Agent's Take: , Jordan Love and other NFL quarterbacks who can sign a lucrative deal in 2024

Agent's Take: , Jordan Love and other NFL quarterbacks who can sign a lucrative deal in 2024
Agent's Take: Dak Prescott, Jordan Love and other NFL quarterbacks who can sign a lucrative deal in 2024

Last year was a banner one for the quarterback market. Four different quarterbacks raised the bar for NFL salaries in 2023. Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert each took turns atop the NFL salary hierarchy before Joe Burrow became the standard bearer in early September as the start of the regular season was approaching. 

Burrow received a five-year, $275 million contract extension, averaging $55 million per year, from the Cincinnati Bengals. The deal is worth up to $281.25 million thanks to $1.25 million of annual incentives in the extension years (2025 through 2029). Burrow has $219.01 million of salary guarantees, of which $146.51 million was fully guaranteed at signing. It's the most for these contract metrics outside of the $230 million in Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed five-year contract with the Cleveland Browns. Burrow got an extremely player-friendly structure from the Bengals in which the first three new contract years average $61,320,327 per year.

Several quarterbacks are in line for lucrative contracts in 2024 although there won't be the same musical chairs as the league's highest-paid player. The elephant in the room is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

This is Prescott's contract year and he has leverage in negotiations for an extension despite a subpar performance when Dallas was upset by the Green Bay Packers in the wild-card playoff round as the NFC's No. 2 seed. His $59.455 million is the NFL's second highest 2024 salary cap number behind Watson's $63.977 million. Prescott has a no-trade clause in his contract. He also has a provision preventing Dallas from designating him as a franchise or transition player in 2025 should he play out his contract.

The Cowboys really aren't in a position to handle Prescott's $59.455 million cap hit. There are currently $266.92 million in 2024 cap commitments, according to NFLPA data using offseason salary cap accounting rules where only the top 51 salaries (i.e.; cap numbers) matter. A little more than $4.902 million of unused 2023 cap space is being carried over to the 2024 league year. Preliminary projections put the 2024 salary cap between $240 million and $245 million. Dallas is projected to have a $19.5 million overage if the 2024 salary cap is set at $242.5 million.

The 2023 NFL MVP runner-up is scheduled to make $34 million in 2024 consisting of an unsecured $29 million base salary and a $5 million fifth day of the league year roster bonus due on March 17. A contract extension before the roster bonus vests is Dallas' most viable option to significantly lower Prescott's 2024 cap number.

Presumably, Prescott didn't fight for the no-trade clause and franchise/transition tag prohibition not to use the provisions to his advantage in negotiations. If Prescott empowers his representatives to do as they see fit, the end result will likely be Prescott becoming the league's highest-paid player while establishing new benchmarks for the most important contract metrics besides Watson's $230 million fully guaranteed, even though last season ended prematurely on an extremely sour note.

It wouldn't be surprising for Prescott's camp to use Burrow's average over his first three new years to justify $60 million per year. Overall, the top of the quarterback market increased in 2023 by 9.41% from 2022. A $60 million-per-year extension would be a 9.09% increase over Burrow's deal.

Jared Goff has showed he wasn't just a product of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay's offensive system. That was the narrative when Goff was thought to be a throw-in or salary dump in a 2021 offseason trade, where the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford, because McVay felt he needed an upgrade at quarterback despite 2016's first overall pick signing a four-year contract extension, averaging $33.5 million per year, shortly before the 2019 regular season started. In addition to Goff, the Detroit Lions obtained a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick in this trade. 

Goff completed 67.3% of his passes for 4,575 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to post a 97.9 passer rating in 2023 while the Lions had a 12-5 record to win a division title for the first time in 30 years. Goff had a career high in completion percentage, which was the NFL's seventh-best mark. He ranked second and fourth in the league, respectively, in passing yards and touchdown passes.

More importantly, the Lions advanced to the NFC Championship for the first time since the 1991 season. Goff had a measure of vindication by outdueling Stafford in a 24-23 win over the Rams in a wild-card playoff game.

