The Daily Briefing Friday, June 23, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The headline said that Mike Freeman of the Bleacher Report was declaring that the NFL had a “Floyd Mayweather problem.” The DBs first thought is he was talking about Patriots dominance, the second too much money. We were wrong on both counts.
1. A Thin Line Between Floyd Mayweather and the NFL
Not long after the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor was announced, my Twitter timeline exploded, particularly after I referred to Mayweather as a woman beater. Give me a moment to explain.
First off, Mayweather is what I called him: a woman beater. This is a fact. As historic a fighter as he is, he is an even more despicable person. His long history of domestic violence has been well-documented by the media.
Many of the people reacting to what I said about Mayweather agreed with my assessment of him, and almost all of them were hardcore football fans.
One tweet, however, asked a different question, and it went something like this: If you love the NFL, how can you judge Mayweather harshly?
It’s a fair question.
Mayweather himself has commented on the NFL and domestic violence. After Ray Rice was caught on video knocking his then-fiancee unconscious, Mayweather said: “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households. It’s just not caught on video, if that’s safe to say.”
Nope, it wasn’t safe to say.
“If I offended anyone I apologize,” Mayweather said a day later. “I apologize to the NFL. I strive to be a perfectionist but no one is perfect. I don’t condone what happened. I’m not even involved in football. I’m a boxer. If I’m not focused on it I don’t know why anybody else is.”
So, back to the question at hand: Can you judge Mayweather harshly if you like the NFL? The answer, like the issue of domestic violence itself, is complicated.
NFL teams employ a number of players accused of domestic violence, and those men are financially rewarded because of all those who watch football or cover it in the media. That’s the truth every NFL fan who hates Mayweather and says they would never watch his fight has to face (same with some of us in the media).
Purchasing a fight on pay-per-view puts money in the pocket of Mayweather. If you are a fan of, say, the Cincinnati Bengals, the team that drafted Joe Mixon—who cold-cocked a woman—and you buy a Bengals ticket, the money derived from that purchase trickles down to the players. That includes Mixon, who also receives some type of financial compensation, however small, when fans turn on their televisions or buy their NFL RedZone packages.
And Mixon is just one example. Kicker Josh Brown was protected, and financially rewarded, by the New York Giants despite horrific admissions of domestic violence.
There is, however, a big difference between Mayweather and the NFL. As faulty as the NFL’s punishments of its players for domestic abuses are—and the NFL has made a ton of errors—there’s at least a system in place to discipline players who commit those crimes.
In boxing, there really isn’t. There’s no organization in boxing willing or capable of punishing Mayweather for those types of crimes. Iole wrote that, as recently as 2015, no man has ever been denied a license to fight by a state athletic commission for committing domestic violence. And that has allowed Mayweather to generate $180 million paydays for fighting Manny Pacquiao or possibly even more when he fights McGregor.
So at least NFL fans who turn up their noses at Mayweather can cling to the fact that football holds its players somewhat accountable for their actions, unlike boxing.
Domestic abusers have, to be sure, gotten multiple chances in the NFL, and if Rice were younger, he’d likely get another as well. But NFL players are paying some price. Not always. But it does happen.
So can you judge Mayweather harshly if you like the NFL?
The answer is, you can. Barely.
Seems like a stretch to the DB. Mayweather is palpable evil, unchecked and dominant in his sport.
The NFL’s bad actors are a small part of its populace, and, perhaps, one-time offenders such as Ray Rice and Mixon. Rice’s career effectively ended over his incident. Brown’s is now done. Greg Hardy, who seemed most sinister to the DB, survived for an extra season after his violence, but he too is done at an early age. It doesn’t seem like a fair comparison.
Adam Rank of NFL.com is doing a 32-part series on “Why You Should Be A ____ Fan”. Here, as a sample he takes the task of explaining the Bears:
What you need to know so you don’t sound stupid
The Chicago Bears are one of the benchmark teams in the NFL — second only to the Green Bay Packers in terms of total league titles. (And if you thought I was going to willingly give the Packers credit for all of their pre-Super Bowl titles without some sort of ulterior motive, well then, we haven’t hung out enough.)
The Bears have a single Super Bowl title, but what a title it was. The 1985 Chicago Bears are the unquestioned greatest team of the Super Bowl era. A defense that was nothing short of legendary and an underrated offense that actually finished second in the league in total points. Only one bad half of football in Miami on a Monday night prevented this team from being perfect. (Oh, that’s right. For all of you who like to say stupid [stuff] like, “You’re lucky the Bears didn’t face the Dolphins in Super Bowl XX,” realize DC Buddy Ryan made the adjustments at halftime and held Dan Marino to just seven points after the break. So cram it.)
So … The Bears won the first-ever NFL Championship Game (played indoors at Chicago Stadium in 1932), beat the Redskins 73-0 in the most lopsided NFL title game ever in 1940, took home Super Bowl XX and made a Super Bowl appearance I’ve been able to block from my mind. And then Jay Cutler.
Was the Jay Cutler era THAT bad?
People don’t like Jay’s face and they do like to make fun of him. But Cutler never got a fair shake because he seemingly played for a new offensive coordinator every year. Every. Damn. Year. One of them being Mike Martz, who nearly got him killed with his ridiculous schemes and then traded away Greg Olsen, the best tight end of his generation. (Yes. He. Is.) So thanks, Mike. And Cutler was much better than people give him credit for. And by people, I mean my new best friend and former “Bachelor” Nick Viall, the Packer backer who told me that having Cutler as our most prolific passer in club history was “shameful.”
I can’t completely disagree. It’s been a tough run for us. Here are the top five Bears quarterbacks of my lifetime:
1) Jim McMahon
2) Jay Cutler
3) —— ——
4) —— ——
(*Anybody but Rex Grossman. Because had Lovie Smith started anybody but Rex Grossman in Super Bowl XLI, the Bears would have two titles. Peyton Manning would have never really won a Super Bowl. And all would be right with the world.)
So yes, Nick, it might be shameful. Not everybody gets to see a HOF quarterback in their lifetime, let alone TWO back-to-back. But while I was the last Cutler fan, I realized it was time to let him go. I’m hopeful for the Mike Glennon era. Though, he’s never going to get a fair shot because people would rather make Yarael Poof jokes and show the world how funny they are. But Glennon could be something special. I mean, the only person who didn’t believe in him was Lovie when he was the head coach in Tampa Bay. I take that as a good thing.
BTW, if you want to buy Jay’s Lake Forest mansion, have it at. It’ll only cost you a cool $4.75 million.
How do you defend the Mitch Trubisky pick?
Oh, I didn’t. I kind of went on tilt when the pick happened. (So much so, I went on YouTube to vent my frustration.) I even missed the Titans taking Corey Davis.
But I liked the move once I had a chance to calm down. For starters, the Bears didn’t give up that much. After maneuvering with later picks, the Bears essentially gave up a fourth-round pick to grab the quarterback they coveted. Compare that to the price the Chiefs paid for Patrick Mahomes and the Texans for Deshaun Watson. It’s the cost of doing business. Like paying $12 for a Bud Light at O’Hare. It’s the law of supply and demand.
