This week we will be looking at the actual worth of quarterbacks in the NFL based on pure statistical production and the current market prices for quarterbacks. You can read more about the way the salaries are derived as well as see who ranked from 32 to 21 in Part 1. Today we look at numbers 20 to 11.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, FA- $14.906M Value, $???M Benefit
Fitzpatrick is currently in a contractual stalemate with the Jets who are reportedly offering in the ballpark of $7 million a season while Fitzpatrick is looking for over $17 million. Fitzpatrick is one of the more oddball careers in the NFL that is actually a good example of how the negative perception of the big contract can play a role in future contract talks. When Fitzpatrick signed a big deal with the Bills years ago and, not surprisingly, fell flat on his face his stock around the NFL dropped tremendously. Despite the fact that he’s been a steady $14Mish value on a per game basis he’s often found himself fighting for chances and being considered a worse option than players such as Hoyer, Matt Cassel, and McCown. He made the most of his chance last year and while nobody will expect that to happen again the real knock on him is that everyone sees what happened in Buffalo and doesn’t want to chance that happening to them, relegating him to Charlie Whitehurst status most of the last three years.
- Joe Flacco, Ravens- $15.122M Value, -$7.01M Benefit
Sometimes timing is everything in the NFL and Flacco has hit the timing goldmine twice in Baltimore to become the highest paid player in the NFL despite never even getting a Pro Bowl invite in his 8 year career. Flacco is a steady quarterback whose contract won’t draw as much attention as it should as long as the Ravens maintain their status as a perennial playoff team, which is questionable given their struggles in two of the last three years. Flacco’s numbers are dinged a bit more because of injury last year (I prorated his numbers to 13 games but he has historically been a 16 game player) but he has never shown the ability to put up numbers on par with the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Still you can clearly win with Flacco as long as you draft well and surround him with the right players and he is certainly capable of having a big game at the most opportune time.
- Jay Cutler, Bears- $15.272M Value, -$2.83M Benefit
If Cutler had a better attitude he probably would not be viewed as negatively as he is around the NFL, but his cockiness since day one of his career has put him under a much bigger microscope than many others. There was a time when Cutler’s contract looked as if it had the potential to be among the worst in the NFL, but with the recent explosion of quarterback salaries he really would have flown under the radar if it wasn’t for that reputation that follows him. While these values are based strictly on statistical output it is all those intangibles that make Cutler look so overpaid in today’s NFL. I don’t expect Cutler to remain in Chicago after this season but if a team signs him to a $13M or so contract next year with limited expectations about Cutler carrying an offense he could surprise with a playoff push on a team with a good defense and running game. If he lands with a desperate team offering $20M that is a marriage that will fall apart within a month of the season starting.
- Andy Dalton, Bengals- $15.276M Value, -$724K Benefit
The Bengals are one of the few teams that got it right with the contract of a starting veteran quarterback when they signed Dalton to his contract a few years ago. It is doubtful that Dalton will ever carry a team on his back and he doesn’t exhibit the intangibles of a Flacco that would indicate an ability to put together the great game at the perfect time, but he is a good fit on a solid team like Cincy. Dalton is the perfect example of a player who will likely play over a decade with the team who drafted him but would have been run out of town within three years had he hit free agency and left town. Though Dalton is considered by many to be the weak link on Cincy, his absence towards the end of last season and in the playoffs may have improved his standing with the fanbase.
- Derek Carr, Raiders- $16.493M Value, $15.150M Benefit
Anyone who listens to the OTC podcast knows I have a huge man-crush on Carr despite the fact that he plays for the Raiders, who have always been a thorn in the side of my Jets. In year one of his career Carr had a few shining moments that made you think he could be the guy in Oakland and in year two he built on that and improved to the point where he seems cemented as the man to lead the Raiders. Carr legitimately has $19-$20M upside and he may realize that this season is Amari Cooper proves to be the real deal as a number 1 receiver. Carr has as much upside as any player and he’ll become pretty well known this year if the Raiders win the AFC West. Oakland should extend him after this season if he plays well. If they do that the cap benefit should be great and give the Raiders a three year window to really spend to put the best talent around him.
- Alex Smith, Chiefs- $16.652M Value, -$348K Benefit
Smith currently is the best game manager in the NFL. There are few highs and few lows with Smith who will be a solid player on a good team such as Kansas City. This is another example of a team getting the valuation right on a questionable veteran, though the Chiefs have benefitted from the expansion of the market in recent years more than simply driving a hard bargain with Smith. That being said it does illustrate why, for some positions, it is better to sign the players to a “lucrative” contract rather than waiting only to see prices rise each year. Smith’s job should be safe as long as the roster around him considers to be decent.
- Andrew Luck, Colts- $17.023M Value, $9.37M Benefit
Luck is another player whose ranking is hurt by injuries last year and probably should be ranked higher than this. Luck struggled somewhat last year but was still going to play to an $18M type season. By the end of the season expect Luck to set the new high water mark for salaries in the NFL when the Colts finally extend him. The potential is certainly there to be the best in the NFL and put up the biggest numbers, but I get the feeling that the team would be better if they took some of the responsibility off of Luck in the future. Right now the team overly relies on Luck to cover for the fact they have not drafted well nor done well in free agency and last year was the first season where it seemed to get to him before injuries ended the season.
- Blake Bortles, Jaguars- $17.294M Value, $12.13M Benefit
This one surprised me, but the Jaguars have very quietly built a terrific group of receivers and played from behind a lot which I think helped jump Bortles numbers. That should take nothing away from Bortles who continued to improve in 2015 and looks like he could be a franchise quarterback of the future. Bortles biggest hurdle is accuracy. He still averages over 1 interception a game and has yet to pass the 60% completion mark, but if he can conquer that this season the AFC South has a real chance to turn around with Luck, Bortles, and Marcus Mariota as potential franchise QB’s. The Jaguars are making the most of Bortles low contract with their free agent spending to improve the team.
- Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins- $17.923M Value, -$1.33M Benefit
Is there any upside to Tannehill? Probably not, but he’s steady and can be effective at his price. The Dolphins got the timing right on the Tannehill extension in that against the cap his effective APY is just slightly over $15.6 million though they did backload the cap charges. Tannehill does just enough that where a team that commits to start a player 16 games will likely feel that they are getting decent enough value from the position. Tannehill is going to need to hit on intangibles like team wins, come from behind wins, etc… that get linked to QB play to really make the leap into the top QB tier.
- Eli Manning, Giants- $18.100M Value, -$2.90M Benefit
Manning is, more or less, a slightly better version of Flacco. Manning has all the cache of being a top draft pick, but timing has also been a great ally. Manning won the Super Bowl at the perfect time and the recent explosion of QB contracts made it relatively easy to hammer out a deal this past year. Manning’s numbers the last two seasons have increased dramatically going from a $12M level to a $19M level which is attributed to the changes made in the Giants offense, the addition of Odell Beckham, or a combination of both. Provided Beckham doesn’t hold out after this season expect Eli’s value to continue to rise as he nears the end of his career.
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.