Who Will Get the Most Money: Trevor Lawrence, Jordan Love or Tua Tagovailoa?

All three quarterbacks are now eligible for new contracts. Plus, answering your questions on Robert Kraft, Brandon Aiyuk, Harrison Butker, the Chargers and more.
Lawrence is one of several young quarterbacks eligible for a big contract this offseason
Lawrence is one of several young quarterbacks eligible for a big contract this offseason / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Even in May, you all brought it with the questions. Here are some answers …

From Joe (@JoeAtWork87): Who gets the highest AAV: Trevor Lawrence, Jordan Love or Tua Tagovailoa?

Joe, first of all, and this is dumb, the AAV acronym bugs me. It’s a baseball term that no one in football uses. Not your fault, I’m sure you’ve heard others in the media use it. But the term football execs and agents use is APY—average per year.

Now that we have that important matter settled, I’m tempted to say that the one of those three with the highest number will be the last one to sign, because I do think they’re all in the bucket of quarterbacks that have great value, yet fall short of the Patrick Mahomes–Joe Burrow–Josh Allen–Lamar Jackson tier, and usually when guys have similar value a game of contractual leapfrog can ensue.

If you’re asking which quarterback of the three has the greatest value right now, though, both to his team and in the hypothetical that he somehow got to the market, it’d be easy for me to answer that one. It’s Lawrence, who has a combination of track record and ceiling that Tagovailoa and Love don’t at this point. Which is why I think he’s easily the surest bet of the three to get in the $50 million club (I do think all three will make it there).

From Billy Conway (@bonescon): What is the relationship between the Krafts and Belichick like right now (particularly since The Dynasty documentary was released)?

Billy, I never thought we’d be here, but, to me, this has basically become like Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones. Those two can put on a nice public face when they’re around each other, but there are loaves of breadcrumbs scattered about to tell the real story. The most recent one was at Tom Brady’s roast, when Kevin Hart called the two to come up and do a shot together. Kraft enthusiastically stepped toward the lectern, wanting to at least give the appearance that things were O.K. Belichick was clearly uninterested in playing that public relations game.

In fact, if you go back and watch, Belichick put his arm around Hart, rather than Kraft himself, and barely acknowledged his old boss, after, earlier in the night, denouncing the 10-part Apple TV+ documentary that had a “Kraft Dynasty LLC” copyright in the credits.

It’s too bad, of course, and even a little bit of a surprise that while Brady’s been able to find peace with both the owner and coach after the team, more or less, dumped him in 2020, Belichick and Kraft can’t find their own common ground. That said, Belichick’s a legendary grudge holder, and I don’t see Kraft making any sort of public concessions to fix things, so, to borrow a phrase, it probably is what it is right now.

From Brad Askeland (@bjdpaskeland): How do you see the contract situation with Aiyuk playing out, and what does that mean for Purdy's future contract?

Brad, I see the San Francisco 49ers making a strong effort to get Brandon Aiyuk signed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, they break through and an extension gets done. This, of course, is a bit of a pivot from my position of six moths or so ago, when I saw Aiyuk as the logical odd man out to alleviate the Niners’ bottleneck of big salaries.

I’m not moving off the principle of that take—which is that the best place for the Niners to find relief would be in an area where they have a surplus. They went there in 2020, in moving DeForest Buckner, whom they loved, while extending Arik Armstead. And this time around, the logical place to look for flexibility would be within a loaded group of offensive skill players.

What I’d change now about the take, though, is which guy is most likely to be moved. I now get the feeling San Francisco might just choose to keep Aiyuk (and George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey) over Deebo Samuel. Samuel’s a great player, but he’s not a true No. 1 receiver who can consistently win in man coverage, like Aiyuk is, and I think that’d make him a little more of a luxury than a necessity given the embarrassment of riches the Niners have.

One thing I’d add, too, is that if the Niners are going to give Aiyuk a new deal, it’d probably make sense to do it soon—before Justin Jefferson blows the market for his position up.

From Mid Season Group (@MidSeasonGroup): Who is the Chiefs’ kicker in September?

Harrison Butker.

I don’t agree with what he said. I also don’t think a Super Bowl contender is about to dump a reliable kicker who could be the difference between winning and losing in January and February over a graduation speech in May, even if that speech doesn’t align with what they think as an organization (and I don’t know if it does or doesn’t).

DeMeco Ryans led the Texans to the playoffs in his first season as coach / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

From DX (@DXTex): How legitimate are the Texans this season?

Super legitimate, DX.

You can start with how sturdy the Houston Texans are on the lines. Generally, teams built that way don’t wilt after a breakthrough year. They already had bedrocks such as Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard and Will Anderson Jr. They kept investing this offseason, in signing Danielle Hunter, adding vets like Denico Autry and Foley Fatukasi, and drafting Blake Fisher. So they’ll be able to win up front again.

Then you look across the rest of the roster and you see layers of ascending players. That includes, of course, C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell, Nico Collins, Derek Stingley Jr. and Anderson. But it’s also guys like Christian Harris and Jalen Pitre.

I think you’d have to stretch to name five teams that wouldn’t trade their situation with Houston’s, which is pretty remarkable considering where perception was in January 2023, just 16 months ago, as the Texans conducted their third coaching search in as many years. So, yes, they’re legit, and a threat to be this year’s version of the ’21 Cincinnati Bengals, if things fall a certain way.