And I know I said I liked the Glennon move. Still do. He’s going to be the starter this year. Here’s the best-case scenario: Glennon balls out, the Bears win some games and he becomes the long-term answer. That would move Mitch Trubisky into that mythical Jimmy G territory, where the Bears would be able to extort some QB-starved team for a bevy of picks. It’s a great move.
If Glennon doesn’t translate, then you have a young quarterback to develop. I don’t get how more folks don’t understand this. I mean, it took me a minute to get my composure, but I’m on board now. Sorry, general manager Ryan Pace. I didn’t mean to doubt you.
Kyle Long is pretty hilarious on Twitter. He’s started being more, uh, forgiving to the haters. But he’s still an entertaining fellow.
Monsters of the midway
The Bears have long been known for their defense. They had four of the best linebackers who ever played the game: Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher. Then you consider dudes like Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Mike Brown. There has been a lot of defensive talent on this team.
The current strength of the Bears stands with their front seven. I know I’m a biased [poop]head, so take Gregg Rosenthal’s word for it. He said the Bears are a playoff team. Stop, stop. I’m kidding. He didn’t say that. He just gave a fair assessment that the Bears’ strength is in the front seven. There are still some holes on this roster. The secondary is all right. They could use another receiver, though I don’t hate the Victor Cruz signing because we need complementary WRs to go with Cam Meredith. But this front seven could be really, really nice.
Not enough credit
Some [jerk] questioned Matt Forte’s Hall of Fame credentials the other day, and let me tell you, that’s my trigger. Because I won’t stand for the heresy. I would imagine part of the problem stems from the Bears having two of the five greatest running backs of all time in their history (G.O.A.T. Walter Payton and Gale Sayers). It’s something that dogged Neal Anderson, too, post-Walter. But let me put it to you this way …
My best friend, I mean Forte, is closing in on 15,000 all-purpose yards. He was clearly one of the best running backs of his generation. And I like to now measure all HOF credentials against Jerome Bettis (who shouldn’t be in the HOF, but he played for the Steelers and people liked his nickname). And really, find me an NFL fan who would have rather had Bettis than Forte in their primes. You can’t (unless they are a lying Steelers fan).
The franchise’s best
Don’t let that one point escape you, either. Walter Payton is the best running back to ever play the game. He played for some [poopy] teams and was still a boss. Plus, he played past that 30-year-old barrier that knocks down other running backs. He could catch. He could run. And he could even throw the ball. The only guy I can really remember who did anything close to him is LaDainian Tomlinson.
Next in line
Jordan Howard was a fifth-round pick of the Bears last season, and he ended up being the lone bright spot on offense. Well, other than Cameron Meredith, who was a nice surprise. So it’s up to Howard to carry it for the Bears this season. And a lot of you haters will be all, “He’s this year’s Todd Gurley,” which is baseless because, a) the Bears’ interior offensive line is rad; b) the Bears’ offense has plays designed for the current version of the NFL, and not what Jeff Fisher was running for the Rams; and c) screw you for putting that on him, man.
Nobody. The Bears are never given enough credit. I guess you could say Mike Ditka for winning only one Super Bowl. But, uh, it’s hard to win Super Bowls. (Unless you’re the Patriots.) The Bears competed against one of the two greatest dynasties in NFL history, the 1980s 49ers, who had Joe Montana. The Bears started Steve Fuller against the 49ers in the 1984 NFC Championship Game. If Jim McMahon had been healthy in ’84 and ’86 (when Chicago had to start Doug Flutie against Washington, thanks to Charles Martin — nice way for the Packers to say thank you to the Bears after George Halas saved their franchise years previously), it would have been a three-peat. So shut your cake holes.
Mind you: The Charles Martin hit would be the most upset I would ever see my father. And I once crashed his company car.
It is a lot of fun to wear a Kevin Butler jersey. He was the original No. 6, before Jay Cutler. And people think you’re wearing a Cutler jersey and get ready to say something [expletive] to you. But then they realize it’s a Butt-head jersey and end up buying you a Goose Island (well, before Goose Island got sold).
Closing fun fact
I know a lot of people think Bill Walsh and the 49ers were a classy organization. But the 49ers ran up the score and tried to clown the Bears in the 1984 NFC Championship Game by putting guard Guy McIntyre in the backfield. Oh, hilarious. That inspired Ditka to use William Perry in the backfield in the following season, which led Ditka to run “The Fridge” and deny Walter Payton his rightful touchdown in Super Bowl XX. Something my dad took to the grave with him. Thanks, Bill.
You should be a Bears fan. It’s actually a lot of fun. Now, there hasn’t been a lot of winning recently, but that just means we are due. We have Howard. (Perhaps we can be best friends one day.) The defense, as mentioned above, is really starting to come around. I know neither Glennon nor Trubisky is at the top of the NFL right now, but there is some hope there. And that’s the cool thing. Hope. I remember when Cutler first came to the Bears. There was a lot of optimism. And heck, we did get to the NFC Championship Game, only to lose to the [expletive] Packers. Oh man, I forget what my point is. Oh, yes! There is hope for the future of this team.
And let me tell you: When this team does win a Super Bowl, it’ll make last year’s party at Grant Park for the Cubs championship look like the opening for a Food 4 Less. Chicago is going to rage. I’ll never forget how happy my father was after the Super Bowl (well, maybe a little grousing because of Walter not getting a touchdown), but it was pretty magical. I hope to have that experience with my daughter one day, because it will be the best. The best!
Based on the samples the DB has scanned, Rank acts like he’s a fan of all 32 teams. But he does seem appreciably enthusiastic about the Bears.
With DEREK CARR coming in at $25 million per and MATTHEW STAFFORD (and KIRK COUSINS?) in line to top that, Mike Freeman thinks AARON RODGERS will get jealous.
One AFC general manager believes the free agency of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2018 will have long-reaching effects on the league.
“[Stafford’s] new deal will be in the $25 million-a-year range and could be slightly higher,” the GM predicted. “The key to watch is Aaron [Rodgers]. If Stafford gets a new deal for that much, I can’t blame Aaron for wanting more. Stafford’s deal could lead to a showdown between Aaron and the Packers.”
Rodgers has a contract that lasts through 2019. He will make approximately $12.6 million this year, $20 million next year and another $20 million the year after that. If Stafford does get $25 million a season, watch Rodgers’ reaction closely.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
With a sexual assault case in Louisiana hanging over his head, DT TYRUNN WALKER finds himself waived by the Rams. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
The Los Angeles Rams released veteran defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker on Thursday amid reports that he has been accused of sexual assault in Lafayette, Louisiana.
No charges have been filed against Walker.
The Rams do not publicly comment on players they release, but a source told ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez that Walker was let go largely because they did not see a place for him on their roster.
According to a report by the Baton Rouge Advocate, Lafayette authorities are wrapping up an investigation into claims of sexual assault lodged by two women against Walker and an acquaintance on the night of Feb. 28.
Walker’s agent declined to comment, and no attorney statements have been made on his behalf.
Walker, 27, is from nearby New Iberia, Louisiana, and began his career with the New Orleans Saints from 2012 to 2014. He then spent two years with the Detroit Lions before signing a one-year veteran-minimum contract with the Rams in March.
