could make the Falcons nervous about committing so much money to him.
Rodgers has earned the payday as well, but by the time he is due for a new deal, he is not going to be a spring chicken by NFL standards either (2020).
The more likely candidates to become the first $30 million man will be Marcos Mariota, Jameis Winston, or Dak Prescott. To be worth that kind of payday they will have to at least make it to the Super Bowl.
Mariota, Winston, and Prescott do not become unrestricted free agents until 2020.
Besides those three, the most likely candidates are Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. Both are already in the $20 million+ club. By the time they are due to negotiate again (Wilson can test free agency in 2020 if he wants to; Newton in 2021) $25 million a season will not be so outrageous.
So—assuming both continue to thrive, their agents are going to want a lot more than $25 million a season.