Pay the Man, The Quarterback Contracts of 2013

This pre-season we saw more QB’s getting blockbuster contracts than ever, simply through fear of there being no better option. So I thought I would revisit these players and the consequences of these contracts.


Before I start, I am very aware the NFL is a business and the most important piece of any team is the QB. But should teams really be paying this much for one player? Let’s have a look.

Joe Flacco ($120.6m)

In the first year the salary cap hit is only $6.2m after that, things start getting bad. In 2014/15 his hit is $14m, 2016 $28.55m. So how has paying this much for Flacco affected this team? Well the current Super bowl champs are 4-6 and are currently out of the running for the AFC North. So how is this Flacco’s fault? Well for starters they couldn’t spend any money replacing a number of positions that were in transition. Ray Lewis retiring was the obvious one, but really not that important after he’s suffered a fairly significant drop off in the last couple of seasons. Even Ed Reed moving on isn’t that big of deal with the injuries he’s suffered over the last few seasons. But the inability to replace the likes of Anquan Boldin and Centre, Matt Birk has really changed the Offence. The O-line managed to hold it together to make the Super bowl run last season, but this season has really struggled which in large part is down to the lack of Matt Birk. As result they can’t run the ball which means Flacco is left to make bad decisions throwing the ball and without a Boldin to catch the ball, it becomes harder. So Flacco’s giant contract has made his life a lot harder and it will only get worse in the future.

Aaron Rodgers ($130.75m)

This contract makes sense. You have to pay the best QB in the league the amount he deserves, even if it is a ridiculous amount. That being said, Aaron Rodgers’ massive contract is the one that affects the team’s performance most this year, simply because he isn’t playing.  With Rodgers having a massive contract it means that they have to scrimp in other areas, which isn’t generally a problem thanks to Rodgers making every Offensive player look a lot better. Receivers will never have it so easy and he elevates every single one. The O-line is probably one of the leakiest in the league, but his ability to turn nothing into something, makes them look a lot better and if everyone is concerned about Rodgers, it gives a Running Back an opportunity to make some plays that wouldn’t have presented themselves unless in this unique opportunity. So what happens when Rodgers goes down? Receivers start to look very ordinary, Running backs get less opportunities (except against the Bears) and the O-line looks like one of the worst in the league, not to mention the Defence that is now under pressure knowing there isn’t a clutch QB on their team to lead them out of dire situations. Also with Rodgers giant contract there simply isn’t the money to spend on a decent backup QB who will have a tough time with what they have on the field anyway, thanks to players that really aren’t of the Megatron or Peterson standard surrounding them. Rodgers being down this season is as big a loss as Peyton was for the Colts. They simply can’t win without him.

Tony Romo ($119.5m)

This was considered a huge risk taken by the Cowboys and has been instrumental in the downfall of a Cowboys season that looked to have at least play offs written all over it. Whilst he has been playing at a high level and has made an Offence shine (with a great deal of help from Dez Bryant), Romo’s controversial contract has affected the team on the other side of the ball. The Cowboy’s Defence could be one of the worst in the league at the moment and the responsibility of what’s to blame is neatly split in 2. For starters it is looking more and more like having Monte Kiffin as Defensive Coordinator was a bad choice and I hope for the Cowboys sake they hand him his notice and upgrade Rod Marinelli to run the Defence. After what he managed with the Bears over the last few seasons, I would say he could work wonders with some of these pieces. But what we want to talk about is how a blockbuster contract like Romo’s is affecting this Defence. In short it’s meant they lack depth and for a team that has suffered injuries at pretty much every position it is proving to be the difference between a playoff team and a .500 team if they’re lucky. With a decent Defence this team doesn’t just makes the play offs but dominates them, but without it Romo isn’t quite good enough to win a shootout and they go nowhere. A shake up is needed in Dallas and they will need to address their needs through the draft.

Matthew Stafford ($53m)

A mere drop in the ocean compared to the other players on this list and is probably the reason they Lions are the only team here with serious play-off hopes. That being said it has still affected them. The Lions are suffering from having too many early first round picks with Suh, Fairley, Johnson and Stafford all either looking for or having huge contracts. What this means is whilst they are almost second to none at these positions, they really suffer everywhere else. On Offence the lack of a decent no. 2 Receiver could genuinely what stops them making the play offs and whilst Calvin Johnson will more often than not keep them in games despite facing triple coverage, it isn’t something you can rely on. If the Lions are to take the next step and Schwartz is given the chance and isn’t out on his ear, then they will seriously need to renegotiate some contracts.

Matt Ryan ($103m)

This could be the most evident story of a blockbuster contract killing a team’s chance of them all. To be fair to Ryan it really isn’t every season that a player will lose both his starting Receivers and Running back, but most teams would find a way to get things done. The Falcons instead had no choice but to collapse and are vying for being one of the worst teams in the league currently. Matt Ryan is proving there is clear distinction from the guys at the top and where he is (do you think Rodgers would be suffering in this situation), don’t get me wrong I still think he’s good but there is a difference between a player that can make something out of nothing and a player who can make get the most from decent weapons. I would imagine though some sense of normality returns and Ryan with the presence of Jones and White becomes a force to be reckoned with. But this season is a harsh lesson about paying over the odds for a player and the effect it has on a team.

Future Contracts

Despite all the above contracts, we still have players from the last 2 years that have come in and changed the league and despite what’s happened this season teams will be forced to play over the odds for the likes of Luck, RGIII and Wilson as they have essentially had teams built round them. This will have a huge effect on the likes of the Seahawks who rely on the whole team to perform and will probably have to lose a few important pieces to keep Wilson. Newton and Kaepernick are interesting cases as both of them can start looking to renegotiate their contracts this season and it could mean a change in dynamic for both the Niners and Panthers, in the Niners case they could start looking for a trade as Kaepernick will almost certainly tone down the effort to try and get one of these blockbuster deals. Then there’s Jay Cutler, who will be in similar situations as last season’s QB’s as they Bears would probably struggle to find someone better, but probably question whether he is worth the $100m, losing some of the older pieces like Peppers could help but at some point Jeffery will want to renegotiate as will an O-line that has performed admirably, which leaves you wondering, should they pay him? It’s these worries that every team will face after even the slightest success at QB.

What can the League do to Prevent Overpaying Players?

Very little. One idea is to bring in individual contract caps, meaning that a team simply can’t pay over the odds for a player. If they do that though players will gravitate to the successful teams and you have a situation where there is no longer the level of competition in the League. They could remove the salary cap…see above, or they could introduce positional caps. This doesn’t work when someone like Calvin Johnson who is at least in the top 3 Receivers of all time would end up getting paid less than an average QB.

The truth is, there is no real solution, but Quarterbacks should probably start deciding whether they want Silverware or a pay check and something needs to be done to hand a little more power to teams over players that will be sitting out of practices, pre-season and training camp, just to get a contract. I just don’t know what that is.