He went to the Rams as a backup for Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald, and wasn’t expected to receive much playing time because the team has a lot of depth on its defensive line. Walker’s dead cap hit is $80,000.
Lafayette Parish District Attorney Keith Stutes told The Advocate that detectives forwarded their investigative findings to his office June 15. He said, “It’s presently being reviewed,” and it is too soon to say whether he will present the evidence to a grand jury.
According to The Advocate, investigators declined to discuss the inquiry, but they did release a bare-bones initial report that confirmed the existence of the probe without naming any suspects.
The big news in Kansas City is that Andy Reid gets an extension even as GM John Dorsey is fired. Presumably, there was a problem between the two. Terez Paylor in the Kansas City Star on the surface story:
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt maintained for months he was pleased with the job done by coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey the last four years, and that he would discuss contract extensions with the two this summer.
Summer has arrived, but only Reid will remain with the team.
The Chiefs announced Thursday afternoon that Reid signed an extension, but Dorsey is no longer with the team, effective immediately.
“I notified John that we would not be extending his contract beyond the 2017 season, and after consideration, we felt it was in his best interests and the best interests of the team to part ways now,” Hunt said in a release announcing Dorsey’s departure, which was sent about a half-hour after the Chiefs announced Reid’s contract extension. The original five-year contracts for Reid and Dorsey were set to expire after this season.
“This decision, while a difficult one, allows John to pursue other opportunities as we continue our preparations for the upcoming season and the seasons to come. My family and I sincerely appreciate John’s work over the last four-and-a-half years, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Hunt said in a letter to season-ticket holders, however, that his decision came after “thorough examination of the entire football operation.”
“I felt it was best to make a change,” Hunt wrote in the letter.
Since Dorsey and Reid arrived after the disastrous 2012 season, in which the Chiefs went 2-14, the Chiefs have posted a 43-21 record the last four regular seasons and 1-3 in the postseason, making the playoffs three out of four years and ending the club’s 22-year drought without a playoff victory in January 2016. The Chiefs were 12-4 last season and won the AFC West Division for the first time in the Reid/Dorsey era.
The Chiefs did not disclose the terms of Reid’s new contract, but it will run through the 2021 season, according to USA Today’s Tom Pelissero.
But given the Chiefs’ success, Dorsey’s departure resonated throughout the NFL given his reputation as a strong talent evaluator. This is reflected in his positive draft record the last five years, as the Chiefs rely heavily on a primarily homegrown roster.
“Shocked,” one NFL decision-maker told The Star of the decision. “Top-to-bottom best roster in the league.”
The move also generated internal surprise, according to sources, as the news interrupted the vacations of multiple members of the Chiefs front office during the only down period of the football season.
“It caught everybody off guard,” a source with knowledge of the matter said. “Nobody saw it coming. Nobody knows (what happened) because everybody is out of the building.”
The source said another primary reason for the surprise was that the Chiefs fired Dorsey with a year left on his contract and have to pay him for this season, leading some to believe contract negotiations took a wrong turn.
“It was no secret John was looking for a contract extension,” said the source, who added that people knew Dorsey was looking for a “big” payday. “Now you’re paying him to sit at home.”
Before he was let go, Dorsey took a lead role in safety Eric Berry’s contract extension, in addition to the decision to trade up and select quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the NFL Draft. Dorsey noted after the draft that he was pleased with where the Chiefs selected Mahomes, at No. 10, ahead of three teams (New Orleans, Arizona and Houston) that had some degree of interest in him.
Given the Chiefs’ recent record, Dorsey might not go without a job long. In January, his name was floated as a potential replacement for Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, who is expected to retire in the near future. Dorsey spent several years as a player and front-office executive in Green Bay before he arrived in Kansas City.
In a Chiefs release announcing the move, Dorsey thanked Hunt for the opportunity to become a general manager.
“I want to thank Clark, the Hunt family and the Chiefs fans for the opportunity to be a part of Chiefs Kingdom over the last four seasons,” Dorsey said in the release. “I believe this team is well positioned for the future and I wish Coach Reid, the players and the entire organization all the best.”
With Dorsey out, the next men in line for a promotion would appear to be Chiefs co-directors of pro personnel, Brett Veach and Mike Borgonzi. The Chiefs could also hire from outside. The new general manager, like Dorsey, will continue to report to Hunt, same as Reid and team president Mark Donovan.
“In the coming weeks, I will conduct a search for the next general manager which will include both internal and external candidates,” Hunt wrote in the letter to season-ticket members. “I believe we have a strong foundation in place and we will continue to work tirelessly to build on the success we’ve sustained over the last four seasons.”
Reid also has experience handling personnel matters — a responsibility he had his last several years in Philadelphia — though has said repeatedly since he arrived in Kansas City that he has no interest in doing that again.
Reid, 59, is entering his 19th season as an NFL head coach, having spent his first 14 years with the Eagles. He is 10th in career wins among NFL coaches. He has never won a Super Bowl as a head coach, however, and has spoken often about how much fun he’s still having as a coach.
– – –
“I’d like to thank Clark and the entire Hunt family for the opportunity to continue my coaching career here in Kansas City,” Reid said in a release announcing his contract extension. “We’ve made quite a bit of progress over the last four seasons, but we are not done yet. We are going to continue to work towards our ultimate goal of winning championships.”
Hunt decided that Reid’s presence was necessary to keep that goal alive, especially after the selection of Mahomes in the first round.
“My family and I have been very pleased by the success the franchise has sustained over the last four seasons under Coach Reid,” Hunt said in the release. “He has already established himself as one of the best coaches in the league, and he is well on his way to solidifying a place among the all-time greats. We are proud to have him leading our football team, and I look forward to working with him to bring a championship to Chiefs Kingdom.”
Sam Mellinger, also in the Star, tries to figure out what happened:
Most messages left for people in Chiefs football operations past and present — including to Dorsey — went unreturned. The Chiefs have always been good at drawing the circle tight when they need to.
But, piecing together conversations with people in and out of the organization, plus some prior knowledge, here is what I know to be true:
▪ Reid, who was in charge of personnel toward the end in Philadelphia, will not do the same here.
▪ Reid was told about Dorsey, but not asked to approve or give input on the decision.
▪ The Chiefs’ structure of the coach, general manager, and team president reporting equally to Hunt will not change. Hunt will conduct the interviews and hire Dorsey’s replacement.
That’s what I know to be true. Additionally, here is what I believe to be true:
▪ Reid did not force Dorsey out, but Hunt didn’t come up with this idea by himself. He is far more in touch with the Chiefs day-to-day than many think, and would not have done this if he thought Reid or others in football operations would have a major problem. He must’ve heard or seen issues with how Dorsey did his job.
▪ This was not a reaction to the amateurish way that wide receiver Jeremy Maclin’s release was handled, the player saying he learned from a voicemail, and was never asked to take a pay cut. Hunt is not a reactionary, and besides, we haven’t heard Dorsey’s side of what happened.
▪ Hunt decided his team transitioning from abject embarrassment in 2012 immediately into its most successful run in two decades was done because of the coaching and perhaps even in spite of the personnel and salary cap management.