Prior to losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, reports surfaced that the Lions and Goff's camp would work on a contract extension during the offseason to make him one of the league's highest-paid players. Goff is scheduled to be paid $27,950,064 in 2024, the final year of his contract, on a $32,950,064 salary cap number. The $27,950,064 consists of a $22,950,064 2024 base salary, which includes the $975,000 in escalators Goff earned because of his 2023 performance, and a $5 million second day of the 2024 league year roster bonus due on March 14. 

Goff's 2023 season was statistically comparable to his 2018 campaign that led to the Rams making him the league's third-highest-paid player on par with then-Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers following a poor outing in Super Bowl LIII. In 2018, Goff connected on 64.9% of his passes for 4,688 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to compile a 101.1 passer rating.

Goff's camp may feel that putting him in the same place in the NFL salary hierarchy as his first extension is warranted. Jackson is the league's third-highest-paid player. He agreed to a five-year, $260 million deal, averaging $52 million per year, with the Baltimore Ravens shortly before the start of the 2023 NFL Draft last April. There are $185 million of overall guarantees in Jackson's contract where $135 million is fully guaranteed. The $135 million fully guaranteed at signing includes an NFL-record $72.5 million signing bonus.

Whether Detroit's idea of one of the NFL's highest-paid players means Goff joins Burrow, Herbert, Hurts and Jackson in the $50 million-per-year club remains to be seen. The average yearly salary of the league's 10 highest-paid players isn't that far behind. It's a little more than $48 million per year with the average contract length being 5.4 new years. The average guarantees for the top 10 are just over $181.5 million with slightly more than $131.25 million fully guaranteed at signing.

Baker Mayfield's contract year couldn't have gone any better. He took a modest one-year, $4 million "prove-it" deal worth up to $8.5 million through incentives from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to compete with Kyle Trask to replace Tom Brady as starting quarterback. Mayfield never looked back after winning a training camp battle with Trask.

A third consecutive NFC South title was won with a 9-8 record. Mayfield resurrected his career with season-bests of 4,044 passing yards (ninth in the NFL), 28 touchdowns passes (seventh in the NFL) and a 64.3% completion percentage. The Buccaneers advanced to the divisional playoffs for just the third time in 21 years with a wild-card game win over the Philadelphia Eagles before losing to the Lions.

In the two playoff games, Mayfield threw for 686 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 48 of 77 pass attempts (62.3%) for a 106.3 passer rating. He is the only Buccaneers quarterback to ever throw for 300-plus yards and at least three touchdowns in a playoff game, which 2018's first overall pick did in both postseason contests.

Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said Mayfield had earned the right to return in 2024 after being eliminated from the playoffs. The interest is mutual as Mayfield has expressed a desire to stay put. Mayfield doesn't appear to be headed for a franchise tag that would keep him off the open market. All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr. reportedly is the favorite for this designation.

The Buccaneers should be willing to pay Mayfield in the Geno Smith neighborhood at a minimum. The Seahawks signed Smith to a three-year, $75 million contract, averaging $25 million per year with $40 million in guarantees where $27.5 million was fully guaranteed at signing, in March. The deal is worth as much as $105 million through salary escalators for a maximum average of $35 million per year.

Mayfield may have higher salary expectations than a Smith-type deal. Seeking more than Daniel Jones got from the New York Giants last March wouldn't be too surprising. Jones signed a four-year, $160 million contract with $104 million in guarantees, of which $81 million was fully guaranteed at signing. At $40 million per year, Jones is tied as the NFL's 10th-highest-paid player. Jones' contract is worth up to $195 million thanks to somewhat realistically achievable incentives and salary escalators for a $48.75 million per year maximum value.

Kirk Cousins was arguably playing the best football of his 12-year NFL career when he tore his right Achilles in a Week 8 contest against the Packers. The Minnesota Vikings have salary cap incentive to get a done deal quickly if Cousins is going to return.

The one-year extension worth $35 million Cousins signed in 2022 included voiding 2024 and 2025 contract years for cap purposes. A 2023 contract restructure tacked on voiding 2026 and 2027 contract years to create $16 million of 2023 cap space. All four years void when the 2023 league year ends on March 13.

