Last week, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension worth $125 million, with $70 million fully guaranteed. The Carr contract resembles that of Andrew Luck, who signed an extension with the Colts in 2016 worth $140 million. Luck received $87 million guaranteed. All of these quarterbacks owe a huge thank you to Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco. Before Flacco signed a massive six-year $120 million contract extension in 2013, Drew Brees was the quarterback who carried the NFLs largest contract at the position. In 2012, Brees signed a five-year $100 million contract a year before Flacco’s. The difference between the two, statistically and performance wise, Brees has been much better than Flacco.
Flacco was in an opportune spot entering the 2013 offseason. Coming off a playoff run in which he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions en-route to becoming Super Bowl MVP. The debate raged on throughout the 2012 season as to whether or not Flacco was elite with a contract extension looming. With that magical postseason run, Flacco forced the Ravens’ hand.
It took less than a month before the Ravens caved and inked Flacco to a deal guaranteeing him $52 million, just $8 million shy of what Brees’ front loaded contract (he received $40 million the first year) was guaranteed. Again, most sensible people would happily give Brees that money as opposed to Flacco, but there was no way around giving Flacco what he wanted. This isn't to call Flacco selfish, as what he had done for the team earned him earning every penny of that massive contract.
The truth hits hard and the reality of Joe Flacco is that since signing his contract, he’s been anything but elite, and that has opened the door for the next wave of quarterbacks. Andy Dalton (6yrs/$115million), Brock Osweiler (4yrs/$72 million), Andrew Luck (6yrs/$140 million) and Derek Carr (5yrs/125 million) have all cashed in lucrative contracts. Luck and Carr have played well early in their careers and Luck’s play alone has placed him among the game’s elite, but neither have won a Super Bowl and in Dalton or Carr’s case, a playoff game.
Flacco’s contract has given teams an interesting dilemma. Even if their quarterback hasn't accomplished what Joe has, the team and player believe they are still a better player than Flacco. Since signing his extension in 2013, Flacco has a regular season record of 29-29, with one playoff appearance, in which the team lost in the divisional round. To make matters worse, Flacco’s TD/INT ratio since 2013 has been 80/61. In the same timespan, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 126 touchdowns with only 26 interceptions while playing in one less game than Flacco. For reference, Rodgers (5yrs/$110 million/$62.5 million guaranteed) signed his extension the same offseason as Flacco.
Rodgers and Flacco are in two completely different categories when it comes to level of play, but their contracts are not. It’s important to remember contracts are supposed to be signed and issued with the understanding that you're paying the player for what you believe he’ll do during the lifetime of the contract, not what he has done for you in the past. The past is only to be used to reasonably project future production. Flacco’s average, or below-average play has made other quarterbacks around the league feel as though they're entitled to similar money because they've been far more productive than Flacco since receiving his lucrative deal.
Derek Carr’s contract is the latest in a string of contracts overpaying quarterbacks. Yes, they’re the most important players in the game, but when will that number start to come down? With contracts such as Osweiler’s, Flacco’s and Dalton’s providing little-to-no return, we could see the overall money start to decrease in favor of guaranteed money, but even then, that doesn't change much. Even with poor performances, the aforementioned quarterbacks, minus Osweiler, aren't being let go after signing such lucrative deals. Backup quarterbacks such as the Bears Mike Glennon are still receiving contracts that don't make sense, and with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston due up next, it’s likely we’re awhile away from seeing the market even out.