PoliticsThursday 04.21.22

Is This the Golden Age of the NFL Quarterback?

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It’s a great time to be a quarterback. NFL team owners know that they can’t win a Super Bowl without a sure-handed passer, and the very best ones are wielding their leverage to move to new teams where they can weigh in on further personnel moves.

And then, of course, there’s the money. Just in this current offseason, Matthew Stafford (of the Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams), Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), and Deshaun Watson (Cleveland Browns) all signed massive deals. Watson’s record-breaking contract with Cleveland was the biggest; it guarantees him $230 million over five years — despite the fact that the man faces 22 civil suits for sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

Lamar Jackson seems to know just how much power a great player holds in this kind of bull market. The star Baltimore Ravens quarterback was the league’s unanimous MVP in 2019, and has just one year left on his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. So far, he’s shown no interest in signing an extension. If he doesn’t, he would become the first quarterback to play out his rookie deal with the team that drafted him when an extension was realistically available. If he has a strong 2022 before he hits free agency, Jackson could boost demand for his services and realistically end up earning more than Stafford, Rodgers, and even the controversial Deshaun Watson.

On the flip side of this market, if owners have doubts about their QB, their days may be numbered. Ask Baker Mayfield, who Cleveland is dumping in favor of Watson; or Kyler Murray, who played poorly in the playoffs for Arizona and seems desperate to sign a contract extension. He may not get one if ownership doesn’t think he’s worth a cool $40 million (or more) a year.

LZ and Will talk about this new dynamic, whereby the best quarterbacks are quickly becoming like the biggest stars in the NBA and starting to call all the shots. What does it mean for the NFL going forward?

The Long Game