Ranking QB commitment: How married all 32 teams are to their starters

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Updated: May 15, 2019

7:10 AM ET

Yeah, your team has a quarterback. But for how long does it have that quarterback, and how sure is it that he’s the one?

Some NFL teams are married to their quarterbacks. Some are just starting to get serious. Some are sitting across from their quarterbacks at a fancy restaurant blatantly eyeing a quarterback at the next table. It’s a complex and varied landscape, and it can be confusing.

So we thought we’d take a look at the state of the various team-quarterback relationships around the league, to see just how committed each team is to its current starter. To do this, we focused almost entirely on the contract situations — how much guaranteed money is left on each deal, for how many years, and more.

If you follow the NFL, you know contracts are usually loaded with funny math and fake numbers. Kirk Cousins is making his money the next two years no matter what. Andy Dalton … can’t be so sure. The only way to really examine how tied your team is to its quarterback is to dig into the numbers and see how much it still really owes and for how long. That’s why we ranked every team from 1-32 — 1 is the highest level of commitment, 32 is the lowest — based on the cold, hard dollar figures. We also factored in the different types of current QB contracts within their own tiers.

So dive in, and find each fan base’s answer to the questions of, “How much longer do we have this guy?” or, in some cases, “How much longer are we stuck with this guy?”

Jump to an interesting team:
2. SEA | 5. MIN | 11. NO | 15. WSH
16. OAK | 23. PHI | 26. MIA | 31. NYG

1. Atlanta Falcons

Starter: Matt Ryan | Signed through: 2023
Tier: Locked-in vet | Ranking in tier: No. 1

Contract: Five-year, $150 million deal signed in May 2018, including $94.5 million guaranteed at signing.

Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger all have passed Matty Ice in average salary since he signed his deal. But the structure of this contract keeps Ryan in the top spot when we talk about commitment. As of March 15, an even $100 million of Ryan’s deal was fully guaranteed, including $20.5 million in 2020 and $5.5 million in 2021. It would cost the Falcons $68.9 million in dead money to cut Ryan next offseason and more than $35 million to do it after 2020. Ryan looks set in Atlanta for at least three more years.


2. Seattle Seahawks

Starter: Russell Wilson | Signed through: 2023
Tier: Locked-in vet | Ranking in tier: No. 2

Contract: Four-year, $140 million extension signed in April 2019, including $70 million guaranteed at signing.

The Seahawks, as a policy, don’t guarantee anything other than the signing bonus and the first year. So Wilson wisely scored a $65 million signing bonus to go with his $5 million salary this year. No way they’re cutting him next offseason and paying him $70 million for only one year. Heck, Seattle would carry $26 million in dead money if it cut him after three years. It was between Wilson and Ryan for the top spot here, and Ryan got it because of the real-money guarantees, but there’s no realistic way a healthy Wilson is gone from Seattle anytime soon.


3. Green Bay Packers

Starter: Aaron Rodgers | Signed through: 2023
Tier: Locked-in vet | Ranking in tier: No. 3

Contract: Four-year, $134 million extension signed in August 2018, including $78.7 million guaranteed at signing.

Rodgers’ 2020 roster bonus of $19.5 million became guaranteed in March, which means the Packers will have paid him a cool $100 million through 2020. That works out to about $33.3 million a year, which isn’t crazy, and if for instance he fails to get along with this coach, they could look into dealing him in the summer of 2021. Not likely, but the final few years of his deal aren’t costly enough to scare away potential trade partners if it came to that.


4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Starter: Nick Foles | Signed through: 2022
Tier: Locked-in vet | Ranking in tier: No. 4

Contract: Four-year, $88 million deal signed in March 2019, including $45.125 million guaranteed at signing.

The fun thing about an exercise like this is you learn stuff that surprises you. Such as: You could actually make an argument that the Jaguars are married to Foles for longer than the Packers are married to Rodgers. Foles has fully guaranteed salaries of $5 million in 2019 and $15.125 million in 2020, and a $5 million 2021 roster bonus that becomes fully guaranteed next March. So if they don’t cut him by the third day of the 2020 league year, they owe him a guaranteed $5 million in 2021.

The dead-money penalty for cutting Foles after 2020 would be only $12.5 million, so he’s easier to cut at that point than is Rodgers. But the Jaguars would still owe the $5 million in 2021 cash, whereas the Packers would be free of financial responsibility to Rodgers in the unlikely event they move on after two more years.