Four years ago, Kirk Cousins did the unexpected: He signed a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings. It was unprecedented at the time, and many wondered if the Cousins deal would usher in a new era of mega quarterback contracts forever.
By extending Russell Wilson on Thursday, it doesn’t look like that.
Twenty-three other multi-year quarterback deals worth at least $50 million have been signed since Cousins signed his contract in 2018. Until this past season, Cousins’ extension to 2020 only with the Vikings was fully guaranteed.
Deshaun Watson reopened the gates last March with a five-year, $230 million deal he signed after trading with the Cleveland Browns. The question then became, will the teams change their mind about giving quarterback 100 per cent of their contracts?
Since then, there has been evidence to the contrary. The day after Watson signed his mega deal on March 18, Los Angeles Rams signed Matthew Stafford to a four-year, $160 million contract with a $130 million guarantee. That’s a lot of money, but not quite as much as Watson’s. Derek Carr then signed a three-year, $121.5 million extension a month later with the Las Vegas Raiders with a $65.27 million guarantee — about 53.73 percent.
Even Kyler Murray, whose deal with the Arizona Cardinals was just above Watson’s at $230.5 million, only earned a guaranteed $189.5 million. Finally, the Denver Broncos signed Russell Wilson, who was traded this season, for a whopping five-year extension worth $245 million…with a $165 million guarantee. Both Murray and Wilson have contracts Deserves More than Watson, but neither of them can match his guaranteed money.
So, while fully guaranteed quarterback contracts may once have looked like the wave of the future, the Cousins and Watson deals don’t appear to have fundamentally changed how teams are structured. They can still refer to Stafford, Carr, Murray, Wilson and He claims that this is the starting point, not Watson.
Will Lamar Jackson get a fully guaranteed contract?
This is important because there are several high-profile quarterback deals on the horizon that should start the trend, starting with Lamar Jackson.
Before signing Murray and Wilson this summer, Jackson was asked if Watson’s contract would affect how he negotiated with the Baltimore Ravens. Jackson publicly denied it, stating that he was “my own guy.”
“I don’t worry about what these guys are going to get,” he told reporters at a small mandatory camp in June.
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But while reports of his negotiations have been limited, there is no reason to believe that Jackson would not look at the Watson deal and want the same, or at least similar. The problem is, historical trends don’t indicate that the Ravens will be the latest NFL team to hand the quarterback a fully guaranteed deal. The teams negotiate with precedent in mind, and Cousins and Watson appear as an anomaly rather than the norm.
The other two big players with contract negotiations imminent are Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals. They are both young and incredibly talented and are eligible for a new deal after the 2022 season. But unless something changes, it is unlikely either of them will get a fully guaranteed contract either.
Both are under club control until at least 2026 if teams exercise their options for a fifth year and mark them with franchise in successive seasons. Most likely, though, they will each reach some kind of contract extension before then with their teams.
There is a world where brokers, and perhaps even other positions, are starting to see more and more fully secured trades. But even four years after Cousins made NFL history, that idea is still far from being investigated.
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