What are Quarterbacks Actually Worth?
In football, there is a common misconception that paying a certain player more than half of the salary cap or very close to it is the best way to build a championship roster. The idea that a vastly overpaid quarterback will guarantee a Super Bowl is easily disproved by comparing the number of underpaid QBs to the number of overpaid QBs who go to or win championship games. This belief, however, is flawed in many ways as history has shown it has actually done more damage to sports franchises than actually assisting them in achieving their goal of winning a championship.
In the NFL, there has been a growing belief that if you heavily pay the Quarterback of your team, he will lead you to the promised land. Contrary to this increasingly popular belief, there have been more situations where the teams who either get to or wins the Super Bowl actually do it with a Quarterback on a rookie deal or one on a cheap deal as a veteran backup. There has been one instance within the past 4 years where a verteran Quarterback on a cheap contract has won the Super Bowl for his team.
In 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles lost their young franchise Quarterback in Carson Wentz due to a complete ACL and PCL tear. The offseason prior, they brought back a familiar face in Quarterback Nick Foles who was originally drafted by the Eagles but had become a journeyman and bounced around to a few teams before being brought back to Philadelphia. After Wentz went down with his injury, Nick Foles was able to come in and lead the Eagles on an incredible 6 and half game stretch which culminated in a 41-33 win vs the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52.
Laura Albansese, a reporter from newsday.com, wrote an article how back in 1986, the New York Giants drafted Quarterback Jeff Hostettler in the third round. After their starting Quarterback Phil Simms got hurt in 1991, Hostettler was also able to come into the starting lineup and lead the Giants to a Super Bowl victory over the Buffalo Bills and their Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly. Jon Renne of sbnation.com wrote an article describing how in 2003, the Carolina Panthers signed Jake Delhomme, an undrafted free agent, to a short term and low money contract and led the Panthers to their first Super Bowl in franchise history later that season. They ended up losing that game to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Two of the situations above involved the signing of cheap free agent Quarterbacks in Jake Delhomme and Nick Foles, and both of them played against Tom Brady who is known for restructuring his contracts and taking less money for his team to build around him and give him the help he needs to win. Jeff Hostettler, a third round pick in a draft three years prior to the 1991 season, beating Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly in the Super Bowl is also a great example of why you don’t need to commit close to 50% of your salary cap just to win a championship. Many of the franchises today who are falling victim to this flawed concept, are either in a deep hole financially in regards to the salary cap and are setting themselves up for failure for years to come.
For example, JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington wrote an article detailing how the Philadelphia Eagles crippled their entire team by signing Carson Wentz to a 4-year $128M contract that amounted to nearly 50% of their entire payroll for the years the contract covered. Fully $100M was guaranteed whether Wentz played well for them—or played AT ALL for them—over the life of the deal. Not surprisingly, they were unable to build a solid team of difference-makers around him with so little money left to pay for quality skill players. Two years later, with a woeful roster around their franchise $30M/year Quarterback, Carson Wentz has been deported to Indianapolis, and the Eagles still have to pay him $34.7M to play for the only team they could find to take him.
The Los Angeles Rams are currently in a similar situation to the Eagles with their now former Quarterback, Jared Goff. Also in summer of 2019, the Rams signed Jared Goff to a 4-year $134M contract worth an astounding $110M in guaranteed money per Cameron Desilva of USA Today. Not even two years after that ink dried, the Rams traded him away in February of 2021 to the Detroit Lions. The contract given to Goff was so financially crippling for the Rams, that they had to give up extra compensation to Detroit just for them to take on more of Goff’s contract.
Between both the Rams and the Eagles now incurring both $20M+ and $30M+ in dead money against their cap to pay their former Quarterbacks to play against them for different teams, the flaws of this belief as well as the alternatives are starting to come in to light more and more as the years go on while Quarterback contracts continue to become increasingly crippling to a team’s financial outlook.
As you can see, there are many more alternatives to paying Quarterbacks big money to have success. Between the signing of veteran free agent Quarterbacks to cheap deals, successful drafting of mid-low round Quarterbacks, and Quarterbacks being willing to financially cooperate with the team, offers plenty of alternatives to paying ONE player close to half of their salary cap and allow them to build an entire team of talented players to help the Quarterback rather than overpaying for him and sending him out under equipped to succeed. There are several contractual situations currently unfolding in the NFL as we have yet to see if Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes contract and Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s contract will have the same result as so many crippling Quarterback contracts that have been doled out in recent years.
Albanese, L. (2020, December 05). Members of Super Bowl champion GIANTS Remember 1990 fondly. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.newsday.com/sports/football/giants/giants-super-bowl-xxv-bills-1.50083050#:~:text=It%20was%20the%20second%20quarter,in%20his%20seven%2Dyear%20career.
Benne, J. (2016, February 07). A look back at THE Panthers’ first Super Bowl appearance. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2016/2/7/10902996/carolina-panthers-2003-new-england-patriots-super-bowl-XXXVIII
DaSilva, C. (2021, February 02). Rams paid the (BIG) price for extending Jared GOFF two years early. Retrieved March 28, 2021, from https://theramswire.usatoday.com/2021/02/02/rams-jared-goff-extension-early-cost/
Finlay, J. (2020, December 07). Wentz’s contract GIVES Eagles WORST QB situation in NFC East. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/football-team/carson-wentz-and-his-contract-gives-eagles-worst-qb-situation-nfc-east