And, now, one thing I suspect could be true:
▪ Perhaps this all broke down around negotiations for a contract extension. Hunt had been consistent — even after the end of the 2016 season — that he expected a long-term deal for Dorsey, whose contract was to expire after the 2017 season. Dorsey could have asked for too much, whether in money or years or an out to take the job in Green Bay if it opened.
I want to be as clear as possible: I don’t know that to be true. But it is my working theory.
Because when a franchise surprises you like this, you try to come up with something that makes sense.
This is not a blanket defense of Dorsey. The Chiefs are seemingly always in salary cap hell, enough that cap specialist Trip MacCracken was let go last month. Dorsey often talked of being willing to spend for what he likes, and that’s often with good results, but the consequence of de-emphasizing bargains is that it’s harder to get out of mistakes.
Dorsey’s contract extension for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was a disaster. He waited too long, which meant spending more than he should have, on extensions for linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. Maclin underperformed a large contract.
Dorsey’s drafts have generally been good, but those aren’t one-man operations. Chris Ballard became one of the game’s top GM candidates largely by his part in drafting cornerback Marcus Peters. Ballard is now the Indianapolis Colts GM.
But a perpetually tight cap situation is hardly a reason to fire a guy who built a strong enough roster for three playoff appearances in four years after the franchise managed just three in the previous 15.
Hunt has always been deliberate by nature and process, but the NFL moves fast, and he just put his franchise in an unnecessarily difficult position. If this was a possibility, it would have been far better to do it after the end of the season, particularly with Ballard in line to make a smooth transition.
That’s why I keep going back to wondering about the contract talk. Reid got an extension, and so did president Mark Donovan. The timing aligns much more cleanly with a broken negotiation than anything else.
Dorsey had called being the Chiefs’ GM his dream job, and sometimes joked that he knew that because his house in Green Bay was on Arrowhead Drive. It made for a great story, and Dorsey likes to tell a good story.
But it’s certainly plausible to wonder whether the call of a place he called home for so long was strong as he talked about a long contract in Kansas City as his mentor Ted Thompson moves closer to retirement in Green Bay.
It could’ve been less direct, too. Maybe he asked for too much money, knowing he’d soon have other opportunities around the league, perhaps even including Green Bay.
That makes the most sense to me. Hard to believe this is solely about a tight cap or a voicemail, not when Dorsey has been a major part of more success than the Chiefs have seen since the 1990s.
The QB DAVID CARR deal is done. Dan Hanzus at NFL.com:
The NFL’s richest man now resides in Oakland.
The Raiders on Thursday signed Derek Carr to a five-year, $125 million extension with $40 million fully guaranteed, $70 million in total guarantees and a $12.5 million signing bonus, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, citing sources familiar with the deal. The deal has elevated Carr over Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck as the league’s highest paid player in terms of average money per year.
The 26-year-old, two-time Pro Bowler was a leading candidate in the 2016 MVP race before breaking his leg on Christmas Eve. So far, Carr has thrown for 11,194 yards, 81 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in three seasons. All along, Carr and the Raiders had viewed the time between the draft and training camp as the ideal window to hammer out an extension.
Carr was rounding out his rookie contract, and was initially due less than $1 million in base salary this year.
The NFL may now see a windfall of quarterback deals that could include Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins in Washington. Carr’s deal provided an ideal launching pad for player agents looking to create the framework of new extensions. With each passing cycle, no quarterback wants to be viewed as second-best.
For Oakland, the move is encouraging but is a sign of work to come. Carr is just one of many dominoes in play for general manager Reggie McKenzie, who now must figure out how to retain Khalil Mack. Quite possibly the best defensive player in football, Mack is under contract through 2018 thanks to the club option. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is on the distant horizon, while standout guard Gabe Jackson is making his case for something in the near future in a market that has become very expensive of late.
Despite a little minor squabbling from both sides, this was always a deal that would get done. The Raiders could not risk eventually fleeing Oakland for a new, experimental NFL market without the promise of an established star at quarterback. Backing into Vegas without Carr would have been a death sentence for a club hoping to establish an entirely different fan base.
McKenzie rightfully won an executive of the year award for his ability to put together a team many believe could contend for the Super Bowl in 2017 if Carr remains healthy. Of course, constructing the team was the easy part. Keeping it together, as we’ve seen already with Carr’s massive deal, is the difficult part.
Now it’s done 😂! From the jump I’ve wanted to be a Raider 4 life. One step closer to that! Blessed!!! Business done! Let’s just play now!!!
Jack Del Rio ✔ @coachdelrio
Congrats w extension!! Continue to be the great teammate and leader you R. God Bless you & your family! #RaiderNation #ReturnToGreatness
Adam Stites of SBNations lauds the new contract:
The Oakland Raiders could have waited to see how Derek Carr recovered from a broken leg suffered in Week 17 of last season. The team had the franchise tag if it couldn’t negotiate a long-term deal before he was set to hit free agency next March.
Instead, the Raiders dished out a record-breaking five-year, $125 million deal to Carr on Thursday. The contract locks up the 26-year-old quarterback through the 2022 season and keeps him from reaching free agency until he’s 31.
But it was a smart move.
First, the risks
Carr is the new highest-paid player in the history of the NFL, with the Raiders now committed to pay him an average of $25 million per season for the next five years.
It’s a pretty staggering amount of money to commit to a quarterback who was eighth in passer rating (96.7), seventh in touchdown passes (28), and 15th in completion percentage (63.8). While Carr has steadily ascended as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, it’s hard to make the argument that he’s top five at the position.
That’s also a large chunk of the salary cap, which is currently set at $167 million per team. It’s also a risk to commit significant amounts of guaranteed money to any player who could get injured and instantly become much less valuable.
The Raiders didn’t have much of a choice
Oakland only had three options:
Pay Carr as soon as possible
Pay Carr later
After a decade of a revolving door of quarterbacks — including JaMarcus Russell, Kerry Collins, Carson Palmer, and Jason Campbell — the Raiders weren’t willing to follow the third option.
Oakland found its franchise quarterback and a record-breaking contract is just the price tag to keep one.
Sure, the team could’ve waited until next offseason to either pay Carr or give the quarterback the franchise tag. But barring a serious injury or a sudden regression, Carr wasn’t going to get any cheaper.
Washington learned its lesson the hard way
Washington went with the second option with Kirk Cousins. A year ago, the team played hardball and offered the quarterback a contract averaging $16 million per year with just $24 million guaranteed. He opted to play on the franchise tag and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl with a 97.2 passer rating.
Now he is due to make $23.94 million under the franchise tag in 2017 and Washington has until July to reach a deal with Cousins or there’s a real chance he leaves as a free agent during the 2018 offseason. If Cousins demands $27 million per year and $90 million guaranteed, can Washington afford to say no?
Ultimately, the Raiders are fronting the bill now because the price is only going to go up. They avoided the mistake that Washington made by not paying Cousins and now have a franchise quarterback to work with for the next five years. Chalk that up as a win for the Raiders.
But Steven Ruiz of For The Win is not a fan.
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start: Derek Carr is a fine young quarterback. He’s good. Probably somewhere in the third tier of NFL quarterbacks. Not bad for a 26-year-old.
