by Eamon McMahon
June 7, 2019
While true franchise quarterbacks in the NFL are difficult to find, there are often teams that overpay, thinking they have found their guy and locking him down as soon as possible. It’s no secret that the quarterback is the most important position on the field, so it makes sense that these players would be given monumental salaries compared to many other positions. The challenge is determining whether or not to break the bank for good, solid quarterbacks that have the potential and ability to possibly reach the promise land and hoist the Lombardi trophy.
There are the obvious franchise quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers to name a few, and many of these franchise guys aren’t getting paid like it. In fact, according to Spotrac.com, of those four QB’s listed, only two of them are in the top-10 for highest overall salaries at the position (Rodgers at 5 and Luck at 8). Brees is making the 18th highest salary at the position while Brady comes in at 19, proving that some teams are massively overpaying for guys that simply aren’t of that same caliber. It should be noted that the Arizona Cardinals are spending right around $17 million on quarterbacks that aren’t even on their roster for next year. And that doesn’t include the hefty salary that the #1 overall pick Kyler Murray will be receiving as well. Elite, franchise quarterbacks are incredibly valuable and incredibly hard to come by. It makes sense that teams pour a bunch of money and resources into finding “their guy”, however often times it will backfire and put the team in a difficult financial situation.
In this article, I’ll rank my top 5 most overpaid quarterbacks in the NFL by using contract and salary data from Spotrac.com and season statistics from NFL.com. You can find the links to the websites at the end of the article below for reference. This is my personal opinion, and I define “overpaid” as the players’ contract being much too high given their production on the field and their performance compared to the rest of the NFL quarterbacks. Let’s get to it!
5. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
In no way am I saying that Carson Wentz isn’t a franchise quarterback, because I truly believe that he is. The issue that I have with Wentz, and a couple of other guys on this list, is that his injury history and massive contract make him a difficult player to build around. The Eagles just gave Wentz a massive extension, reportedly a four-year extension worth about $128 million. On top of the extension, his overall salary for the next six years in Philly could make him up to $154 million, given that he hits all his incentives. According to Spotrac, Wentz is making the 6th highest overall salary at the position and is only $6 million behind Aaron Rodgers’ salary. Wentz has shown promising flashes and has proven he can lead a team to the Super Bowl which is all you can ask of your signal caller. He ranked 7th in passer rating (102.2) for starting quarterbacks last year and finished 4th in completion percentage (69.6). These numbers are encouraging, and I do believe Wentz has the ability to live up to his contract, I’m just not so sure the Eagles got great value. Though Wentz was top 5 in completion percentage, his back-up Nick Foles actually beat him out and had the 2nd highest number in the entire league at 72.3. This makes me question if Carson thrives in Pederson’s system and whether or not the Eagles could find similar production from a lesser quarterback. Philly has a strong offense, led by key contributors Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, and others. When you factor in Carson’s injuries, and the amount of production that his back-up had in the same system, you start to wonder just how much Wentz really helps this franchise. The massive contract they handed him somewhat makes sense given the production that Carson has had when healthy, however, I do believe that the Eagles could have held off and found a guy with similar production for a much cheaper price.
4. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton has been on a roller-coaster ride since entering the NFL. Winning Rookie of the Year and making it to a Super Bowl are pretty solid accomplishments for the signal caller, however, injury problems in his shoulder have seriously hindered his production and value. Newton is currently the 9th highest paid quarterback in the league, with a contract total of $103 million. Cam’s on-field production last year does not equate to that hefty salary, given that he ranked 18th in passer rating among starting QB’s. While he does rank 9th in completion percentage, that number isn’t very impressive given that Carolina’s offense loves the short passing game. Cam is able to rely on the quick routes to get easy, dump off passes that allow the playmakers on that offense to find space and produce yards after the catch. Carolina has a run-heavy offense, and it is probably a good thing given Cam struggles to force the ball deep down the field with the lingering shoulder issues. While he is an incredible athlete with a great feel for the game, it’s clear Carolina is wary about Cam’s health and abilities on the field. They drafted Will Grier in the 3rd round this year, a sign that Cam’s contract and lack of significant production as a passer has them thinking about finding another long-term option. Cam should not be paid as a top 10 quarterback in the league simply because he isn’t. Posting numbers of 3,395 yards (19th), 24 TD’s (T-14th) and only 3 plays of 40+ yards (T-33rd), it is clear the that numbers and on-field production do not match the money he is earning. Carolina is paying Cam as a top 10 QB, and he simply isn’t performing like one.
3. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Aside from his “MVP” type season a couple of years back, Derek Carr hasn’t done a whole lot to impress me during his time with the Raiders. While Carr has had moments where he looks like a top 10 or even top 5 quarterback in the league, his inconsistency and inability to progress and evolve his game make this situation difficult for the Raiders. Carr is currently the 7th highest paid signal caller in the NFL, with a contract value of $125 million. The 7th highest paid QB in the league should be producing top 10 numbers on the field, right? Well, Carr actually ranks 19th in passer rating (93.9), 21st in average yards per completion (7.3), 20th in yards per game (253.1) and 21st in touchdowns (19) while throwing 10 interceptions. While there were rumors of the Raiders selecting a QB in this year’s draft, it is clear the Gruden and Mayock feel comfortable with Carr under center, for now at least. The Raiders offense struggled under their new head coach and Carr didn’t have a particularly good year. While I do believe Carr has the tools and ability to be a great quarterback, I don’t think he will ever live up to the money he was given. His numbers are middle of the pack at best and he gets paid like a premier player in the league. While they did add some serious weapons on offense including Josh Jacobs, Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and Trent Brown, the success of the Raiders is entirely dependent upon Derek Carr and his ability to make necessary improvements to his game to take this team over the top. If I were the Raiders and Carr doesn’t produce this year, I would 100% look to be drafting the next man up in 2020.
2. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Matt Stafford is the 4th highest paid QB in the NFL. His contract could pay him up to $135 million dollars, which is $1 million above Aaron Rodgers’ contract and about $12 million above Andrew Luck’s. Is Matthew Stafford better than Luck or Rodgers? Absolutely not. Matthew Stafford, in my opinion, has never been a clear-cut top 10 QB in the NFL. His numbers are usually respectable and high because the Lions refuse to run the football more than 15 times a game. Stafford usually has an insane amount of attempts because his team loves to pass, which should result in quality numbers and production. Last season, Stafford ranked 16th in passing yards (3,777), 30th in average yards per completion (6.8), tied for 17th in touchdowns (21), and 27th in passer rating (89.9). Compared to the rest of the starters in the NFL, Stafford’s numbers last year were quite weak and disappointing. It isn’t all about numbers however, it is about team success as well. Unfortunately, the Lions were back to their old ways of losing games left and right, finishing 6-10 and at the bottom of the division. If you look in the NFC North, in fact, a case could be made that Stafford is the worst quarterback in the division, numbers wise. Trubisky is already producing and will only get better, Cousins is able to step up and make plays to help his team win, and we all know Aaron Rodgers is a freak. Yes, Stafford has a cannon for an arm and can make any throw in the book, however his pocket presence and awareness are questionable at times and can’t see the field the way a franchise guy should be able to. Simply put, Stafford is making way to much money for what he is producing on the field. His numbers are in the bottom tier of the list and he hasn’t done anything substantial that can carry his team to the playoffs. If someone were to tell me that Matthew Stafford was the 4th best quarterback in the league, I would have to laugh and assume they were joking. Well, he’s getting paid as the 4th best QB in the league and it confuses the heck out of me.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49’ers
I would say that I feel bad for Jimmy G after he went down early last season, but then again just look at the man’s contract. Jimmy Garoppolo is the 3rd highest paid QB in the entire NFL. Let me repeat that. Jimmy G, the man who has started a whopping 10 games in his career, is making the 3rd highest salary of all quarterbacks in the league. His contract is for a total of $137.5 million, and only Matt Ryan and Russel Wilson are making more. There isn’t a statistic or game you could show me to prove to me that Jimmy is a top 15 passer in the league. I have seen really promising signs from Garoppolo, however potential and optimism can only take you so far. He had a great string of games with the Niners at the tail end of their season after coming over from New England two years ago, and he has shown the ability to carry a team and win games. However, what in the world has Garoppolo ever done to prove he is even in consideration for top 10 type of money? Sure, he is 8-2 in his 10 games started, big deal. Some of those games were with an incredibly well-coached and talented roster in New England. His career numbers are unimpressive and mediocre, totaling 2,968 yards, 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He has completed about 65% of his passes and has an overall passer rating of 97.3. Not bad by any means, but nowhere near impressive or great either. There isn’t much you can say to support the Niners making Garoppolo the 3rd highest paid QB in the game. He has such a limited number of snaps and reps that it’s hard to truly evaluate how effective and talented he really is. There is no denying the guy should be a starter in this league, and I’m excited to see what he can do with a full year in Shanahan’s system, but man he is making too much money. This is where you truly see the value and importance of having a franchise QB. The Niners saw an opportunity to get their guy, and they did it. They felt confident and optimistic about his potential and decided to give him a ludicrous contract to keep him locked down for a few years and get the most out of him. We’ll see how it all plays out next season, but I would put lots of money to bet that Jimmy doesn’t finish as the 3rd best signal caller in the game next year.