By: Lucas Kochevar
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was due for a big payday along with a number of guys. On Monday, he officially earned his contract that made him the highest paid quarterback in the league. The star signal caller signed a five-year, $255 million deal with Philadelphia and they seem to be set for the foreseeable future. With other teams struggling to lock up their young quarterback, cough Ravens cough, the Eagles wasted no time getting this deal done. Hurts started off his career in a shaky matter as there were many questions about whether or not Hurts was the guy. Last season, he broke out with 4,461 total yards and 35 total touchdowns. This earned him second place in MVP voting en route to a Super Bowl appearance. It's a good deal as the price tag is now set for quarterbacks like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert that are looking for their first massive payday after their rookie contract. With this news coming out, it seems like a good time to analyze the top earners at quarterback for this volume of LK League Notes.
The Cream of the Crop
Its no secret that quarterback is the most important position in the biggest sport in America. With this immense pressure and label, comes a huge payday. If they can perform just good enough to make it past the rookie contract, then their grandkids' grandkids will be set for life. Every year, guys get paid and earn this paycheck because the market is very willing and able to spend this money for a better product on the field. This is simply the concept of investing and it's capitalism. Invest in the quarterback should lead to a return of a winning football team, but that's not always the result. The top five quarterbacks on yearly average is the perfect case in this, outside of the newly-paid Eagles quarterback.
After Hurts, there's Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson and, finally, Patrick Mahomes. It's crazy to look at with the most talented guy in the league at sixth on the list. At thirty-nine years old, Rodgers being the highest paid is crazy too. Look at Wilson, he just had his worst year in his career. Murray and Watson weren't great this year for outside reasons, but their teams missed the playoffs. This is a trend that continues after Mahomes, as well. Twelve quarterbacks are ahead of the next closest player that doesn't play quarterback when it comes to salary. That player is Aaron Donald and he makes less per year than Daniel Jones and Derek Carr. It's simply the way the league goes and the market dictates it.
I don't think there's a correlation in paying the quarterback and losing, however. In this article, it's said that 12 out of the last 15 quarterbacks in the Super Bowl since the 2015 were not on their rookie contracts. There's a myth in the football world that teams have to scramble to compete while a quarterback is on their rookie deal. This happens and teams tend to go all-in and end up screwing themselves down the road. It's an unnecessary practice. Does it help when the quarterback is cheap? Sure, but it isn't the right strategy of team building for the long term. If you spread your money across your team, while having a big money guy at the helm, that's just as good. Most teams around the league end up paying their quarterback around 15% of their cap space and that seems like a fair number for a player that leads the entire franchise.
No matter how this discussion is led, it remains a fact that a single person making $51 million is insane to the average person. I understand the sentiment that it's far too much money, but there has to be a realization of how much money is flowing throughout the league. At this point in time, the scale of football is far different than any other profession in the country. The NFL, as a whole, is worth $142.87 BILLION. The Washington Commanders are close to being sold for around $6 billion. The money is unreal and the owners are swimming in a sea full of money like Scrooge McDuck. Paying quarterbacks the NFL average doesn't even really put a dent in their pockets, thus they're very willing and able to spend the money. As I referenced earlier, if the market is willing to pay this much money, then the money will be spent. It's simple economics and remember, the player is doing what's best for them and their family. In the same way that you might negotiate a raise at work, the players are doing it at their job. The scale is just vastly different.
Forgotten Player of the Week: Steven Jackson
Falcons fans, look away. The most recent player on this segment is someone that I looked forward to when he joined my team, but I forgot the biggest rule in football: Don't pay a running back once they turn 30. Steven Jackson entered the league in 2004 as a first round pick for the St. Louis Rams. As Marshall Faulk started to slow down, the Rams wasted no time getting his successor in Jackson. Despite only starting in three games during his rookie year, Jackson still accumulated over 600 yards and four touchdowns. His first year in the league was one of the few years he failed to rush for over 1,000 yards. His sophomore campaign featured 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, but his third year in the league was his best.
Jackson exploded for 2,334 scrimmage yards, where 1,528 of those yards were rushing. He hit double-digit touchdowns for the only time during his career with 13. He placed fourth in Offensive Player of the Year, earned second team All-Pro and his first Pro Bowl. He compiled a couple more 1,000 yard seasons, but injuries nagged him. In 2009 and 2010, he notched back-to-back Pro Bowl selections. He rushed for over 1,000 yards two more seasons after the Pro Bowls, but entering his age 30 season, he wanted a shot at a Super Bowl. The Rams weren't close to this and decided to let him walk.
The Falcons were coming off an NFC Championship appearance and looked to make the next step to actually making the Super Bowl. They felt that Jackson was the missing piece and signed him. Unfortunately, this is when the wheels started to fall off for Jackson and he rushed for only 543 yards. His second season in Atlanta was better, but that wouldn't stop the Falcons from cutting him. His last season in the league was 21 rushes for the Patriots in 2015. Even though it ended poorly, Jackson has to be remembered as one of the more underrated running backs in the 2000s. His 11,438 yards rank him 18th all-time and had 69 touchdowns. Nice career for a running back.
Sources: Image via Mitchell Leff, Getty Images.