OK, got it? Raiders fans, you might want to click away now because you’re not going to like what follows, as you can probably tell from the headline. And it’s a bit odd that you won’t like what you’re about to read because I’m about to praise about 98% of your favorite team’s roster. But, for some reason, we’re willing to tear down the other 52 men who make up a team’s roster if only to prop up the quarterback.
This is true for every fanbase outside of Cleveland (and Houston in recent years) by the way. It’s never the supposed franchise quarterback’s fault. It’s the offensive line or the receivers or the coaching or all three. But that’s not the case in Oakland, where Derek Carr enjoys maybe the best supporting cast in all of football. If it’s not the best, it’s certainly in the discussion.
Great offensive line? Check. In fact, it might be the best in the league when it comes to pass protection. Yes, even better than Dallas’ line.
Good receiving corps? You bet. Amari Cooper is a route-running stud. Michael Crabtree may drop some passes, but he’s an elite WR2. And the team just gave Carr a good passing tight end in the form of Jared Cook.
Good running game? Good may be a stretch, but it was certainly solid. And the Raiders short passing game — Oakland has thrown a lot of screen passes over the last three seasons — is really an extension of that running game. Oakland was able to keep Carr in favorable down-and-distances all season. Only 72 of his 560 attempts came on 3rd-and-long.
The point is, Carr has had a lot of help, which makes you wonder if the Raiders will come to regret making him the highest-paid player in NFL history, as they did on Thursday, inking the 26-year-old to a five-year, $125 million contract. After all, if the quarterback is making that much, how can the team possibly keep that stellar supporting group around him? The team still has to lock up 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, Cooper and keep its dominant offensive line intact. It won’t be able to lock them all up with the quarterback making more than 15% of the cap, so sacrifices will have to be made.
And that’s why you have to look beyond Carr’s raw numbers when assessing this deal to figure out if he’s capable of elevating those around him. The answer to that question is unclear, which should at least give Raiders fans some pause before celebrating this deal.
Now, if the team had gotten him at a below-market price, then, by all means, celebrate. But simply locking him for the going rate is not something to cheer about. NFL teams don’t get ahead by simply going with the market; they get ahead by finding market inefficiencies. That didn’t happen here.
(Please spare me the “Did you see our offense after Carr got hurt?” argument. We’re talking about a $25 million-per-year contract. The point of comparison should not be Connor Cook.)
As I wrote back in October, the key to the Raiders’ offensive success in 2016 was the offensive line, which built an impenetrable wall around Carr. Only Ben Roethlisberger was pressured on fewer dropbacks, per Football Outsiders. So what happens if that line suddenly falls apart due to old age and contract disputes? Suddenly Carr’s inability to anticipate throws and his lazy footwork in the pocket becomes an issue.
We’re still seeing way too many flat-footed throws from Carr in clean pockets, which can cause him to under-throw open receivers. He has no reason not to step into this throw and put the ball out in front of his tight end:
And what happens if he loses Cooper or when the 29-year-old Crabtree’s play eventually declines? All of a sudden his accuracy issues become more of a problem.
And what happens when his interception luck turns around? Carr finished fourth with an interception percentage of 1.1% in 2016, cutting that number in half from 2015. But the Raiders quarterback finished with 24 interceptable passes, per Cian Fahey’s charting numbers. Just 14 quarterbacks had more last season. Per Fahey, none of Carr’s six interceptions were the fault of his receivers, either. That’s rare. Like “one of only four quarterbacks to enjoy that luxury” rare. Don’t expect Carr to be a single-digit interception guy again.
The other big concern with Carr, which doesn’t have much to do with the players around him, is his yard-per-attempt average. In three years, he has yet to post a league average yards-per-attempt. So he may produce impressive numbers, but some of those numbers are empty. That’s why he doesn’t perform as well in situation-dependent metrics, like ESPN’s QBR, as he does in more traditional statistics.
Carr finished 16th in QBR, and finished with the sixth-highest “Failed Completion Percentage” in 2016, per Football Outsiders. A failed completion being a pass completion that does not gain “gain 45 percent of needed yards on first down; 60 percent of needed yards on second down; or 100 percent of needed yards on third or fourth down.” Only Cody Kessler, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Jared Goff threw a higher percentage of failed completions. That’s not the company you want your highly-paid quarterback to keep.
These numbers aren’t going to convince Raiders fans to turn on their franchise savior. But they should create some doubt in their minds about this mega deal. Carr isn’t a lock to grow into a elite quarterback, and he’ll need to if he’s going to earn this contract. There’s as good a chance this ends up derailing the franchise down the road, as Flacco’s deal in 2012 did to the Ravens.
Look, Carr’s a promising quarterback who has the potential to grow into a legit franchise quarterback capable of elevating his supporting cast rather than the other way around. He just isn’t there yet. Although you wouldn’t know it based on his ranking in the NFL’s ‘Top 100 Players’ list (11th) or his new record-breaking contract.
All great QBs have had outstanding receivers. Cooper is great, Crabtree is okay. All great QBs have had at least “good” offensive lines. Oakland’s running game has been nothing special. Ruiz makes it sound like on a scale of 1 to 10, Carr’s surrounding cast is at least a 9. We would say more like a 7.
Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com thinks Carr is actually a bargain.
Save your tired debate show segment: Of course Derek Carr is worth the money.
In the wake of Carr signing a five-year, $125 million extension with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, there will be breakdowns of how Carr’s money stacks up against other quarterbacks’ guarantees and average annual salaries. There will be consternation in towns like Green Bay and Atlanta, stemming from awareness that Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan deserve more.
It will be a waste of time.
Franchise quarterbacks all take their turn near the top of the market, because the best NFL quarterbacks, like Carr, are uniformly underpaid.
* * * * *
The Raiders had no choice but to get this contract out of the way. They couldn’t afford any extra awkwardness with the team’s best player heading into one of the most awkward seasons in NFL history.
Oakland fans have waited for a campaign with this much promise for 15 years. They’ve waited for a homegrown quarterback to call their own since Kenny Stabler left town 11 years before Carr was born. Now Raiders fans have both, along with the uncomfortable knowledge that they won’t have a team for long.
The time is now for this Raiders squad, with Carr’s value incalculable. Following the MVP candidate’s devastating broken leg on Christmas Eve last season, the Raiders went from one of the NFL’s best offenses to inert in subsequent losses to the Broncos and Texans. As steady off the field as he is accurate on it, Carr stands out for his composure and late-game dramatics. His 11 fourth-quarter comebacks over the last two years tied Peyton Manning (in 2008-09) for the most in a two-year stretch in NFL history. Manning won the MVP award both of those years.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie enjoyed the spoils of Carr’s rookie contract, which paid the second-round pick a bit more than $4.3 million over the past three seasons, according to Spotrac.com. The team has spent copious amounts of cap space in free agency, compiling the NFL’s most expensive (and effective) pass protection in the process. Yet ponying up for Carr was hardly a difficult decision. It’s the price of doing business, and the price is more than fair.
