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Trying to decipher the delicate second contract for NFL franchise quarterbacks

In the NFL, finding a rookie quarterback who can win you a title is key, but get ready for the big-time pay day in their second contract.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

This morning I was working out in the gym with a good friend of mine, he just happens to be a die hard Baltimore Ravens fan and season ticket holder. We talked smack, as usual, and I asked him what he thought about the rumors the Ravens were considering giving Lamar Jackson a $40 million per year deal.

I was prepared for his response...

“It would be a mistake.”

I asked him to elaborate, and he went into how while Jackson is dynamic, a great person and fun to watch, what has he truly accomplished in the NFL? Sure, the Most Valuable Player is great, but he has only been able to win one playoff game since taking over as the starting quarterback.

We continued to talk about the situation, and you quickly realize just how delicate the second contract is with players who are deemed as franchise quarterbacks.

In an ideal world, you find a quarterback who can win you a Super Bowl during their rookie contract. This ensures the quarterback isn’t paid handsomely, and you can spread money around to the rest of the roster to help fortify the team around said quarterback.

Look at what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes won them a Super Bowl, and then hit a big pay day with a giant extension. I should stop right there and let you know this article is not about number crunching. I am not about to dive into the salary cap, contract status and potential bonuses which could all occur when these quarterbacks sign those mega contracts. If you are looking for that, hit up Dave Schofield or Matty Peverell for their expertise. This article is simply about the act of when do you lock up the most important position in all of sports?

Three teams are faced with this difficult decision:

Baltimore Ravens, Lamar Jackson
Buffalo Bills, Josh Allen
Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield

All three organizations have made it known they want to sign their quarterback to a long term deal, but all want to avoid a Jared Goff and Los Angeles Rams situation where they are saddled with a quarterback who isn’t the franchise leader they once thought he was. The Rams had to unload the contract in a trade with the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford.

A lot of factors come into play when looking at this situation. First, is the team willing to let their quarterback play out his 5th year option, potentially having to pay more if they do well?

This was the scenario brought up with my friend. I asked him if he would rather the team sign Jackson to a long term deal now, possibly owing $40 million a year, compared to paying him after 2021 when it could cost over $50 million a year. His thought was he wants to see him win a Super Bowl, then if they have to pay him $10 million more, so be it.

Either way, it is highly unlikely any of these three quarterbacks leave the team who drafted them anytime soon, but the second contract hits franchises hard. When the quarterback becomes the highest paid player on the team, you see others who leave via free agency due to salary cap constraints. This is the point where you hope the player you pay the most is able to win you games on their skill set alone.

Are Jackson, Allen and Mayfield those types of quarterbacks?

Would Baker Mayfield be able to win games if he doesn’t have Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. catching passes? Would Josh Allen be the man in Buffalo without Stefon Diggs and company?

I can’t speak for you, the reader, but the more I think about this difficult decision, the more delicate it becomes. However, it isn’t impossible. The Chiefs’ extension of Mahomes’ contract gave them financial flexibility, but the hit is still coming. It is inevitable.

So, what do you think of this situation, and the second contract for NFL franchise quarterbacks in general? Do you think teams should lock up players as soon as possible, or wait and see how they perform before giving them the big contract? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.