The list of highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL got a shakeup in the 2020 offseason. Patrick Mahomes jumped to the top of the list of largest QB contracts, while Deshaun Watson’s extension meant he also joined the list. Entering the 2021 NFL offseason, who are the highest-paid QBs in the league, and which players could be set to join them in 2021?
The highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL | 7-10
Which quarterbacks sit in the bottom half of the top 10 when it comes to average annual value (AAV)?
10) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons | AAV: $30 million
2021 will be the third year of Matt Ryan’s five-year extension. The veteran quarterback became the highest-paid QB in the league in 2018 when he signed his $30 million per year extension. Heading into the 2021 offseason, Ryan is set to count over $40 million against the salary cap. That number is more than double his $19 million cap hit from the 2020 NFL season. The Falcons have limited options with Ryan, as they would be left with $50 million in dead money if they cut him in 2021.
9) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $31.4 million (Franchise Tag)
Dak Prescott is the only player on this list set to hit free agency in 2021. At the start of the 2020 offseason, there were rumors Prescott was set to become the highest-paid quarterback in the league. However, the Cowboys and Prescott could not agree to a long-term extension. Therefore, Prescott played under the franchise tag in 2020.
If the Cowboys were to franchise tag Prescott again in 2021, they would have to pay him 120 percent of his 2020 salary. If that were to be the case, Prescott would jump to third on this list with a salary of $37.68 million.
8) Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts (signed with the Philadelphia Eagles) | AAV: $32 million
2020 was a tumultuous year for the former second overall pick. However, after signing a four-year contract extension in 2019, Wentz is only now entering the first season of that extension in 2021.
The Eagles traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts ahead of the 2021 league year. Wentz will leave $33.8 million in dead money with the Eagles. Meanwhile, the Colts will pay an average of $24.6 million per year for Wentz over the remaining four years of his deal.
7) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings | AAV: $33 million
Since Kirk Cousins first signed a three-year fully-guaranteed contract with the Vikings, there has been no shortage of discussion about his deal. Criticism of the deal increased after the Vikings gave Cousins a two-year contract extension that was considered virtually 100% guaranteed. Cousins is set to count $31 million against the cap in 2021, before his cap number skyrockets to $45 million in the 2022 season.
The highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL | 1-6
T-5) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers | AAV: $33.5 million
On the surface, $33.5 million per year for Rodgers is an absolute bargain. However, the cheap years in Aaron Rodgers’ contract are gone. In 2021, Rodgers is set to count for $37 million against the cap, rising to around $40 million in 2022. With cap space troubles in 2021, we could see the Packers looking to restructure Rodgers’ deal in the coming weeks.
T-5) Jared Goff, Detroit Lions (signed with the Los Angeles Rams) | AAV: $33.5 million
The former first overall pick comes in joint-fifth on the list of highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. Goff was signed to a four-year contract extension after leading the Rams to a Super Bowl, which they lost to a Tom Brady-led New England Patriots team.
Goff was traded to the Detroit Lions ahead of the 2021 NFL league year. Therefore, Goff will leave $22.2 million in dead money with the Rams in 2021. Meanwhile, the Lions are set to pay Goff an average of $26.1 million over the next four years.
4) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers | AAV: $34 million
When it comes to the highest-paid quarterbacks in terms of cap hit in 2021, Ben Roethlisberger tops the list at $41.25 million. 2021 is the final year of a two-year contract extension for Roethlisberger that carried a worth of $68 million at signing. With Roethlisberger set to count a projected 22.8 percent of Pittsburgh’s salary cap, it is possible the Steelers and Roethlisberger agree to terms on some kind of extension in the coming weeks.
3) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks | AAV: $35 million
Prior to the 2020 NFL offseason, Russell Wilson was the highest-paid QB in the NFL. Wilson signed a four-year contract extension in 2019. That extension had a $65 million signing bonus, but limited guaranteed money beyond that. Entering the 2021 offseason, Wilson has no more guaranteed money remaining on his contract and is set to count $32 million against the salary cap.
2) Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans | AAV: $39 million
The Texans made him wait. Yet, just before the season, they signed Watson to a four-year contract extension. Over the course of the deal, Watson is set to earn $156 million — $73.7 million of that is fully guaranteed, and Watson received a $27 million signing bonus. With Watson seemingly disgruntled in Houston, could we see Watson and his contract heading to a different team in 2021?
1) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $45 million
Patrick Mahomes became the highest-paid QB and NFL player in 2020. Mahomes’ 10-year contract extension could be worth as much as $480 million when all is said and done. With such a monster deal, we should see Mahomes atop this list for at least the next couple of seasons.
Which quarterbacks could be next to join this list?
As we enter the 2021 offseason, which QBs could join the list of the highest-paid players? With a limited number of options in free agency, all eyes will be on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. However, three quarterbacks are due for extensions who could make the list of highest-paid players at the position.
Josh Allen | Buffalo Bills
After some mediocre performances in his first two seasons, Josh Allen broke out in 2020. After leading the Bills to the AFC Conference Championship, the third-year quarterback could get an extension in 2021. The big question is what a contract extension for Josh Allen would look like in terms of value. Could we see Allen leap ahead of Deshaun Watson into second on this list? Or do we see him slotting in between Watson and Russell Wilson?
Lamar Jackson | Baltimore Ravens
With a big season in 2020, Jackson could have been set to challenge Mahomes atop this list. However, despite getting his first playoff win, questions remain around the 2019 MVP. Following the Ravens’ defeat to the Bills in the Divisional Round, we are likely to see Jackson fall somewhere between Mahomes and Watson on this list.
Baker Mayfield | Cleveland Browns
The second half of the 2020 NFL season saw Baker Mayfield answer many questions about his play. However, was it enough for the Browns to make him the next top overall pick at QB after Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, and Jared Goff to get a big extension? The Browns have two decisions to make in the coming weeks.
First, is Mayfield ready for an extension?. If the answer to that is no, then will we see them utilize the fifth-year option? The likely outcome there is yes, with the knowledge they can always franchise tag him for a sixth season. The next few weeks could be intriguing for the Browns QB.
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