Jalen Hurts is the highest-paid player in NFL history after his lucrative extension with the Eagles on Monday. The star quarterback will earn an average of $51 million per year over the life of his $255M deal, which ties him to Philadelphia through 2028.
Hurts resetting the QB market isn't exactly surprising. He's a 24-year-old MVP candidate coming off a historic Super Bowl effort, and signal-callers always command top dollar. Just ask the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, whose offseason has been headlined by an attempt to secure his own record payout, either in or outside of Baltimore.
But how much have QBs actually increased in value to NFL teams over the years? We all know that the top QB salaries escalate from year to year, essentially allowing the next elite one to sign to become the new owner of the biggest deal ever. (It's why, come September, Hurts may well trail both the Bengals' Joe Burrow and Chargers' Justin Herbert in the contract race.)
One way to test whether QB deals have actually gotten bigger is to assess them in light of the salary cap. The cap tends to rise each year, so which QBs are putting a bigger dent in their respective teams' payroll?
Here's a look at the top QB contracts signed in each of the last 20 years:
Note: Total contract values and APY (average per-year) values are rounded to the nearest millionth. Also: The percent-of-salary-cap totals listed below incorporate a player's new-money APY. For example, Jalen Hurts' extension won't technically begin until 2024, after his rookie contract expires, so he'll be significantly cheaper to the Eagles in 2023. We are instead focusing on what percentage of the current cap he (and other QBs) absorb with future annual earnings.
|Year||QB||Team||Contract||APY||Cap||% of Cap|
5 years, $255M
3 years, $151M
6 years, $258M
10 years, $450M
4 years, $140M
4 years, $134M
5 years, $135M
5 years, $123M
4 years, $87.6M
6 years, $114M
5 years, $110M
5 years, $100M
5 years, $90M
4 years, $72M
6 years, $97.5M
6 years, $88M
6 years, $67.5M
5 years, $60M
|2005||Carson Palmer||Bengals||6 years, $97M||$16.2M||$85.5M||18.9|
|2004||Peyton Manning||Colts||7 years, $98M||$14M||$80.6M||17.4|
A few key takeaways:
- If you're truly elite, you can reset the market multiple times: Patrick Mahomes took a relatively team-friendly deal in retrospect, provided he signed for a full decade. But Aaron Rodgers (3), Drew Brees (2), Peyton Manning (2) and Russell Wilson (2) all became the NFL's best-paid QB more than once over the last two decades.
- Generally speaking, QBs are indeed more expensive than they were a decade ago: Not solely because of per-year payouts but in relation to the cap. There are exceptions: the Colts and Bengals paid a premium for Manning and Carson Palmer, respectively, at the turn of the century, committing 17+ percent of their salary cap to the QBs. But consider this: since 2018, for six straight seasons, the highest-paid QB has accounted for at least 18.5% of the cap. Between 2006-2017, the 12 years prior, not a single one of the highest-paid QBs reached that number, and half of them fell below 14.5%.
- The QBs set to follow Hurts' footsteps are set up nicely: This is the most obvious, but if Hurts can approach 19% of the cap as the Eagles look to stay in win-now mode after a Super Bowl bid, guys like Burrow and Herbert shouldn't have much of a problem commanding just as much, if not more. That would potentially extend the streak of best-paid QBs clearing 20% of the cap, making it four straight seasons that has occurred, and possibly setting a benchmark for all market-resetting negotiations.