Carr is the 14th quarterback who will make more than $20 million per year in a market that is missing a middle class. NFL decision makers have happily paid that much because the price for quarterbacks remains low compared to other positions, and what QBs could receive on the open market.
Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed for $60 million guaranteed and $19 million per year in 2015’s free agency, before the latest rises in the salary cap. Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon signed for $17 million per year as a free agent in 2016. Those prices indicate that even the highest-paid quarterback like Carr is only worth 24-31 percent more than a quality defensive lineman. Watching football every Sunday, not to mention watching the prices quarterbacks attract in trades, tells a different story.
The Packers signed pass rusher Nick Perry on a contract for roughly half of Carr’s deal. I love Perry as a player, but all 32 NFL teams would rather have one Derek Carr than two Nick Perrys. Teams would likely rather have one Derek Carr than four Nick Perrys, even without contemplating the moral and logistical issues.
There’s no telling what a great, young franchise quarterback would receive on the open market, because it never happens. General managers like McKenzie don’t allow it to happen, because they know that other teams would happily blow the top off quarterback pay scales. Contemplate how much the Browns or Jets would pay Carr in a scenario where they didn’t even have to give up trade compensation. $30 million per year? $40 million?
I asked NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport how much money someone like Carr would earn if he actually reached the open market:
“All of it,” he replied.
The last top-shelf quarterback to hit free agency was Peyton Manning in 2012, and that was coming off a career-threatening neck surgery. The Broncos still paid him at the top of the market, and they would admit now he was worth much more.
The machinations surrounding Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the last two seasons prove instructive. Cousins doesn’t have the physical gifts or the long-term upside of Carr. The previous Redskins front office reportedly had mixed feelings about giving him a long-term deal. Yet the Redskins have been forced to pay Cousins close to $24 million this season on a franchise tag because losing a solid starting quarterback for nothing is unthinkable.
Cousins has so much leverage that a new Redskins official compliments him publicly every day. The ‘Skins are forced to campaign for Cousins just to take their money because the QB knows greater riches are around the corner if he becomes available next offseason.
On the face of it, Cousins making more money than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck doesn’t add up. Cousins’ price tag only makes sense when you consider all these quarterbacks earn less than they are worth to a franchise.
The computing above is done in a system where the salary cap ties down prices significantly. The cap has ultimately played a huge part in helping the NFL to grow, the most American of sports buoyed by socialist economic principles of sharing profits and capped wages.
Just imagine, for a minute, a world in which there is no franchise tag and no salary cap. Imagine Derek Carr playing out his rookie contract and vying for the best deal possible from competing billion-dollar businesses. How much would a great, young franchise quarterback be worth then? $50 million per year?
NFL owners are glad they don’t have to find out.
* * * * *
Two months removed from the Raiders’ desultory playoff loss in Houston, coach Jack Del Rio was asked what he learned from the 2016 season.
“Don’t lose your quarterback,” Del Rio deadpanned.
Carr and other true franchise quarterbacks carry an incredible weight on their shoulders. He’s worth the money because of his innate feel for the position, his decision making, his ability to mix speeds like a relief pitcher and his athleticism and arm strength to improvise when things go wrong. Quarterbacks are also asked to be franchise faces, with Carr a great example of a young man representing his organization with intelligence and character.
That combination of value — on and off the field — is why Matthew Stafford will get his money soon, too, and the tired “Is he worth it?” conversations will start all over again.
NFL owners and general managers know the answer. For the value they provide, franchise quarterbacks are still underpaid.
Mike Freeman on the Gronk conundrum:
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has managed to become the best ever at his position (I said it) while establishing a rep as one of the biggest party guys in the NFL.
Recently, he ran up a $100,000 tab that included 160 bottles of champagne, more than all of the champagne consumed in Times Square on New Year’s Eve (just kidding).
The fact that Gronkowski parties isn’t news. The mild reaction he seems to get because of it, however, is to a number of players around the league.
Players tell me, as they have for some time now, that they don’t believe any other player could get away with the party rep the way Gronk does. This isn’t jealousy, just bewilderment.
Gronkowski is held to a different standard, but he gets away with it because he is dedicated and productive on the field. His pain tolerance is almost legendary and his ability to transform the Patriots offense is all but irreplaceable.
Gronkowski knows he’s popular, and he’s using that knowledge to make money off the field. He gets that part of it, and that’s smart, even if his NFL brethren are perplexed by it.
The DB would say that so far Gronkowski has “gotten away with it” is because he has avoided any messy public entanglements in his personal life and has not be arrested or detained (to our knowledge) by police. No fights, no late night auto accidents, a sense that his partying is confined to alcohol…
The test of Gronkowski’s Teflon status will come if and when there is something semi-tangible for media critics to hang their hat on.
– – –
Meanwhile, a topless TOM BRADY is caught on video grappling with a male. He too will survive with the same reputation he had before the video surfaced. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com explains:
Tom Brady is known for constantly seeking new offseason training methods and this week he looked in an unusual place: A sumo stable.
Brady, who is on a promotional tour in Asia, worked out with the 355-pound sumo wrestler Goeido and asked the trainers questions about their sport, which requires a great deal of balance and power.
“For them to welcome me means very much to me. It’s hard to describe in words how special that was,” Brady told the Kyodo News.
When it comes to offseason workouts, a lineman could probably benefit more from sumo training than a quarterback could, but Brady will leave no stone unturned in his quest to keep playing at a high level into his mid-40s.
Son Jack is also along for Brady’s tour. Jason Brow at HollywoodLife.com:
It looks like Tom Brady is now a two-sport superstar! While the New England Patriots icon and his 9-year-old son, Jack Brady, were in Tokyo on June 21, they threw down with some sumo wrestlers — and the results weren’t pretty.
Well, actually — they were. After all, this is Tom Brady, after all. The 39-year-old, five-time Super Bowl champion is a good-looking guy. His son, Jack Brady, 9, is also a spitting image of his father and he joined his dad in trying out sumo wrestling in Japan. Tom, who’s on an Under Armour promotional tour in Asia, suited up to take on one of Japan’s finest heavyweights. While the New England Patriots quarterback is used to fighting off 300-plus pound guys, he struggled to move the sumo wrestler an inch, leaving the other wrestlers there in stitches at the attempt.
Tom decided to take on a much more “manageable” opponent, as he squared off with his son. “Brady vs. Brady,” Tom captioned the photo, before dropping a sweet Highlander reference. “#ThereCanBeOnlyOne.” Once again, it would be foolish to bet against Tom Brady (just ask the Atlanta Falcons.) Still, at nine years old, if Jack is as gifted as his father, he might have channeled the New York Giants to pull off the shocking upset.
Jack was all smiles in a Boomerang video posted on June 21, as he was filmed running through a fountain in Shanghai. “We couldn’t have had any more fun,” Tom said, giving his thanks to the beautiful city for hosting them. Tom also shared a picture of him getting his chi aligned in Shanghai. “The sound of silence,” Tom said, before pointing out that he was rocking a pair of Beats By Dre headphones. Perhaps he was listening to “The Sounds Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel?
NEW YORK JETS
As expected, Jets owner Woody Johnson is Donald Trump’s pick to be ambassador to the Court of St. James. Christopher Brennan in the New York Daily News:
He’ll have to brush up on a different type of football.
