Here is our top 10 QB values for the last three years. Part 1 and Part 2 give the basic criteria used to come up with a salary value for the players as well as the players ranked from 32-11. Ill probably do running back next starting later this week…
- Cam Newton, Panthers- $18.389M Value, -$2.37M Benefit
Newton made the big leap last season into the upper tier with his stellar performance. A great deal of Newton’s value is derived from his legs but we are also still waiting for the day when he has competent offensive weapons to throw the ball to. Once he has that we’ll probably get a better idea of just how far he can go. The talent is certainly there and he can make all the throws but he’s likely been told to tuck and run because of the lack of talent on the team. Newton will always have his detractors as there is still an immaturity about him that rubs people the wrong way but he has as good a chance of any of being one of the “generational” quarterbacks of this era. If he has another season like he did in 2015 some of those detractors will begin to buy in.
- Matt Stafford, Lions- $18.648M Value, $981K Benefit
Consistent? Check. Talented? Check. Big numbers? Check. Generally you can stick a checkmark beside every box possible for Stafford, yet when discussing the better quarterbacks in the NFL his name seems to rarely come up. I guess part of that is those intangibles. When we look at Newton, Eli, Luck, and odds are Carr and Bortles in the near future the team is always considered their team. Talk about the Panthers and we say “that’s Cams team” and we know that their fortunes are tied to his play. Nobody says that about Stafford. He never rose above Calvin Johnson or even Ndamukong Suh. Those two are now gone so Stafford will finally get a chance to stamp the Lions as his team. He needs to break out from the 7 win seasons to start to get more notice around the league.
- Matt Ryan, Falcons- $18.749M Value, -$2.00M Benefit
There are probably a good deal of similarities between Stafford and Ryan, but Ryan has begun to hear more criticism for the lack of winning. Unlike Stafford, whose teams have generally had low expectations, Ryan’s Falcons landed in the playoffs his first three years in the NFL. But Ryan and the Falcons generally struggled in the playoffs and they have not had a winning season since 2012 and Ryan is beginning to get the “he’s not a winner” label. That’s probably not fair as the front office in Atlanta has done a terrible job of allocating resources once they lost the benefit of having Ryan and Julio Jones on rookie contracts but Ryan needs to go deep in the playoffs to quiet the critics. If the Falcons can rebuild their team Ryan has a chance to excel but he wont get that great label until the team around him improves.
- Carson Palmer, Cardinals- $18.872M Value, $2.37M Benefit
I’m not sure what it is about Arizona but they completely change the fortunes of players who are considered washed up. Palmer had been given up on by the Bengals and Raiders before landing in Arizona where he has played the best football of his career. Though he probably got no consideration for MVP last year he should have as his numbers were as good as anyone’s in the NFL. The Cardinals did well on Palmers contract to make sure they get reasonable value for him as even if Palmer regresses he should still be valued fairly and will only be a negative if he lands on IR. Palmer’s career has also been dogged by the same things that hamper Ryan in that he has struggled in the spotlight games and has been unable to carry a team headed in the wrong direction personnel wise.
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers- $19.049M Value, -$2.80M Benefit
Roethlisberger is the first name on the list where I think we begin to move into the unquestioned great territory of player. Ben is capable of putting a team on his back and carrying them to a respectable performance. His ability to make the game a “parking lot” game by keeping plays alive with his body and making big plays out of plays that should result in no yardage is amazing. When he doesn’t play the team falls apart because he is the difference maker of the group. Ben has been in the NFL now for 12 seasons and his team has never had a losing year, making the playoffs in 8 of those seasons. He may not be Manning or Brady but he isn’t that far behind and his numbers the last two years have been insane. If there is anything missing from his resume its either having one year where he is considered the best in the NFL or winning that Super Bowl MVP.
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers- $19.187M Value, -$2.81M Benefit
Many people consider Rodgers the best player in the NFL and it’s hard to argue against it. He is incredibly well rounded and has made some of the most miraculous plays in the NFL in the last few years. Why is he only fifth here? Since we are looking primarily at statistical production he is hurt a bit more by playing on a more conservative team that will take the foot off the gas pedal at times whereas other teams will just throw the ball until the clock strikes 0 in the fourth quarter. The Packers also try to show some balance on offense rather than relying solely on the QB. If you put him in another system he’s likely to produce close to 5,000 yards while still making almost no mistakes. I think it is fair to say that he is everything you want in a quarterback with the capability to put up huge numbers and win games with a changing cast around him.
- Phillip Rivers, Chargers- $19.527M Value, -$1.29M Benefit
There are probably a lot of parallels that can be drawn between Ryan’s career and Rivers’ which should show more promise for Ryan. Rivers played on the great teams when young and they generally were playoff disappointments and as the teams personnel began to decline so did the playoff opportunities. But over time Rivers continued to put up stellar year after year despite that fact that everyone around him was not much of a player. If I was just ranking the players Id put Rivers behind Rodgers and Roethlisberger but I think its also clear that his team’s success is solely tied to Rivers play which puts him in an elite category. I was a bit surprised Rivers decided to re-up with San Diego because they show almost no signs of being capable of improving the roster around him to give him another crack at winning in the playoffs. If Rivers does win a Super Bowl his career may be judged very differently than it is now.
- Russell Wilson, Seahawks- $19.617M Value, -$2.283M Benefit
Much like Tom Brady, I think Wilson has the real chance to break out over time from being considered a part of the puzzle to being the solution to the puzzle. There are many people who are still waiting for the next generation of great QB to arrive, thinking it will be Luck, Newton or Jameis Winston to get there, but Wilson is already there just not enough people acknowledge it. Wilson is hurt by the fact that the Seahawks defense has been excellent and considered the reason they won a title but Wilson is a special player. He can kill you with his arm and his legs and unlike many who fall into that category he has already become disciplined enough to use his legs when needed not as a primary option. Just like other great players he is capable of putting up the numbers without a great cast of players around him. If the Seahawks ever improve their line and hit on a receiver that Wilson will flirt with 5,000 yard season.
- Tom Brady, Patriots- $20.646M Value, $146K Benefit
For Brady to be doing what he does at his age is almost unexplainable. While he can’t drive the ball down the field the way he used to, he is capable of adjusting to almost any situation and personnel grouping to make the most of it. Year after year he plays mistake free football and he may have the most impressive resume of the modern football era, if not all history. Since getting thrown into the job in 2001 only once in a non injury year has he failed to win at least 10 games. That’s 13 out of 14 years with at least 10 wins and the one year they did not win 10 they won 9 games. 10 of those years have resulted in at least 12 wins. He is the constant in all of it. The league has been spoiled over the last 15 years with Brady and Peyton Manning. It will be some time before we see another combo of talent that deserves the accolades those two received and Brady will continue to receive as he finishes his career.
- Drew Brees, Saints- $21.313M Value, $1.31M Benefit
I don’t think this was any surprise as Brees has basically been the Saints offense for the last few years. What he has done in New Orleans has basically put his career on the same track and Brady and Peyton Manning, both considered generational quarterbacks. Brees has been so good that he is one of the few highly compensated veterans who has actually outperformed his salary which is certainly impressive. Brees is at a very interesting point in his career. He is going to be a free agent after the season and will hold more leverage in a contract negotiation that likely anyone in the history of the NFL. But he is also older nearing the age where it all falls apart in the blink of an eye. He may have a better chance to win outside of New Orleans but playing in a dome, in a familiar offense and with what will be a forgiving fanbase would seem to make New Orleans the best place for him to finish a 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.