Teams looking to build dynasties should focus on contract parity to fill the salary cap, not on building with a qaurterback on a mega-contract.
The 2019 NFL Salary Cap is set at $188.2 million. The top eight paid players in the NFL are all quarterbacks, with an average salary of approximately $28 million each. This means that the average starting quarterback playing on the second (or third, or fourth) contract is taking up more than 15 percent of their team’s salary cap.
All of this, despite making up less than two percent of their team’s active roster.
Looking at the landscape, $28 million is clearly is the floor for all future starting quarterback contracts. Some estimates have Patrick Mahomes’ projected second contract checking in somewhere around $40 million annually (a whopping 20 percent of the projected 2020 salary cap). Where the some other star quarterbacks land in the interim — think Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck — land will likely do nothing but drive up the price for Mahomes.
The likely question that NFL teams are asking themselves? Does quarterback “X” project to make more than “Y” (guaranteed money) for their franchise. Instead, they should be asking themselves: how do I pay 52 other NFL-caliber players with 80 percent of the salary cap.
With the NFL minimum salary being $480,000 , football players are well-compensated. With an average of $3 million to spend per player ($160 million over the other 52 players); NFL players will remain making huge salaries even after their quarterback inks their mega-contract.
But, just because a team can give out a five-year, $200 million contract to the face of their franchise; does that really mean they should?
There are several reasons for NFL general managers to consider creating a ceiling for what they’re willing (or able, if they choose to seek a policy agreement with the NFL Player’s Association) to pay the quarterback of their team’s present and future.
First and foremost, a team where one person is making 13 times the average salary of the rest of the locker room creates an resentful environment. The Pittsburgh Steelers are Exhibit A. These people are professionals, and they understand the business of the NFL; but they’re also human, and likely can’t help but consider the massive pay gap, particularly for players taking the brunt of the physical damage (linebackers, running backs … not quarterbacks).
Teams across the league are already learning — in most cases the hard way — what it means to pay up for their franchise guy. Seattle has had to cut bait with nearly all of its legendary defense. Minnesota finds itself in free agency and move-making purgatory just one year after paying up for Kirk Cousins. The Washington Redskins are in a deep hole after floating huge cash to Alex Smith, only for a brutal injury to put his career in jeopardy.
There are others whose bills have already come due, but are no longer making the same headlines. The Atlanta Falcons are ringless and struggling since over-paying Matt Ryan. The Green Bay Packers are struggling to build around Aaron Rodgers, and the Detroit Lions are … well … the Lions.
As with most football arguments, the New England Patriots seem to be at the forefront of every argument for a model, and also every argument for an exception.
Tom Brady is the exception to the “quarterbacks taking all the money” rule; and the Patriots Dynasty that Bill Belichick has built has largely been with a lack of superstar talent.
Of course, we must acknowledge that the two-decade run New England has been on is a once-in-a-lifetime situation. But its not a coincidence that the best franchise in the NFL, who boasts the greatest quarterback of all time, also boasts only the 17th highest QB cap hit in the league.