President Trump has nominated New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to become the U.S. ambassador to Britain, with his brother Christopher Johnson set take over day-to-day operations of the team in his absence.
The White House announced the move Thursday evening, confirming previous claims that the Jets chairman and Trump fund-raiser could be sent to represent the U.S. across the pond.
Trump’s announcement pointed to Johnson’s asset management firm The Johnson Company, as well as his more than 16 years with the Jets and his work with the Lupus Research Alliance.
Our advice for NY sports team presidents and GMs
The President has said that Johnson, a billionaire member of the Council on Foreign Relations and longtime major Republican donor, would be his ambassador to the U.K. as far back as a luncheon for supporters in January.
Chatter about the Jets CEO flying off to foreign lands has prompted speculation that he would give up his NFL committee assignments and hand day-to-day control of the franchise to his brother, a plan confirmed by the Jets Thursday evening.
THIS AND THAT
TOP QB CONTRACTS
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com, in the wake of the DEREK CARR deal, takes a long look at how to efficiently value quarterback contracts:
It’s time to have smarter conversations about NFL contracts. Professional football deals are unique among American sports in that they’re mostly non-guaranteed, leading to all kinds of confusion and manipulation. Fans and media members alike will often quote the maximum possible terms a contract can offer, which is naive. More skeptical folks look for the guarantees — and those can be equally misleading. The reality is, even the number fully guaranteed at signing, often the most conservative mark, is too short.
Let’s fix that. Let’s get a stronger grip on where the QB market actually stands and clear up who really has the best contract in football. The initial reports surrounding the five-year, $125-million extension Derek Carr signed with the Raiders yesterday suggested the Oakland quarterback had reset the bar for quarterbacks at $25 million per year, just ahead of the five-year, $123-million pact Andrew Luck signed last June.
My colleague Dan Graziano correctly noted how the new Carr contract does nothing of the sort. Luck’s deal is actually a six-year, $139.1-million pact. Here’s what each quarterback will take home in actual cash over the course of their respective deals on a year-by-year basis, with Carr’s 2021 and 2022 salaries estimated to fit the announced $125 million term:
Luck Deal Vs. Carr Deal
YEAR LUCK CARR
Year 1 $44,000,000 $25,000,000
Year 2 $57,000,000 $47,500,000
Year 3 $75,000,000 $67,600,000
Year 4 $96,125,000 $87,700,000
Year 5 $118,125,000 $106,400,000
Year 6 $139,125,000 $125,000,000
The difference between the two deals, as I mentioned in talking about Carr’s future last week, is what each player was due in the final year of their respective rookie deals. Luck was about to make $16.2 million, while Carr was only in line to pocket $977,519. Take those two numbers off the top and you’ll see how the Carr contract will be sold: Luck earned $123 million in new money, while Carr’s new deal brought him home $124 million.
That small increase is no accident.
Agents look to constantly reset the top of the market with a new top figure, with help from highly competitive players who want to be recognized as the best (and most expensive) players at their respective positions. Deals get sliced together and turned into stories which don’t actually reflect reality. Sure, Carr got more new money, but whose deal would you rather have?
Let’s run through a simple framework for judging QB deals, most of which will apply to contracts for players at other positions, too. From there, we can gain a much clearer sense of where the quarterback market actually stands. Let’s start with some reality, and lessons:
The final year (if not two) of a starting QB’s second contract is basically irrelevant.
To be clear, “second contract” is talking about the extensions handed out to quarterbacks as they come off their rookie deals.
Regulars don’t play out their full deal because they head down one of two plausible paths. If a player is bad or suffers a serious injury, he won’t be worth the terms of the contract to his team. Because virtually all the guaranteed money in NFL deals come early — often in the first two seasons — they can be cut without paying any additional money out of pocket. The team will owe some amount of dead money because the remainder of the player’s signing bonus will accelerate onto their current cap, but that will frequently be less than what they would owe the player to stick around.
Alternately, if a player is good, he’ll likely work his way into a new contract. Teams will occasionally allow a player to enter the final year of his deal and play out the full contract, like Pierre Garcon in Washington last season, but this is virtually never the case with quarterbacks who are on lucrative second contracts. They either flame out and lose their deal or sign a massive extension before coming close to sniffing free agency.
In the current NFL, there are five starting passers who are on their third long-term contract. None of them were allowed to enter the final year of their contract as a lame-duck passer. Joe Flacco was re-signed with three years to go in his deal as part of a cap crunch. Aaron Rodgers was a comical bargain to such an extent that he was given a five-year extension with two years left to go on his deal. Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger all signed their third deals before the 2015 season kicked off and a year before they would have hit unrestricted free agency in March 2016.
This year, the only quarterbacks who qualify are Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford. (Kirk Cousins is technically on his third contract, given that he played out his rookie deal and has been franchise tagged to two consecutive one-year deals.) Stafford is extremely likely to receive a new deal this summer. Bradford is an interesting case, given that he played out the most lucrative rookie quarterback contract in league history and then signed a two-year extension just before free agency began. He might be a rare exception to the rule, but it’s also not really accurate to compare his two-year pact with the five-year extensions signed by players like Carr, Luck and Cam Newton.
With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to throw away the final year of most quarterback extensions. Teams will use that number as leverage when they negotiate an extension, but it’s far less likely to be a bargain than a quarterback’s rookie deal, as was the case with Carr.
Be cognizant of how the guarantees work.
It’s too simplistic to look at the initial guaranteed number which leaks out at the time of a contract. Remember how Colin Kaepernick’s six-year, $114-million extension was supposed to guarantee him $61 million? Just $13 million of that figure was actually guaranteed at the signing. Kaepernick ended up making $39.3 million from that deal after he restructured the deal in 2016 and declined his player option this offseason.
Derek Carr’s deal doesn’t shock the QB market
The Raiders quarterback now is the league’s “highest-paid player” on a deal that is perfect for him, but the $125 million extension fails to shake up the marketplace for other signal-callers.
It’s also not insightful enough to look into the number fully guaranteed at signing, because that can also be misleading. Early in extensions, a team would owe far more in dead money to cut a player than they would to keep him around, ensuring his presence on the roster. In some cases, too, a player’s future base salary will guarantee a year before it’s actually triggered, which is practically a guarantee.
Take Matt Ryan’s extension, for example. It was $30 million fully guaranteed once he put pen to paper in July 2013. In 2014, the Falcons technically could have gotten out of his deal after one season, but they would have owed $39.4 million in dead money, which is totally impractical. Naturally, they kept Ryan around, which guaranteed his $12 million option bonus, 2014 base salary of $9.5 million, and $7.5 million of his $11.5 million base salary in 2015, meaning that the Falcons were extremely unlikely to cut him to save $4 million that year, either. Practically, Ryan was guaranteed to take home $63 million from his extension.
There’s no quick and dirty way to measure what a player is practically guaranteed, and in some cases, it depends on the eye of the beholder. No team is going to eat $31 million in dead money on their cap, but would they be willing to eat $17 million if they can designate a player as a post-June 1 release and spread it across two cap periods? $12 million? It all depends on the structure and size of the deal along with the circumstances of the team.
