When the final gun went off at the end of Super Bowl XLVII, the first item up for business for the Baltimore Ravens was to work out the long term deal for Joe Flacco. General Manager Ozzie Newsome inked his quarterback to a lucrative 6 year $120.6 million deal. With that in mind, the Green Bay Packers are on the verge of an even bigger contract for Aaron . Which brings up the question: Are these huge quarterback salaries worth it?? Have they translated into Super Bowl wins??
When we’re talking about these over the top contracts we’re not talking about the contract where a back-up or a player is trying to resurrect their career like Drew Brees was in 2005. We’re talking about the $80 – 100 million plus contract extensions to lock up a quarterback long-term. Every GM beams with the quarterback in the photo-op, but are they crippling their own franchises??
The one that comes to mind first is Peyton Manning. He came into the league in 1998. By the end of 2003 he played out his rookie contract and was given the franchise tag in 2004. He then went on to sign a 7 year $98 million contract that made him the highest paid player in 2005 with a cap cost of $17.766 million for 2006. The fall-out?? Say good-bye to franchise all time leading rusher Edgerrin James via free agency that very same year. However the Colts did make it to Super Bowl XLI later that season but one of the issues had been with so much money tied to the offense, they couldn’t sign any key defensive free agents to get to a championship sooner. They weren’t the same type of team when they took on the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Gone was a superstar in wideout Marvin Harrison, replaced by lessor talents in Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. It’s a miracle they made it to that title game.
When you look at the other fall-out they lost several defensive starters in that same 2004 year in Cornerback David Macklin, Cornerback Walt Harris, and Linebacker Marcus Washington. Fortunately they had Cato June and S Bob Sanders who were already on the roster to replace them. However June, the leading tackler on the championship ’06 team, signed a free agent deal with Tampa before 2007 and Sanders career was derailed by injuries.
Yet with another contract looming he was franchised again in 2011. Had a deal not been reached he would have counted $23 million against the cap that year. But a deal was reached on a new 5 year deal worth $90 million that back-loaded money so he only counted $18 million against the cap. Having learned from previous years Manning cited he wanted the Colts to be able to retain other players. By 2010 they were an average team. They were 10-6 only because of his brilliant play. It wasn’t the 20th ranked defense that had given up 388 points (81 more than the AFC Champion ’09 squad). It wasn’t leading rusher Donald Brown (who?) that ran for 497 yards and 2 touchdowns. So when his neck injury hit, the entire house of cards collapsed as they went 2-14 and had to purge the team including Manning.
Of course you can’t mention Manning without bringing up Tom Brady. In 2008 the Patriots were coming off their 18-1 season where they had lost Super Bowl XLII. They had signed budget priced free agents in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth the year before and became a juggernaut. His contract has been extended multiple times to offer cap space yet he’s still counting nearly $13.8 million against the cap this year where originally he was going to count $16-18 million before. Notice the Patriots have signed only middle of the road free agents over the last few years. So it was surprising they signed WR Danny Amendola to a $31 million deal.
However a closer look at it and you noticed they haven’t had any other high-priced free agents come in and help him get that fourth Super Bowl win. Even receivers Chad Ochocinco and Brandon Lloyd were marginal free agents at best. The defense has totally been purged and Bill Belichick has a young defense that has had some growing pains. They did make it to Super Bowl XLVI but lost to the Giants and Eli Manning for a second time. They don’t have the cap space to sign quality free agents yet remain close but no championships.
In 2010 he signed a four-year extension worth $72 million to relieve cap space then in February of this year re-worked it to a 3 year $27 million extension. He thought the latest move would keep Welker in town. When it didn’t he was upset about it. Yet it was the back and forth between he and Peyton Manning who would be the highest paid players have crippled their teams in other areas. The real reason they didn’t win it in 2007 and 2010 were pedestrian defenses. They were the Achille’s Heel that showed up in the waning minutes of Super Bowl XLII when Eli Manning started his drive. Let’s face facts , in 2011 when they lost Super Bowl XLVI they were 31st in the NFL in overall defense. Gone were Richard Seymour and Asante Samuel who had made plays for them. In 2007 they were at least 4th in defense but weren’t pressed in games since they were ahead by so many points.
Now wait…wait this just in *Walter Cronkite voice* “The flash making it official, Jerry Jones has just signed quarterback Tony Romo to a 6 year deal worth $108 million.” They get some immediate cap relief but who else have they signed with any merit?? Exactly. Now don’t forget we’re a week or two removed where Aaron Rodgers will not discount double check a contract worth $120 million. The sticking point will be how much is guaranteed?? $60-65 million??
You’ll note before last season the New Orleans Saints signed Drew Brees to a 5 year $100 million contract. Yet who have they signed to shore up that porous defense that ranked dead last allowing 440 yards per game and gave up 454 points for the season?? They’re supposed to be competitive in a division that has Tampa improving and Atlanta fresh from a birth in the NFC Championship?? The Chancellor doesn’t think so.
Yet you look around, Manning’s Broncos and Brady’s Patriots seem like the only teams that are favored to be contenders. Over in the NFC it’s the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and the Atlanta Falcons who are the favorites. The Giants and Eli Manning’s $90 million contract and the aforementioned Aaron Rodgers and the Packers seem to be on a tier below. In fact it was Colin Kaepernick (4 yrs / $5.2 million) and money spent on a better team that ousted Green Bay 45-31 in last year’s divisional round. Now that they’re going to sign Rodgers to his mega deal, they can only keep Clay Matthews yet Charles Woodson and receiver Greg Jennings are now gone.
The league will come to realize this yet it’s hard to see teams not overpay for the best at their positions. The Tony Romo signing is baffing since he has only 1 playoff win in 7 years. Yet when he faced the Redskins and Robert Griffin III (4yrs /$21 million) for the NFC East Title he came up short as he has in big games since ’07. $108 million for a perennial 8-8 quarterback??
What we’re seeing here is a changing of the guard. You have the teams with all their money tied into elite quarterbacks facing young counterparts with smaller contracts on more complete teams. We hadn’t even brought up Andrew Luck and the Colts yet either. Joe Flacco signs his huge deal and watches all his teammates walk out the door as Peyton Manning once did. Each team has to do what is right for them but these contracts are crippling the rest of the roster. The only big money quarterback to win a Super Bowl was Eli Manning and even his Giants have not been in that top-tier of contenders. The NFL is catching on and in another 2-3 more years of watching this, you’ll know who the teams that will be the contenders. Find the team with the young quarterback with money spent on defense. The Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan are at that tipping point.
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