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1. The $45 million man?
This is, without question, the era of the big-money quarterback. Decades from now, when we look back at this period of NFL history, we will marvel at the money. The cash. The bucks. The lolly.
This list of average annual salaries, composed by The MMQB’s Albert Breer, is simply staggering:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
Highest paid by APY …
June ’16: Andrew Luck, $24.6M
June ’17: Derek Carr, $25.0M
Sept. ’17: Matthew Stafford, $27.0M
Feb. ’18: Jimmy Garoppolo, $27.5M
March ’18: Kirk Cousins, $28.0M
May ’18: Matt Ryan, $30.0M
Aug. ’18: Aaron Rodgers, $33.5M
April ’19: Russell Wilson, $35.0M
That’s an increase of more than $10 million per year in just three years. At the time, Luck’s deal was seen as huge. Now, it’s like quarterback minimum wage.
The Wilson extension (four years, $140 million) is huge, but in just a few years, it will pale in comparison to what Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes will receive.
Based on Wilson’s deal, and Rodgers’, we could see Mahomes earn a five-year, $200 million deal, averaging $40 million a season.
The idea of a $40 million Mahomes was first brought up by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It seemed absurd at the time in January. But no longer. The Rodgers and Wilson deals show not only is that probable, it might also be low.
The number could actually be $45 million.
That’s because the health of the NFL remains strong, and the league continues to increase the salary cap significantly every year (about $10 million a season). This gives teams more money to pay their most important players in the quarterbacks.
Mahomes was drafted in 2017 and is eligible for an extension after this coming season. Teams are often nervous about giving players bank vaults full of cash so soon after they’re eligible, but Mahomes will be the exception. He’s proved not just to be one of the most explosive and game-changing players in all of sports, but he’s also studious and grounded.
So, yes, Wilson’s contract is immense and also well-deserved.
It’s also possible Mahomes’ deal will blow it out of the water.
2. Wilson’s greatness
- 69 passing touchdowns since 2017 (most in the NFL).
- 75 quarterback wins in the first seven seasons (most in NFL history).
- A 100.3 passer rating (second-highest ever).
- The third-most rushing yards by a quarterback in his first seven seasons: Cam Newton, 4,320; Michael Vick, 3,954; Wilson, 3,651.
- Third-most passing touchdowns in the first seven seasons in NFL history: Dan Marino, 220; Peyton Manning, 216; Russell Wilson, 196; Brett Favre, 182.
The most stunning part of all this data is the number of touchdowns in his first seven seasons. Wilson is only 20 behind Manning despite spending so much of his career in run-based offenses.
3. Next big vet QB deal will be Rivers
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers did not attend the start of the team’s offseason program this week. It wasn’t because of his contract or because his wife, Tiffany, had their 78th child; it was because of a family vacation.
But make no mistake: Rivers is getting an extension. His contract expires at the end of this season, and neither Rivers nor the Chargers want him going into the year without a new deal.
It’ll happen. It’s just a question of when.
4. A new Andrew Luck?
Darron Cummings/Associated Press
If you ask a lot of NFL players what one of their biggest offseason challenges is, they will tell you it’s turning off their football brains and taking time away from the sport.
Players are high-achievers, and generally, those personalities have a difficult time stepping away. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is one of those players.
The team’s general manager, Chris Ballard, challenged Luck to decompress, and as Mike Chappell of CBS4Indy.com notes, Luck accepted the challenge.
“He kind of challenged me to turn my mind off in a sense,” Luck said. “It took a while, but I did get away. I feel refreshed. I got a chance to catch up with a lot of family and friends and folks, and obviously getting married. It was a very nice offseason.”
If you’re a Luck competitor, this is alarming. This should scare the hell out of you.
If he’s learned to compartmentalize during the offseason and truly recharge and rest that big brain of his, we could see the most dangerous Luck yet.
One of the first conversations I had with a star player about how important it was to refresh his mind in the offseason, and not just his body, was with Hall of Fame Giants defensive lineman Michael Strahan. He was one of the smartest, most driven and relentless players I’ve ever been around. Early in his career, he pushed himself constantly in the offseason with film study and worked almost as hard as he did during the season.
Then Strahan realized his mind needed a break too, and learning to step away from the sport, he believed, prolonged his career.
All NFL players are driven. It’s what makes them special, but even among that elite group, there are some who work harder than others.