Use the three-year value of the deal for most players, although the four-year value applies for QBs.
The best simple measure of a contract’s value, as I mentioned in writing about Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald, is the total amount it’s due to pay a player over its first three seasons. It’s the happiest medium between looking strictly at guarantees and using the maximum return of a contract. It won’t be perfect, but it’s a measure plenty of NFL teams use in their own contract evaluations.
For quarterbacks — especially those on or entering second deals — it might make more sense to use the value of the first four years, just because teams are often giving them longer contracts and structuring them in a way that leaves them likely to remain on the roster on one deal for four seasons. I’m going to split the difference. To figure out the 10 biggest quarterback contracts, I’ll use the average of each quarterback’s three-year and four-year contract value. Players whose contracts are shorter than four years won’t be included, which leaves out Cousins, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
The top of the QB market
10. Russell Wilson
Three-year value: $56,642,000
Four-year value: $72,142,000
Wilson signed a four-year, $87.6-million extension before entering the final year of his rookie deal in 2015, one which gave the former third-round pick a $31 million signing bonus. Wilson was the closest comparison I could find for Carr, given that he’s the most notable quarterback to sign an extension after excelling as a midround pick in the draft under the new CBA. Carr got far more in new money, which suggests Wilson left money on the table. The Seahawks also prefer to hand out shorter contracts under John Schneider than most teams, even for stars.
9. Aaron Rodgers
Three-year value: $60,750,000
Four-year value: $73,350,000
The Packers sat Rodgers behind Brett Favre for three years, but after just seven starts in 2008, Ted Thompson saw enough to lock Rodgers up with a six-year extension. Rodgers was two years from free agency, but his six-year, $63.3-million deal ended up as an enormous bargain. Rodgers made $44.2 million over the first four years of that deal before Thompson locked Rodgers up again with a five-year extension. He still has three years and $55.7 million to go on that deal, which is $10 million more than what the Bears gave Mike Glennon this offseason. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rodgers get another extension in 2018.
8. Matt Ryan
Three-year value: $63,000,000
Four-year value: $78,750,000
This deal might have seemed like a relatively disappointing contract given Ryan’s (and the Falcons’) downturn between 2013 and 2015, but Ryan responded with a stunning MVP season in 2016. Ryan and Rodgers have the two oldest deals on this list, with both having signed their extensions during the 2013 season. Ryan has two years and $45.4 million remaining on his contract, but he’s likely next in line for an extension after the Falcons lock up Devonta Freeman.
7. Joe Flacco
Three-year value: $62,000,000
Four-year value: $80,500,000
Flacco might have entered the league with Ryan, but he’s already part of the way through his third deal after making one of the most lucrative and successful bets in league history. Flacco elected to play out his rookie deal and delivered far beyond anybody’s expectations, playing brilliant football en route to a Super Bowl. Nobody in Baltimore will complain about that, but the resulting contract the Ravens were forced to give Flacco to keep him in town has turned into a boondoggle. Flacco made $62 million over the first three years of that deal, which was structured in such a way that it forced the Ravens to give the Delaware grad another extension after 2015. Flacco will pocket an additional $62 million from the first three years of that third contract, giving him a cool $124 million for six years of work. He has been a mediocre quarterback over that time frame and doesn’t profile as likely to improve at 32, but the Ravens can’t realistically move on from Flacco until the 2019 season.
6. Ben Roethlisberger
Three-year value: $65,000,000
Four-year value: $82,000,000
The Steelers would have been responsible for somewhere around $18 million on their cap for Roethlisberger this season regardless of whether he retired or not; Pittsburgh would have been stuck with $18.6 million in dead money on their 2017 cap for the future Hall of Famer had he left the game and will instead be in line for a $18.2 million cap hold this year. While the Steelers are hoping Roethlisberger sticks around for the immediate future, next year would be more palatable; Roethlisberger’s $23.2 million cap hit would fall to $12.4 million were he to retire.
5. Cam Newton
Three-year value: $67,166,666
Four-year value: $82,666,666
The Panthers couldn’t have timed the Newton deal much better. They gave their former first overall pick a five-year, $103.8-million extension as he entered the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and Newton promptly responded by leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl and winning an MVP award. The two-time college champ took home $31 million between his base salary and various bonuses for his MVP campaign. Newton has the third-best deal among quarterbacks on their second contracts, although he’s likely to be pipped in 2019 by Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
4. Philip Rivers
Three-year value: $68,000,000
Four-year value: $83,000,000
Rivers’ deal is listed with $37.5 million in guarantees at signing, but the first three years of his deal were practically guaranteed, given that his cap hit this year ($20 million) would be far less than the dead money on his deal ($29 million). The North Carolina State product also has a full no-trade clause, upon which we can’t really place a monetary value. Rivers still has two years and $31 million left on his third deal with the Chargers, at which point he’ll be entering his age-38 season. If Rivers wants to play into his 40s, Los Angeles would likely look to extend Rivers next offseason.
3. Eli Manning
Three-year value: $68,500,000
Four-year value: $84,500,000
Roethlisberger, Rivers and Manning came from the same draft class in 2004. They were each set to become unrestricted free agents following the expiration of their second contracts with their respective teams at the end of the 2015 season. Roethlisberger signed his extension first, in March. Rivers followed up by signing his in August. Manning was the last to sign, coming in several days before the start of the 2015 season in September. Note the tiny differences between their three contracts and the order in which they appear on this list. That’s not a coincidence! If you’re wondering why Stafford was waiting for Derek Carr to sign his extension, this is why.
2. Derek Carr
Three-year value: $67,600,000
Four-year value: $87,700,000
While Carr’s deal didn’t reset the quarterback market, he’s certainly residing in some very expensive real estate. The Raiders could theoretically get out of Carr’s deal in 2019 after two seasons and $47.5 million, but it’s hard to imagine that things would go south that quickly, even in the worst-case scenario. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has typically stayed away from signing bonuses during his tenure — the largest veteran signing bonus on the books for the Raiders before Carr’s deal was $7 million — but he gave Carr a $12 million signing bonus in addition to $22.5 million in roster bonuses over the next two years.
1. Andrew Luck
Three-year value: $75,000,000
Four-year value: $96,125,000
If anyone in the NFL is truly a $25 million-per-year quarterback, it’s Luck, who will pocket that much over the first three years of his massive extension with Indianapolis. Luck’s cap hit is under $20 million this year, but it spikes to $24.4 million in 2018, $27.5 million in 2019, and $28.4 million in 2020. Only Flacco, Drew Brees and Ndamukong Suh have larger cap hits in 2018, with Luck second behind Suh in 2019 before topping the charts in 2020.
This is the contract which led Ryan Grigson to bemoan how he was fiscally unable to build a defense — a comment which makes you wonder why Grigson gave Luck that much money in the first place. It’s a huge gap between Luck and the rest of the market, but as Graziano noted last year, Luck almost definitely left more money on the table.
As big as these numbers appear, quarterbacks are almost definitely underpaid as a species, and if the Colts didn’t want to pay Luck this much, teams like the Browns and 49ers would be falling over themselves to make the Stanford star the league’s first $30 million quarterback.