Jimmy Garoppolo just became the NFL's highest paid player, even though he's only started seven NFL games and thrown 12 touchdown passes in four seasons. He reportedly agreed to a monster, five-year, $137.5 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers -- a record average of $27.5 million per season.
That record will be very short-lived.
It's a simple fact of the NFL that the price of franchise quarterbacks only goes up, and in less than five weeks another one will be on the open market. And when Kirk Cousins officially becomes free on March 14 you can bet his deal will eclipse what Garoppolo just got.
Think $150 million, with perhaps more than half of that guaranteed.
Although thanks to the Garoppolo deal, some around the NFL think Cousins will end up getting even more than that.
Maybe Cousins, who'll be 30 in August, isn't anyone's idea of a $30 million-plus-per-year player, but that doesn't matter at all. In free agency, the money doesn't go to the best players. It goes to the best players available. And the fact that any real franchise quarterback is available to the highest bidder is extremely rare.
And with multiple teams in the market for a franchise quarterback -- including the Browns, Broncos and Jets, some of whom are more desperate than others -- the bidding could get crazy. The Jets may have $100 million in cap room to spend. They could devote $30 million of that to Cousins in 2018 and still have more spending room than almost every other NFL team.
Crazy? Not when you consider the Jets have been seemingly searching for a quarterback since the days of Joe Namath. If it means solving their quarterback problem for the next five years, there may be no price that's too high.
The same holds true for the Browns, who are more miserable and desperate than the Jets. And it might be even truer for the Broncos and perhaps the Cardinals or maybe the Jaguars, all of whom could argue that they'd be true Super Bowl contenders if their quarterback issues were fixed.
And if you think Garoppolo was a quick fix for the 49ers -- which he sure seemed to be when he went 5-0 in his five starts last season -- Cousins could be an even quicker fix. Garoppolo, 26, is a fireball of potential, but he has seven starts, 2,250 yards and 12 career touchdown passes on his resume. Cousins averaged 4,392 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions per season over the last three years, while starting every single game.
That's why his price is going to be astronomical. Quarterbacks with that kind of resume and ability are almost never available. The Redskins -- who are almost certainly bluffing about slapping the franchise tag on Cousins for a third straight year so they could try and trade him -- just gave 33-year-old Alex Smith a four-year, $94 million extension that included $71 million in guaranteed money. Cousins is younger and has put up better numbers over the years, and he's far more of a proven commodity than Garoppolo.
NFL teams, meanwhile, fall into one of two categories: They either have a franchise quarterback or they are frantically searching for one. Sure, they could push the search off if they don't think Cousins is worth the money, but there's no guarantee they'll find one in the future -- and even if they do, the price won't be any cheaper. In 2-to-3 years, Cousins at $150 million could end up far down the list of highest-paid quarterbacks.
When Ben Roethlisberger signed his four-year, $87.4 million contract extension it was a record for NFL quarterbacks. Now, just three years later, his deal ranks 10th.
That's because there is absolutely nothing more valuable to NFL teams than a franchise quarterback. And it doesn't matter whether Cousins is ranked in the Top 10 or Top 15 or even somewhere below that. He's the best guy available. Just as importantly, he's the next guy available.
And history has proven that with franchise quarterbacks, the next guy never gets less than the previous guy just got.
Top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL(Ranked in order of total value of the deal, with the help of Overthecap.com):
1.Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers - Five years, $137.5 million (according to reports). … $74 million guaranteed.
2.Matthew Stafford, Lions - Five years, $135 million. … $60.5 million guaranteed.
3.Derek Carr, Raiders - Five years, $125 million. … $40 million guaranteed.
4.Andrew Luck, Colts - Five years, $123 million. … $47 million guaranteed.
5.Aaron Rodgers, Packers - Five years, $110 million. … $54 million guaranteed.
6.Cam Newton, Panthers - Five years, $103.8 million. … $41 million guaranteed.
7.Matt Ryan, Falcons - Five years, $103.7 million. … $42 million guaranteed.
8.Andy Dalton, Bengals - Six years, $96 million. … $17 million guaranteed.
9.Russell Wilson, Seahawks - Four years, $87.6 million. … $31.7 million guaranteed.
10.Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - Four years, $87.4 million … $34.2 million guaranteed.
(Note: Giants QB Eli Manning now ranks 11th on the list with a four-year, $84 million deal that included $36.5 million in guaranteed money).