The Vikings will have a $28.5 million cap charge without a new deal in place by March 13 thanks to these four dummy years. The $28.5 million becomes a sunk cost for the Vikings once voiding occurs even if Cousins is subsequently re-signed. A franchise tag can't be used on Cousins because voiding occurs after the March 5 deadline to use the designation. 

Cousins has consistently capitalized on his circumstances for maximum financial gain ever since joining the Vikings in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent on the NFL's first lucrative fully guaranteed veteran contract. The three-year, $84 million deal worth up to $90 million through incentives made Cousins the league's highest-paid player at $28 million per year. A departure from this approach would be surprising.

Merely adjusting Cousins' soon-to-be-expiring $35 million extension for salary cap inflation would put him in the $41 million-per-year neighborhood. A fully guaranteed contract has been the norm for Cousins in his dealings with the Vikings. According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, the Vikings aren't willing to give Cousins another fully guaranteed deal. A shorter-term contract may be in order for Cousins, who will turn 36 before the 2024 regular season begins, under the circumstances.

Tua Tagovailoa didn't get a contract extension after his third NFL season like Burrow and Hebert, the other quarterbacks taken early in the 2020 Draft. The Miami Dolphins giving Tagovailoa an extension was out of the question since his 2022 season was cut short because of concussions he suffered.

Health wasn't an issue for Tagovailoa in 2023. Tagovailoa was on the field for 1,045 of Miami's 1,098 offensive plays last season. He threw for a career-high and league-leading 4,624 yards. Tagovailoa also set career highs with 29 touchdown passes and a 69.3% completion percentage, both fifth in the NFL. His 101.5 passer rating was also the league's fifth-best mark. A Pro Bowl berth was earned for the first time in Tagovailoa's career.

Tagovailoa expressed confidence in getting a new deal at the Pro Bowl Games earlier this month. He is scheduled to make a fully guaranteed $23.171 million in 2024 on his fifth-year option.

Eclipsing the five-year, $255 million extension, averaging $51 million per year Hurts signed with the Eagles last April, may have some significance to Tagovailoa. Hurt's deal is worth as much as $270 million because of salary escalators. Hurts finished his college career at Oklahoma after losing his quarterback job to Tagovailoa at Alabama after starting for two straight years.

Quarterbacks are more likely than any other position to get contract extensions after three years if selected in the first round. Nine of the 28 players who received new deals over the 10 years since 2014, when 2011 first-round picks first became eligible for extensions under the rookie wage implemented by the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, have been quarterbacks. Offensive tackle is next with four extensions.

This means a contract extension from the Jacksonville Jaguars could be on the horizon for Trevor Lawrence, 2021's first overall pick. Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke called Lawrence the team's long-term quarterback and said that an extension would get done at the right time last month.

The Jaguars had a disappointing 2023 season while Lawrence was slowed by injury. The playoffs were missed with a 9-8 record after an 8-3 start to the season. Head coach Doug Pederson recently mentioned that Lawrence's ball security must improve. He has 60 career turnovers (39 interceptions and 21 fumbles lost) in his three NFL seasons.

Customarily, first-round quarterbacks who have gotten extremely early extensions become one of the league's three highest-paid players upon signing. That's been the case in seven of the nine times there have been quarterback extensions three years into rookie contracts. Doing the same with Lawrence would put a deal between Jackson's $52 million and Herbert's $52.5 million per year.

Green Bay's comfort with Jordan Love taking the reins at quarterback despite an extremely limited track record was the impetus in granting Aaron Rodgers' request to be traded to the New York Jets. Love had only thrown 83 passes heading into the 2023 season.

The Packers hedged their bets by signing Love to a one-year, $13.5 million extension worth up to $22.5 million through salary escalators before the May 2 deadline to pick up the 2020 first-round pick's fully guaranteed $20.272 million

قراءة المزيد ...

NEXT Goal of the year contender and 15-year-old rising star combine to hand City the ...