With Joe Flacco set to break the bank and become the highest paid player in the NFL I wanted to look back at the two players who are universally regarded as the best QBs of the generation and their contract history to see the difference in approach to the financials. Of course those two players are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Both players had very different paths to the NFL. Peyton Manning was the number 1 overall pick in the draft in 1998. He was the most heralded prospect since John Elway 15 years earlier. Manning from day one was expected to be the most prolific passer in the NFL and lead the Indianapolis Colts to great heights. Brady was a non-descript 6th round draft pick in 2000. 198 players were selected before Brady. 6 QB’s came off the board first including “stars” such as Chris Redman and Tee Martin. Brady was expected to maybe be a backup to Drew Bledsoe.
The differential in draft status makes some of the financial comparisons between Manning and Brady difficult. The pay differential between a top pick and the 199th pick is gigantic. That discrepancy would have existed if Manning proved to be as bad as JaMarcus Russell. So to make thing a little more fair I want to look at each player as they moved into their extension years. We will start with Manning.
Peyton’s first contract ended in 2003 and he signed his first extension in 2004. Manning, at that stage of the game, was universally regarded as the best QB in the game, but lacked any type of playoff success having just lost to Brady and the Patriots and the year before suffering a 41-0 loss to the New York Jets. It was a 7 year contract worth $98 million dollars with just over $35 million coming in the first year of the contract. Manning and the Colts played the entire contract out all the way thru 2010.
By 2010 Manning had finally won one Super Bowl and had recently been to a second one that he lost. There were some health concerns and he was well into his 30s, but the multi time MVP was still regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 in the NFL. He got paid as the best. This time it was a 5 year $90 million dollar deal with his agent again getting a massive payout on the front end with $26.4 million coming in the first year. That proved to be extremely smart as Manning was injured, never played a game, passed go and collected his $26.4 million before being released. Manning signed a deal with the Broncos in 2012 worth up to $96 million. $18 million came in year 1 and as long as his neck is healthy he will earn another $40 million over the next two years.
Brady’s first new contract came in 2002, the year after winning the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP honors. He parlayed that into a deal worth just over $30 million. Quite a difference a few years makes as Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco parlayed their Super Bowl wins into record setting contracts. Granted those players had more time in the league than Brady who was still a relative unknown despite the trophy, but in todays game people are clamoring for huge raises for Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, players who have yet to accomplish as much as Brady had in his first real year of action. Its the way the game has changed.
Brady’s next extension came in 2005. By this point in time the Peyton vs Brady argument was probably at its peak. Brady had won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls and always beat Manning head to head. He didn’t have the stats that Manning had but he had more success. Brady signed a modest $48.5 million dollar contract worth around $12.1 million a season at the time Manning was on a $98 million dollar deal worth $14 million a season. Think about that for a minute. 3 Super Bowls and 2 Super Bowl MVPs and he could not earn more than Manning. Eli took one Super Bowl MVP and lapped his brother. Flacco is about to take one Super Bowl title and pass Drew Brees. Brady wasn’t the top guy. Not even close.
In 2010 Brady signed another 4 year deal this time being the market setter with $18 million a year coming his way. It became the framework for the latest Manning contracts who could not surpass the APY with Indy but negotiated much better front end terms. Brady’s latest deal has been highly publicized as being well under market value.
Here is how the cash flows for the two players will compare post rookie deals. For the sake of comparison I will consider Brady’s first year payout to be in 2003 since that is when the extension officially kicked in. He received a signing bonus in 2002 but Ill add that to his cash payment in 2003. Since all signs point to Manning checking out medically I am also including the last two years for him at $20 million. My assumption is he will retire after that point. Now I know some might say that Brady will still have $29 million set to kick in which is true but he is going to have to play for another 4 years to earn that and that changes the timeframes.
Over the 11 year period Manning will outearn Brady by $31.275 million. Brady’s 11 years post rookie contract average about $13.739 million a year. Peyton is $16.582. Now some of this should be credited to the Patriots who have done a fantastic job of extending Brady early and staying ahead of the changes in payscale of the position to get him on the cheap. Some of the credit goes to Brady who clearly has not pushed as hard as he could to keep pace with the market. I think its also interesting to see how Manning is probably the guy really responsible for the current payouts in the QB market as there is now a pure premium paid for a QB compared to Brady’s first two extensions when it was not nearly the same kind of premium.
I think it also shows the big difference between having an absolute shark as an agent versus a good agent. Manning is repped by Tom Condon and CAA who are pretty much the premier QB agency. They go to battle in the negotiating room and usually come out on top. Brady’s team came to mutually beneficial agreements while Manning’s pretty much put the boots to the throats of the Colts and Broncos. For Brady to match Manning’s post rookie earnings he is going to either need the Patriots to renegotiate another deal after 2014 or he has to play thru at least 2018. It will take him 5 extra years to match Manning’s pay and if Manning goes beyond these next two guaranteed years the path becomes even longer for Brady. There will always be a debate as to who was better but financially there is no question as to who came out on top.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.