Any NFL executive will tell you that the key to compiling a team is to get value for your players. It becomes increasingly challenging to achieve this goal the more talented that your team becomes. We have seen this in the regression of Super Bowl teams like the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, who have been unable to retain all their good players. An additional challenge in recent years has been the rising cost of talented quarterbacks. It is not uncommon for one's signal caller to take up a tenth of the team's payroll, all for one player out of 53. While things like the franchise tag have been adapted to assist in these calculations, the fact is that getting a "team friendly" contract for a franchise quarterback is paramount in building a championship team.
As such, this list will count down seven bargain quarterback contracts, and eight that are too exorbitant. By looking at this list as a whole, the reader should begin to understand how much a quarterback's pay (and the performance that they get back for said pay) can contribute to how successful an overall franchise can be. If you can think of any quarterback contracts which are bargains (or perhaps just the opposite) that didn't make our list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
15 Matt Stafford – Overpaid
To start off this entry, I want to say that Matt Stafford's placement on this list is in no way indicative of who he is as a player. Though he may not belong in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, he is easily one of the top 10 signal callers in the game, and is one of the primary reasons why they are currently atop the NFC North. With all that being said, the amount of money that Stafford is getting paid under his current contract is absolutely ridiculous. In the 2017 offseason, Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million contract, making him the highest paid player in NFL history. Stafford's contributions to the Lions are immense, but it is hard to justify paying a single player almost a sixth of your teams' total salary cap.
14 Marcus Mariota – Bargain
Already this season we have seen the immense value that Marcus Mariota brings to the Tennessee Titans. His being banged up for a couple games this season should have illustrated to team executives just how hapless this Titans squad (especially their offense) is without him. Given the fact that Mariota is currently in his rookie deal which pays him a mere $24 million over 4 years, I expect this talented young signal caller to receive quite the pay raise when his current deal expires. Until then, Titans fans can only hope that he builds upon the impressive 3,400 yards-26 touchdown campaign that he put up last year as a second-year player. Hopefully a new contract for Mariota doesn't prevent the Titans from getting the defensive help which they sorely need.
13 Ben Roethlisberger – Overpaid
It is with great sadness that I place Ben Roethlisberger on our list of overpaid quarterbacks. For the past decade Ben has been the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season, however, has convinced me that Ben's days as a valuable NFL quarterback are numbered. Now at 35 years of age, he is having clear trouble handling the different looks that defenses are giving him. As such, the fact that Ben is at the tail end of a four-year, $87 million contract makes him highly overpaid. The Steelers have enjoyed having players like Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell under team friendly contracts for most of their careers, but with paydays upcoming (or already occurring) for both of these All-Stars, Ben's contract is becoming more and more of a liability.
12 Jared Goff – Bargain
Most NFL executives will tell you that the best way to stay within the leagues mandatory salary cap is to have as many players under their rookie contracts as possible. Even with the recent rise in pay for early 1st-round picks, these players are still being paid far less than they will be when they sign their updated deals. It is through this scope that our next entry, Jared Goff, makes our list. Despite signing one of the largest rookie contracts in NFL history, Goff is still paid far less than he would be had he signed a deal on the open market. Only in his second year, Goff has been an important part of one of the NFL's most improved teams, and has quietly been putting up some impressive numbers after a meh rookie season. Looking at his production, his four-year $28 million contract makes him quite the bargain.
11 Brock Osweiler– Overpaid
Some of you may be confused to see Brock Osweiler on this list after he recently signed a one-year, $775,000 deal with the Denver Broncos. No matter how terrible the Brockweiler was last year for the Houston Texans, surely a contract for less than $1 million a year doesn't make him overpaid. This is certainly true, however, Osweiler is still being significantly overpaid by his former team, the Cleveland Browns. After he was a significant contributor to the Denver Broncos in their Super Bowl winning 2015-2016 season, he signed a massive 4-year, $72 million deal with the Houston Texans in the 2016 offseason. The Cleveland Browns would eventually eat the majority of this contact as part of a deal which netted them the Texans 2018 2nd-round draft pick.
10 Aaron Rodgers – Bargain
Even if he was the highest paid player in all of football, I think an argument could still be made that Aaron Rodgers was underpaid. There is just no way of overestimating how important he is to the Green Bay Packers franchise. Considering the fact that Aaron Rodgers contract is only for $110 million over five years, he is more than eligible for our list of underpaid players. Rodgers is one of the few players in the game of football who can give his team a chance to win regardless of any surrounding circumstances. This makes him not only the best quarterback in the NFL, but also infinitely valuable to his team. With his recent collarbone injury, we will get a chance to see just how valuable A-Rodg is to this Packers team.
9 Joe Flacco – Overpaid
As the Baltimore Ravens season becomes more and more tumultuous, this entry becomes easier and easier to write. When Joe Flacco was first awarded his three-year, $66 million contract in the 2016 offseason, it was fresh off of his historic performance in the 2015 playoffs. Since then, however, Flacco (and arguably the Ravens' whole offense) has steadily regressed, thus making him one of the most overpaid quarterbacks in the entire NFL. In the 1.5 seasons since Flacco signed his contract, he has never been top 5 in the league in passing and has steadily regressed. Not very impressive for a player who will be getting paid $22 million a year for the next two years.
