NFL quarterback contracts inherently invite a visceral reaction: the world cannot simply agree a multi-year contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars is perfectly reasonable for the two sides who signed it. Jimmy Garoppolo's newest deal, on Thursday afternoon.
When, Garoppolo was there in name only; it would take a clerical error by the 49ers to allow him into free agency. But even my stout guess for the contract the two sides would reach -- five years, $125 million -- was well below what Garoppolo actually got. The deal also includes $74 million in guarantees and $90 million in cash in the first three years.
For a guy with seven career starts and about half a season with his current team, it is a large commitment.
Garoppolo, who was, looked the part of a franchise quarterback in five starts down the stretch for San Francisco. The 49ers' production spiked when he took over late in the season and won all five games. Players in 2018. and .
But, again, seven starts. He played five whole games for the 49ers -- they gave him $27.5 million per game he started for them on the new contract. There is a recent history of another team giving another quarterback a large sum of money after just seven starts. Let's compare in mysterious fashion:
Now, this is a no-brainer situation if you're picking quarterbacks. Quarterback A is better. And you probably will not be surprised to learn that Quarterback A is also Jimmy Garoppolo.
Quarterback B might be a little bit more surprising, unless you happened to read the headline at the top of this piece, because it's Brock Osweiler.
Let me say this loud and clear: I am not suggesting Jimmy Garoppolo is Brock Osweiler. I am on record many different times, whether it be in written or podcast form, as saying I think Jimmy G is a stud.
Jimmy Garoppolo has that uber-rare accuracy and arms strength from multiple slots while on the run thing going on.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 24, 2017
This does not make me a unique snowflake rooting for some underdog. Jimmy G has looked fantastic from the get-go, and everyone fell in love with him. Most of Tom Brady apparently pays dividends.he is. He has a quick release, he can throw with accuracy and velocity while on the move and he has a veteran pocket presence already. Spending a few years watching and learning behind
But he only has seven starts. We don't know for a fact that Garoppolo is going to be a stud. He looks the part for sure, but the hype is steep. The 49ers are 20-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, tied for eighth-highest in the NFL. They haven't won 20 games in the three years since firing Jim Harbaugh. Jimmy G will get some sleeper MVP chatter next year. It's going to create a problem if he doesn't come out and light the world on fire.
On the hand, you can make the case the 49ers were smart to lock up Garoppolo when they did at the cost they did. Calling someone who is going to cost $27.5 million per year over the next half decade a "bargain" feels dumb, but within the next two or three years you won't be seeing Jimmy G's name at the top of the quarterback salary page.
When the deal is signed, Garoppolo is going to be No. 1 in total value ($137.5 million), No. 1 in average annual value ($27.5 million) and near the top in guaranteed money. But he won't be there for long.
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We shouldn't expect Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Dak Prescott to sign deals this offseason -- they're not eligible! But they could be signing contracts as early as next offseason, with rookie quarterbacks eligible for more money after their third season. This is precisely what happened with Derek Carr and the Raiders last offseason, when Carr was part of the "highest-paid player in the NFL" cavalcade of contracts.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota could sign deals this offseason, and it might behoove the Buccaneers and Titans to strike now, while their franchise quarterbacks could be bought low, but are the No. 1 and No. 2 picks from the draft taking below-market money? Pssh.
Kirk Cousins will get a contract this offseason, assuming he actually hits free agency. And it will be higher than Jimmy G's deal, probably in the five-year, $150 million range, with Cousins flirting with or toppling $30 million as a completely unrestricted free agent.
Aaron Rodgers gets to walk into the Packers' front office and ask for a blank check. It must be rough for Green Bay. Former MVP winner Matt Ryan gets to basically do the same with the Falcons' front office. Whoever gets there second actually wins -- they can ask for at least one dollar more than the other. Wilson will get as much money as he wants from Seattle as well.
This is just how the quarterback market works. If you have anything resembling an above-average starter, you are going to lock him in. The 49ers' situation is unique in that they saw an incredibly small percentage of Garoppolo's rookie contract, but they also got the benefit of having their franchise quarterback trained by the best coach of all time behind the best quarterback of all time and shipped their way for the price of a second-round pick. Lynch will probably sleep just fine thinking about the deal he handed out. In a few months time it will look like a bargain.
By locking up Garoppolo now, the 49ers avoid having to give him more than whatever it is Cousins gets in free agency. They also kept at least one bullet in their chamber for future contract negotiations by working through a deal without Jimmy G signing a franchise tag. It was largely believed he might be tagged after the Feb. 20 deadline, just to ensure the team didn't risk running up against the start of the new league year. It's a formality, sort of, because the cost of the tag is built into the negotiations.
But it's not a formality because, barring a drastic change in the CBA, Garoppolo could have limited the number of times the 49ers have to tag him following this contract. Quarterbacks can effectively only be tagged three times in their career, and the third time carries a hefty bump of 44 percent from the previous year's cap number. (Drew Brees went through multiple tags, hated it both times and negotiated a "no tag clause" in his last contract; it would be rare to have a quarterback tagged more than twice to say the least.)
Garoppolo and his camp could have held out on agreeing to this new deal right up until the deadline to use the franchise tag, which would have forced the 49ers to tag Garoppolo, which would have meant there was really just one more tag left for him in his career. Worst case he would have been tagged a third time and gotten a 44 percent pay raise from the previous year.
Maybe the two sides just wanted to get on with the offseason and get on with the winning. For Garoppolo, he is just fine being out of the shadow of Brady and earning his own massive contract. (He will make $27.5 million next year; Brady will make $22 million.) For the 49ers, they just saved some cash ahead of other quarterback extensions and no longer have to discuss whether or not they plan on signing Garoppolo.
Now they just have to hope he's not the next Brock Osweiler. (He's not.)