Former sports agent discusses why quarterbacks don't make as much money as they should
It's no secret that the quarterback position is the most important position across all sports. They are, especially in the mind of an average 9-to-5 employee, paid insane amounts of money to play a game.
What I've always found interesting, though, is that they are either not the highest-paid player on their team, or it takes them a lot longer than it should to get a big raise. There are a few obvious factors that can play into this, such as skill level, salary cap situation and so on.
Brady is criminally underpaid and everyone knows it. He has consistently given the Patriots massive hometown discounts in order to have room to make other moves. The excerpt below is what stands out to me the most.
Brady signed a two-year extension in March 2016 for $41 million running through the 2019 season when he is 42. Before the extension, Brady was to make $9 million and $10 million in 2016 and '17, the last two years of the 2013 renegotiation. He received a $28 million signing bonus while lowering his '16 and '17 base salaries each to $1 million, which is $11 million more than he was scheduled to make over this time before the contract adjustment. Brady's 2016 salary was fully guaranteed. His 2017 salary guaranteed for injury became fully guaranteed on March 11, the third day of the current league year.
2. Unwillingness to exploit contract leverage This one sort of ties in to the Brady approach. The example Corry points out is Derek Carr, who just inked a five-year $125 million deal. Carr said he took less money than he could've asked for so the Raiders could hang on to other key players.
When he was a free agent in 2012, Peyton Manning picked where he wanted to go and then negotiated a contract instead of having teams try and outbid each other for him.
3. The Franchise Tag Franchise tags aren't often used on big-name quarterbacks, as they generally don't make it to free agency. While Kirk Cousins was the most recent household name to get tagged, Corry goes back to 2012 when Drew Brees was tagged.
Brees is a perfect illustration of the franchise tag's impact on salaries. When tagged in 2012, Brees was coming off the most prolific season of any quarterback in NFL history. In addition to shattering Dan Marino's single-season yardage record in 2011 with 5,476 passing yards, Brees set marks for completion percentage (71.2 percent), completions (468), 300-yard games (13) and consecutive 300-yard games (seven).
Brees became the NFL's first $20 million player with a five-year, $100 million contract. The deal only came after acrimonious negotiations led to Brees filing and winning a grievance against the Saints clarifying whether franchise tags applied across teams or were specific to teams.
Just imagine the type of contract a healthy, 33-year-old Brees could have gotten on the open market without the existence of franchise tags considering the Titans were reportedly willing to give a 36-year-old Manning, who missed the 2011 season because of multiple neck surgeries, $25 million per year. This Brees contract would have paved the way for Rodgers to take the quarterback market to unprecedented heights.
4. The Rookie Wage Scale Effect
As part of the 2011 CBA, incoming rookies were no longer allowed to be paid as if they were a top player at their position. Cam Newton, now one of the NFL's top quarterbacks and the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, only received just over $22 million in his first contract due to the new CBA.
Corry says the tail-end of large rookie contracts became tough for teams to manage, so they'd re-do the deals in order to gain immediate cap relief. This, in turn, would force the cap numbers to go up.
The latter years of these contracts typically become unmanageable for teams when draft picks were highly productive because of astronomical cap numbers from earning close to the maximum value. Some teams would compound the problem by restructuring rookie contracts for immediate cap relief, which would raise the cap numbers in remaining years.
This practice led to immense leverage for the player where the extremely large cap numbers forced a team to reset a positional market on an extension with a player-friendly structure or let him become an unrestricted free agent once his rookie contract expired because use of a franchise tag was impractical. For example, the Lions made wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the second overall pick in 2007 NFL Draft, the richest non-quarterback on a seven-year, $113.45 million extension in 2012 with $53.25 million fully guaranteed at signing. It would have been virtually impossible for the Lions to franchise Johnson at over $25 million when his rookie contract expired after the season and lowering his 2012 salary cap number, which was slightly over $21 million, was a necessity.
So to summarize, the current CBA, Tom Brady, and nice guys like Derek Carr and Peyton Manning helped change the landscape of how a quarterback is paid, despite having the most important job on the team. Imagine what someone like Brady could get on the open market right now even at age 40.
And while, again, we all realize they are paid tons of money to play a sport, it is a very violent sport that can have tons of negative effects on them later on in life.
Players have committed suicide (Junior Seau). Others have ended up with chronic ailments due to the number of injuries sustained or have suffered from severe brain trauma. I am obviously not an NFL player but I can't imagine the NFL lifestyle is all that it's made out to be.
Because of that, I believe all NFL players, quarterbacks in particular, deserve to make as much money as they can. The average NFL career lasts about three to four years. For some players, football is all they know. So why not make as much money as you can doing what you love for as long as you can do it?