by Paul "Closer" Wanecski
As the NFL continues to evolve around the structure of an updated Collective Bargaining Agreement, an amazing thing has happened. Players, who may not ever see a single play in regulation, are making millions on the sidelines. We are referring specifically to the role of back-up quarterback. This shift is something new in the NFL, so we will review why it is happening and what it means to the financial integrity of your team.
One of the biggest flags that were flown during the lock-out negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (otherwise referred to as C.B.A) was a structured and controlled contract system for rookie players. Long gone are the days of drafted players “holding out”, which was a process commonly used to leverage a player’s contract by not appearing at team facilities for practice or work-outs. Most teams saw this as a ransom process, as the contracts were getting a point where a player who hadn’t ever stepped on an NFL field could possibly be the highest paid player on a team (more on this to come).
In enters the C.B.A., which was heralded as the solution. While it has addressed critical problems, it has caused some unique financial dynamics. Updated were the rules of positional requirements where previously teams were required to have 3 quarterbacks dressed for a game. Now, they are required only to carry 2 quarterbacks on the active roster. However, with the structure of the rookie wage scale, the backup quarterback position has become quite the lucrative venture. Here are the current starting quarterbacks, along with the current back-ups and the salary differences for the 2014 league year (for simplicity purposes, we are going to be using a players “Salary Cap Number”, which is the amount a player is paid in base salary adding in any bonuses that year as well as the signing bonus, if any, divided evenly throughout the life of the contract).
Miami Dolphins- Starter Ryan Tannehill $3.45 million, Back-Up Matt Moore $5 million
NY Jets- Starter Geno Smith $1.14 million, Back-Up Michael Vick $4 million
Houston Texans- Starter Case Keenum $495,000, Back-Up Ryan Fitzpatrick $3.375 million,
Back-Up TJ Yates $691,250
Philadelphia Eagles- Starter Nick Foles $ 770,880, Back-Up Mark Sanchez $ 2.25 million
San Francisco 49ers- Starter Colin Kaepernick $1.63 million, Back-Up Blaine Gabbert $2 million
Seattle Seahawks- Starter Russell Wilson $817,302, Back-Up Tarvaris Jackson $1.25 million
Now these examples are excluding what could also happen in the draft, or, even with competition in camp with team’s recent acquisitions. Sam Bradford was the last 1st overall quarterback selected before the new C.B.A was negotiated, if displaced by a draft pick or Shaun Hill ($1.75 million), he would be a $17.6 million dollar cup-holder. Not to mention the tire-fire that the Minnesota Vikings has started with quarterback position, which features Matt Cassel at $5.75 million and Christian Ponder at $3.23 million, not figuring in whatever quarterback they are sure to add in this upcoming draft. The same could be said for the Oakland Raiders, who acquired an $8 million dollar Matt Schaub in hopes that he beats out incumbent Matthew McGloin making $495,000. Let us review the AFC South, where you have 3 teams who are currently on a quarterback hunt. The Tennessee Titans have Jake Locker making $4 million this season and declined his option for a 5th year. The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently trying to parade Chad Henne as a starting quarterback, not saying that he didn’t play well (he really had no offensive weapons around him), but the team is struggling for an identity and his $5.75 million dollar salary may be paid to have him ride the bench behind whoever they draft. Also, the Houston Texans are in this division also, but as discussed, they have a scrambled picture behind center. Also a hilarious point to note, also on the Philadelphia Eagles roster is Brad Smith, former QB, now kick returner, who is making $1.15 million this season, which is $379,120 more than starter Nick Foles.
With all this being said, I would like all organizations within the NFL to know that, for league minimum, we can also hold clipboards, make coffee, get a couple towels, and wear those cool headsets on the sidelines and pretend that we know what is going on.