Derek Carr inked a five-year, $125 million extension on Thursday, making him the league's first $25 million per-year man. The Oakland Raiders' quarterback likely won't hold the distinction of 'NFL's highest paid player' for long.
Now that the $25 million barrier has been breached, other quarterbacks set for a new contract have a higher baseline in their negotiations. Carr's deal could jumpstart several more contracts done before the season starts.
Cousins and the Washington Redskins have until July 17 to come to an agreement on a long-term contract or the quarterback will play under the $23.94 million franchise tag in 2016. The Redskins have insisted Cousins is their guy long-term -- with new player personnel man Doug Williams being the latest last week.
The options for Washington are to let Cousins play out the year and hit free agency, where he would likely be heavily coveted, given the dearth of capable quarterbacks. Franchise tag him for a third time at an astronomical $34 million rate in 2018. Or transition tag him (worth roughly $28 million) and allow other teams to negotiate with the passer from that starting point. With Cousins seemingly content to play the year-to-year tag game so far, a long-term offer from the Redskins at or near Carr's new deal could be the trigger to lock down the quarterback.
What it will take to keep the best quarterback Lions fans have known since the 1950s is a new contract that blows past Carr's annual average. Not only does Stafford own almost every Lions quarterback record, he's the only face-of-the-franchise-type on the roster. The quarterback has all the leverage to become the next 'highest paid player.' Rather than play a potential costly franchise tag game, the Lions appear poised to lock down the quarterback for the long-term.
Stafford entered the NFL in a prime spot to cash in. He earned $50.5 million over the first four years of his contract. In 2013, he signed a five-year $76.5 million contract with $41 million in guarantees. Still just 29-year-old with a rocket arm and improving efficiency under Jim Bob Cooter, Stafford is due another Brobdingnagian payday.
Rodgers said this summer that a new contract "usually takes care of itself." At the same time, he noted the Packers were "$20 million under the cap, as usual, so we have plenty of room." Reading between the lines, it's clear that Rodgers knows he's due a pay hike on his five-year, $110 million contract extension signed in 2013 -- which came before significant jumps in the salary cap.
Since then much lesser quarterbacks have gotten paid.
With two years remaining on his extension after 2017, Rodgers and the Packers might not be in an immediate hurry to follow Carr's mega contract. The Green Bay quarterback could wait until Cousins or Stafford set market even higher before blasting either out of the water.
No matter how much money Rodgers is paid, he'll always be worth more. If there were no salary cap, he'd easily make eleventy bajillion dollars on the open market. Franchise quarterbacks, especially the Super Bowl winning, best-in-the-game types, can't be overpaid.
Ryan has two seasons left on his contract, but Carr's new deal should be a baseline for any deal for the reigning NFL MVP. The question is whether the sides decide to wait on a contract extension or to lock in a price now -- as numbers for quarterbacks continue to push skyward. Owner Arthur Blank told ESPN's Vaughn McClure in February that Ryan "needs to be compensated well, certainly. And he will be.'' The only question is when he's compensated.
I mention Brees here because his contract voids after the 2017 season. Will the future Hall of Famer demand top dollar for his services? Or might the 38-year-old passer take less than market value to push for another Super Bowl in New Orleans?
Other notable quarterbacks potentially hitting the free-agent market in 2018:
Jimmy Garoppolo: The Patriots could try a Matt Cassel-style franchise tag and trade. They could let him walk, where he'd have a huge market and could cash in. They could try to get Tom Brady's backup to take a lesser deal to remain as the eventual heir. Or maybe, just maybe, Brady moves on and Garoppolo takes over the throne -- CSNNE's Tom Curran eloquently broke down that final possibility.
Sam Bradford: There are a lot of balls in the air in Minnesota, including Teddy Bridgewater's health. Bradford, like Stafford, has made a ton of money thanks to his pre-wage-scale rookie contract. The former No. 1 overall pick rehabbed his image last year. With another solid season, he would be in for another payday if he reaches the open market - even if it doesn't come in as high as Carr, Cousins or Stafford.
Tom Savage: His notable-ness on this list depends entirely on how long (if at all) he fends off Deshaun Watson.
Mark Sanchez: #Kidding. But he is a free agent (again) next year.