We’re entering the quiet period of the NFL season with the draft behind us, but there’s still a few pieces of unfinished business lingering—most notably, the franchise quarterbacks entering the final years of their contracts with no extensions yet. Albert Breer, Jenny Vrentas and Conor Orr discuss whether teams should extend their aging quarterbacks.
(Listen to the latest The MMQB NFL Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Jenny Vrentas: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said this week that he is at peace with playing out the final year of his current contract with the team. He's one of a number of older quarterbacks who went into this offseason in the last year of their deals. Ben Roethlisberger has since been extended while Eli Manning and Tom Brady have not.
Albert Breer: I thought this one was an interesting topic just because we don’t hear a lot about Eli being in a contract year—but he is. And you start to hear things late leaking out of the Manning camp that he wants to play past this year. Brady has already said that he wants to play past this year repeatedly, and he doesn’t have a contract. And Rivers is sitting out there too. You see the way the quarterback contracts are just sort of exploding now, and if you’re these teams, what do you do? Do you ask [the quarterbacks] to take less? Ben didn’t take a whole lot less [on his two-year extension]. I think Ben’s was $32 [million] a year, something like that. All Brady has to do is sit there, because his cap number is $27 million this year. He sits there, and they have to tag him next year, and his tag number is $32.4 [million], right. Eli and Rivers is not to that degree because their cap numbers aren’t as big this year, but they’re both near $27 million. So those guys can both sit there—all these guys can sit there—and get much closer to the top of the market. I think it’s interesting, because where’s the middle ground for each of these guys. Ben clearly did not take a discount. Rivers have been paid at the top of the market since he was younger, and Eli’s been paid at the top of the market since he was younger—will those guys take less? Will Brady continue to take less?
Conor Orr: I don’t know. I mean, if I’m any of those guys, you have to take care of yourself. And you have to stay on this Ferris wheel, because what happens if a couple quarterbacks start getting off? I mean, Brady is different—that situation is just different in New England. But if all these [quarterbacks] start hopping off the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden I think you’re impacting everybody else’s right to earn. Right now, it’s a pretty sweet deal where everyone that signs a new contract is essentially just making a million dollars less than the previous guy.
Breer: All right, let’s make this simple. I think we can all agree on this one, and we’ll just get this out of the way. If Brady goes to the Patriots asking for a new contract, you give it to him. We’re all in agreement there?
Breer: O.K. If Eli goes the Giants asking for a new contract, what do you say if you're John Mara?
Vrentas: Oh boy.
Breer: I gave you the easy one first, and we got a little bit of an easier one next. This is the tough one.
Orr: What do you say? Or what will you say?
Breer: If you’re John Mara, what do you say? If Eli Manning comes to you tomorrow and says, “I want to keep playing, I want to be here. I know you just drafted my successor. I want a chance to compete, I want a new contract now.”
Orr: I say, “I’m going to tell you something that somebody has never told you before, which is no.”
Breer: That would be confrontational for John Mara.
Orr: This is why I don’t own the Giants or have any sort of high-ranking position anywhere. I emotionally cannot handle it.
Vrentas: I agree, [I would also say no], I just don’t know that they would. Right now the ideal situation would be to handle it like a coach contract, where you just kind of add a year on [laughs]. ... I mean if they say they don’t want to rush Daniel Jones they’ve probably got to have a plan beyond this year.
Breer: Eli probably has less leverage now that they have the guy. No matter what you think of Daniel Jones, the next guy’s in the building now. ... But if I’m the Giants, you know what I say? I say wait.
Vrentas: Just see how the year goes.
Breer: I want to see three months of Daniel Jones in the building. Don’t need to see him in games. Just three months of what he looks like in the building, and get an idea of whether or not he can be ready in 2020. I’ll say at the end of the summer let’s talk. And it might be a no at the end of the summer. If Jones looks good, maybe it’s a no at the end of the summer.
Alright, Chargers: If Philip Rivers comes to you, what do you say?
Vrentas: Totally yes. They’re definitely counting on him playing beyond this year, because they haven’t made that bold move to get a successor. I mean, they took Easton Stick mid-draft.
Breer: Well, they did what the Giants did with Kyle Lauletta last year.
Vrentas: Yeah, just the old ‘take a quarterback in a late round’ thing, right.
Breer: Honestly I think they’re a team that should have been in the Josh Rosen business. They’re the team that like stuck out to me throughout. I know they didn’t love him, but that would have been I think a worthwhile swing for them—to flip a second-round pick to do it because they’ve got a pretty complete roster. They don’t have any glaring holes they really had to take care of. I think that they did well in the draft. I think Adderley’s going to be a good safety for them. Jerry Tillery should be a good player playing next to Bosa and Ingram. To me they’re the team that made the most sense as a Rosen suitor.
Orr: it's interesting too. If you're the Giants, there is no leverage working against you. We'd talked about this a couple of times in the podcast about sort of the settling of the quarterback market and a lot of teams are much more content than they used to be. What would the market even look like for him right now? I mean,where would he start other than New York?
Breer: It almost feels like there was a market for a few years there where it was like, for the bridge [quarterback] and the price of the bridge went up and now it seems like it's collapsed.
Vrentas: That's a great point.
Breer: You had Sam Bradford, [Mike] Glennon, Tyrod [Taylor] got 16. ... This year did that happen once?
Vrentas: Josh McCown got a ton. Because all those teams are preparing for that year when there were five quarterbacks drafted in the first round.
Breer: All those teams were like, “All right let’s bring in a guy that we feel comfortable starting if the rookie isn't ready to start. And you know we're good with the price that’s fine.” Like that's what a quarterback costs. I mean now you see ...
Vrentas: Flacco is a bridge guy, potentially?
Breer: The Redskins didn’t spend, right. Arizona—they paid Sam Bradford last year, and they got Brett Hundley for what, less than five million I think? I don’t have it in front of me. Maybe that bridge quarterback market isn’t there anymore ...
Orr: At the end of that [Ben] McAdoo season where [Manning] was benched—that was the time. That was the time to go if you were gonna go. But I think that there was either no foresight there or no desire I guess to move on.
Breer: So neither of them are in the class of Brady. Rivers, I don't think is that far off, and I don’t think Eli’s in the class of Rivers or Brady anymore. I would put Rivers and Eli in two different categories.
Orr: I would say Eli and Flacco, I would say they’re close.
Breer:Flacco is the guy in Denver where it’s like, let’s see if this works out and if not, his contract’s not guaranteed, we paid a fourth-round pick for him, so no big deal if it doesn’t work out.
Vrentas: Yeah, that’s what I meant about like you’re not even a bridge guy. It’s not like they like invested a ton. It wasn't like those big bridge contracts. Plus, I mean Locke might not even work out. You know they may have to go dip in the quarterback well again.
Breer: They might but they've got the flexibility to do it like that's what I like about Denver's at right like Denver. They they only spend us to one walks it's like if it doesn't work out the new you can still draft [Alabama QB] Tua [Tagovailoa] next year. Herbert next year, you’ll be fine. I think Denver maintained most of their flexibility anyway.
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