Luck, like Strahan, believed pushing himself constantly, even in the offseason, made him better. More than that, Luck had a hard time stopping himself from obsessing even when the games weren’t being played.
“I couldn’t get off that high, if that makes sense,” Luck told Chappell. “Emotionally it felt weird not going to work for a while. It took a while to say, ‘This is OK to reset.’ But I do think it was necessary. Also a chance to regroup, refresh.”
The challenge of offseason calmness isn’t solely about the players putting pressure on themselves. There was a time, in the 1980s and before, when players disappeared for almost the entire offseason. They worked out but were mostly able to chill. In the decades before that, some even had jobs in the offseason.
When teams began requiring players to participate in extensive offseason programs, things changed. Things also changed as players began using more high-tech training methods year-round.
None of this is to say that Luck will now spend all of his offseasons in the pool drinking beer. He will still be the same driven guy. He might just do what he did this offseason, which is take a deep breath.
This could make Luck more dangerous than ever.
5. Cardinals still seem locked on Kyler Murray…
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While some mock drafts are starting to show the Arizona Cardinals trading out of the No. 1 overall spot, everything still seems to point to them taking Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
Nothing is certain in the draft, and now comes my daily reminder that errrrrrrrrrybody lies around draft time. Yet Murray to the Cardinals seems like the safe bet.
6. …but watch the Raiders
My belief is the Raiders are not totally sold on Derek Carr as their quarterback of the future. Every time I say this, Raiders fans get irritated and say bad things about my momma.
Yet general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden consistently waffle on Carr. It also cannot be emphasized enough that this isn’t their roster, and when Gruden traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, he was making a statement that anyone can be usurped.
Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas-Review Journal reported the Raiders are expected to pass on a first-round quarterback. That might end up being true, but I find it difficult to believe they would rule that out now.
The Raiders have the fourth, 24th and 27th picks in the first round. They have a draft arsenal, and this allows them a great deal of flexibility. Few in the NFL would be surprised if they made a big move up for Ohio State’s Nick Bosa or even Murray.
7. Will Jadeveon Clowney‘s contract get done?
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The Texans pass-rusher was franchise-tagged by the team, and his tender is $15.967 million. That won’t be enough for a player of his caliber, and as the Houston Chronicle‘s Aaron Wilson notes, it isn’t surprising Clowney is skipping the team’s offseason workouts.
This situation should be watched closely. Clowney and his representatives have watched the deals of other great defensive linemen roll in. Mack signed a six-year, $141 million deal, and the Rams’ Aaron Donald signed a six-year, $135 million contract.
Clowney is just as impactful as both of those players. He’s one of only a handful of defensive stars who affects a game almost like a quarterback.
He will be looking not to get paid but to get paid. Just as he should.
8. Chiefs still waiting on Tyreek Hill case
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
Tyreek Hill joined the Chiefs this week for their offseason workouts as local authorities investigate an alleged battery of his three-year-old son at Hill’s home. The NFL continues to wait for the conclusion of those investigators and then will make its own decision on punishment, if any. It’s possible the league will also conduct its own investigation at some point.
The bottom line is that Hill will be with the team until there’s some type of official conclusion to this case.
No one in the league (I believe including the Chiefs) has a clue what the investigation is finding. We will likely all know soon enough.
9. NFL players pushing for change
Doug Baldwin Jr @DougBaldwinJr
I agree that discipline is a vital tool in teaching our children how to be healthy and productive members of society. But I believe we must be more intentional and compassionate in our approach.
Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and Saints linebacker Demario Davis wrote an op-ed for TheHill.com opposing corporal punishment in schools.
First, I didn’t even know there was still corporal punishment in schools. Second, it’s a really well-reasoned and smart piece.
There continue to be players who use their power to affect societal change. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge this enough.
10. Saquon’s influence
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We know the influence Tiger Woods has had not just on golf but also on American sports.
Giants running back Saquon Barkley isn’t as much of an influencer (few humans are), but Barkley has impacted more than just Giants fans. He’s got a fan in Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava.
LaCava wore a Barkley jersey under his jumpsuit (is that the proper word?…seems like a very 1960s word) during Woods’ Masters win Sunday. He’s a huge New York sports fan.
After the Giants win the Super Bowl this season, maybe Barkley can wear a LaCava jersey.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.