Over the past couple of weeks the NFL has seen two big contracts handed out to quarterbacks as Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton have signed long-term extensions. Both of these contracts rank among some of the highest in terms of average annual value and guaranteed money. It is expected that these signings are going to reestablish the market for quarterbacks, but the real question teams have to ask themselves is how much is the most valuable position on the field worth?
The NFL is a tough league to determine how much a player is worth. The size of the roster and the presence of a salary cap can really hamstring teams from being able to pay a quarterback and still surround him with talent. Also, given the number of injuries and the amount of players that come into the league through the draft, players are usually good for one great contract and it’s the first one they sign after their wage-capped rookie deal. After that time, their play tends to dip a little. With a couple of big contracts signed, there are two quarterbacks that are expected to cash in in a big way, even if they still have two years left on their current deal.
Even though both of these quarterbacks have some time left on their rookie contracts, teams want to sign them to extensions to try and spread some of that guaranteed money out and capitalize in the prime of their career.
The first quarterback is Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Ever since coming into the league, Luck has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL as he has averaged 4,300 yards and 29 touchdowns a season. This past season, Luck had his best year in his young career as he led the league with 40 passing touchdowns.
The one thing that Luck needs to do is win with a little more consistency in the playoffs. He lost in his first postseason game as a rookie, then he won one in his second and two in his third year. If he continues this trend he will bring the Colts to the Super Bowl and lose, but then win it next season. Indianapolis went out and brought in some better talent around Luck so he could be in store for his best season yet. Expect Luck’s contract to be somewhere in the six-year, $120 million range with a guarantee of $65-70 million.
The other quarterback that could set the market is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Even though he was taken in the third round of that 2012 draft and he was the sixth quarterback to be selected, Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in football. Wilson is a dual threat as he is accurate throwing the deep ball, but he can also burn teams with his speed. In this past season, he threw for 3,475 yards and ran for another 849. Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over as he only threw seven interceptions and the number of interceptions he has thrown has gone down every year.
Unlike Luck, Wilson has had the postseason success as he has been to back-to-back Super Bowls and won one of them (almost both). The thing about Wilson is the fact that he isn’t as skilled a quarterback as Luck. He has the movement, but that doesn’t tend to age well. Wilson may be the best young quarterback at managing the game and his ability to bring his team back late. That type of intangible is hard to come by and the Seahawks will have to pay for that.
Seattle’s general manager has been less than enthusiastic about some of the contracts that have been signed as it will cost his team more money to retain his services. Wilson’s contract might be smaller than the rest, but he will make it up in the average value and the guaranteed money. Wilson should be signed to a five-year deal, in the range $85-90 million range worth $66 million guaranteed. This will be a record for the most guaranteed money in the history of the NFL, and Wilson is worth it for this contract.
It is no doubt that the quarterback is the most important position on the team. If a team has a great quarterback they can go from a decent playoff team to a Super Bowl contender. The quarterbacks that are always in the playoffs are the same names; Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco and now we can add Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck to that list. These two quarterbacks will set records for contracts, expect Luck to make the most, but Wilson to have the most guaranteed.