From Manuel Malo (@manuma17): Is Tua worth the contract he wants, or is it better to let him play on his option and then tag him, à la Lamar Jackson?

Manuel, that’s a tough call.

Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, the price tag for Tagovailoa is $50 million per year. That’s a lot—and it’s going to make for tougher decisions elsewhere on the roster. So that means you’re betting that if you steal from the defense to make it work, Tagovailoa can lead an offense that can win shootouts. If you’re taking from the offensive line, it’s a bet he can get the ball out faster and more efficiently (and take hits). If you’re taking from his weapons, it’s gambling he’ll be able to win in shorter margins.

Is Tagovailoa that guy? I don’t know that he’s any less deserving than others who’ve gotten high-end quarterback contracts, so I’m not going to say he unequivocally isn’t. But the challenge would differ from his current reality. For their part, the Dolphins, in letting Christian Wilkins walk, and cutting Jerome Baker and Xavien Howard, are showing signs that they’re ready to make those kinds of bets on their quarterback.

Of course, what would be behind Door No. 2 might be a lot less appealing, which puts Tagovailoa in a good spot to get what he wants.

From FinzZombie (@FinzZombie): Both sides are saying all the right things to the media but how contentious have the Tua contract negotiations been?

Finz, I think everything is fine. Tagovailoa’s made his point. Both sides know where the other stands. Tua brought in John Beck to help him mechanically, and also when he’s away from the team. I’d say, at least to this point, the negotiation’s probably been a pretty normal one for those involved.

From Matthew Lownes (@LownesMatthew): The year is 2030, is there an international team in the NFL?

Matthew, I don’t think so.

The initial plan when the NFL launched the international series was to have a team in London permanently within 15 years. It didn’t happen, and not because the market isn’t ready, but because of the logistical issues that haven’t gone away. If a London team has a couple of injuries at guard, how do they go about working out free agents, and potentially signing one? Would it be fair to have a wild-card game featuring London at, say, Seattle? Or have Seattle go to London? Would the London team be exempt from prime-time windows?

There are ways, of course, to alleviate some of the issues. There’d been discussion of giving a London team a U.S. hub in Atlanta (if the Falcons were to move to a new facility and sell theirs in the far-northern suburbs to said team), for the aforementioned in-season workouts and signings, and perhaps the offseason program too. The 9:30 a.m. broadcast window has also made things easier on teams going over there.

Still, there are still a lot of problems, competitive and otherwise, with the idea of having a team over there full-time. And if the Jaguars get their stadium deal done in Jacksonville, another would be just which team it is that would be going.

From Ronnie (@Tray4o): Thoughts on the Jets getting 6 primetime games? And what should we expect from Aaron Rodgers in 2024?

Ronnie, I think the Jets got hosed. Going to San Francisco on the opening Monday night, then having to travel again the following weekend to Tennessee, and having that followed by a charged Thursday-night game against the New England Patriots is tough. Then they come out of their London trip with a huge Monday-nighter against the four-time defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills.

The NFL’s Mike North said on a conference call that the Jets owe the league one after Aaron Rodgers’s Achilles tear blew up the league’s big plans to showcase them all year. North’s a good guy, and I’d bet he wants that one back. But that doesn’t change the fact that the league operated, in scheduling the Jets this way, like the team actually did owe the NFL one.

As for Rodgers, I think, health permitting (and maybe that’s a big qualifier for a 40-year-old quarterback), he’s going to play really, really well.

From Ryan Cox (@MrRyanCox): Is there still a big trade that could go down this offseason? Pittsburgh gets a WR for instance?

Ryan, for reasons I’ve laid out too many times, I don’t think the Steelers will trade for a receiver. But I could see someone like Samuel being moved. Trades made this late usually are related to a contract squabble, but in that case, I think it’d be Aiyuk’s deal actually getting done that would push Samuel onto the block. The Jets could be an interesting suitor on that one, especially since they have a guy, in rookie Malachi Corley, who compares to Deebo.

From AMNFL_Andy (@AMNfl_Andy): What does the Fanatics lawsuit mean for Marvin Harrison Jr.?

That he won’t be in Madden?

(People my age will remember “QB Bills” and “QB Eagles” in Tecmo Super Bowl, so this is no small matter to us.)

From Charlie Sinclair (@cmsinclar): What is the ceiling and expectations for Jim Harbaugh’s Chargers?

Charlie, I think that can be, with a couple of breaks, an 11- or 12-win team.

The formula, to me, comes down to getting healthy seasons from Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, which would allow for the Los Angeles Chargers to build a real Jim Harbaugh offense. From there, they’d give Justin Herbert—and I’m stealing this line from Fox’s Joel Klatt, because it’s outstanding—the chance to play out of second-and-5 more often, rather than pressing him to be better on second-and-11, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams gone.

I also believe Jesse Minter’s defense will have a chance to be really, really good. Derwin James Jr. is a perfect fit as a hybrid in that Ravens-centric scheme, and old-guard edges Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack should be weaponized by it.

I’d be pretty optimistic if I were a Chargers fan.

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Albert Breer