8 Carson Wentz – Bargain
I remember when Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were drafted with the 1st and 2nd picks in the 2016 NFL draft, the big hubbub was that Carson Wentz received a bigger contract from the Eagles than Goff did from the Rams, despite the fact that Goff was actually selected a pick earlier. Fast forward 1.5 years, and Wentz has more than validated the Eagles decision to pay him such a large rookie contract. Despite being only a second-year player, Wentz has led the Eagles to a 6-1 record and has quietly put his name on the list for the NFL's yearly MVP award. If Wentz continues to play at such a high level, expect the Eagles to cough up significantly more dough than they have so far for their signal callers. Quarterbacks of Wentz's youth and ability usually fetch a pretty penny on the open market.
7 Andy Dalton – Overpaid
There may not be a more inconsistent quarterback in the entire league than Andy Dalton. In a league driven by quarterbacks, this type of moniker shouldn't earn you elite status, but that did not stop the Cincinnati Bengals from signing him to a six-year, $96 million contract in 2014. While Dalton's usefulness under this contract was questionable before this year, since the 2017 season started many (including myself) have started to question his viability as the Bengals' starting quarterback. Now without the dominant offensive line that aided him throughout his early career, Dalton has looked severely below average for much of the season. With his starting job itself in jeopardy, it is hard to justify Dalton's current, substantial contract.
6 Jameis Winston – Bargain
When Jameis Winston was drafted in 2015, there were serious questions about his ability to hold up as an NFL quarterback. Following a handful of incidents in college (which included him getting caught stealing crab legs from the local supermarket), several pundits questioned whether he was mature enough to be the leader of a professional team. In the past 2.5 years, Jameis has answered all of these questions with emphasis. He has become the centerpiece of a young, talented, Buccaneers teams, and the franchise has to be happy with how he has grown as a player. All of this, while operating under a modest four-year, $25 million contract. Like so many of the bargains on this list, expect this young superstar to receive quite the payday when his next agreement is negotiated.
5 Sam Bradford – Overpaid
I will never understand the fascination that the NFL has with Sam Bradford. An offensive juggernaut and Heisman trophy winner in college, Bradford has shown nothing in the pros that makes him worthy of the attention and contracts that he receives. For a player that plays (at best) 8 games a year, the fact that he is playing under a two-year, $36 million contract is ludicrous. I understand the appeal of players like Andrew Luck who put up monstrous numbers in the games where they are healthy, but even on his best days, game manager Bradford is not up the standard of other highly paid quarterbacks. You're getting the sense around the league that his recent injury with Minnesota may be the final straw for Bradford, but don't be surprised if another quarterback needy team gives him another large contract when they get desperate.
4 DeShaun Watson – Bargain
After a mere 4 games as the starting quarterback, it is obvious to everyone that DeShaun Watson will be a bargain for the remainder of his rookie contract. Watching the 2017 NFL Draft, the most prominent debate of the night was whether Watson, a college superstar, would be able to transition to the professional game. After taking over the starting duties for Tom Savage in Week 3 of his rookie season, Watson has been absolutely phenomenal. Over the course of the season he has thrown for 1,297 yards, and more importantly, has given the Texans offense the confidence that it sorely needed. Given the fact that his contract is for a mere four-year, $14 million a year, this has to be considered one of the greatest bargains of the entire NFL.
3 Andrew Luck – Overpaid
Three years ago, Andrew Luck very well could have been on the other portion of this list. Since then, however, his ridiculous injury history has made him a liability for the Indianapolis Colts. When the Colts drafted Luck in 2012, he quickly established himself as one of the league's premier quarterbacks. The Colts rewarded his hard work in 2016 with a six-year, $140 million contract. While this was seen as a bargain at the time for a top-5 NFL quarterback, Luck has since stopped playing very many games during the season. As if the fact that Luck was missing so many games alone doesn't make him overpaid, it is highly likely that when (or if) he does return, he will not be up to the impeccable standards that he has so far set for himself.
2 Kirk Cousins – Bargain
The Redskins decision to draft both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins in the 2012 draft was met with much skepticism. Since then, however, it has become abundantly clear how wise their decision was to "hedge their bet" with Cousins. While RG3 has failed to make any immediate impact outside of his rookie season, Kirk Cousins has quietly developed into one of the league's best quarterbacks. With that being said, the fact that he is currently under a fairly modest contract, $23 million this year, makes him quite the bargain. The issue with Kirk Cousins' bargain contract is that he is currently under the franchise tag. This likely means that the Redskins will soon have to pay him the kind of money usually reserved for top-flight NFL QBs.
1 Eli Manning - Overpaid
It wasn't that long ago that the moniker of New York Giants fans was "you can't spell elite without Eli. With the team getting off to an incredibly slow start to the 2017 season, however, you're getting the sense that this team is headed for a serious rebuild. If that's the case, it will be hard for team execs to get around Eli Manning's four-year, $21 million contract. There are simply too many holes which need to be filled on this team for a single player to be taking up so much of the payroll. It is hard for any team to part ways with a quarterback who has given them two Super Bowl victories, but until they do, Manning will remain one of the most overpaid quarterbacks in the entire league.