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NFL 2015: Market Point for "Elite" NFL Quarterbacks - Start at $100 Million...

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Has the "Mega-Contract" stage been set for Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson?

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Do you ever wonder what contract talks are like between an agent and a NFL team general manager? The most awkward moment has to be when the conversation starts: The agent expounds just how great his client is, versus the GM sitting there nodding his head while he randomly interrupts with a "potentially..." It's about "pie-in-the-sky" payday dreams for the agent, and fiscal nightmares for the GM...

Two quarterbacks have been waiting patiently for the market point to be set at their position: Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, and Seattle's Russell Wilson. It's paid off, and both are set to send rumblings through the post 2011 CBA contract world...

Of the two contracts coming to a boil, the Wilson deal will be the one to watch. Luck is going to sign a huge deal just above the Flacco set line: $120 million/6 years. I can easily see Luck's contract being in this general ballpark, but for 5 years, and around 60%+ guaranteed. I have no idea what the "signing bonus" part of it will look like, but I'm sure it will be borderline absurd to we NFL fans. He'll "average" in the neighborhood of $24 million per year, which is a pretty nice neighborhood.

Wilson's contract is going to be tough, since it hinges on a team's Super Bowl appearances, and just how much depended on Russell's contributions to get there. In my opinion, Seattle doesn't get to the big game without Wilson, regardless of how dominant their defense has been. Yet, for Seattle's GM John Schneider, there's a dangerous rub: Wilson has hinted he wants a "fully guaranteed contract". If Schneider bows to this demand, he'll have NFL owners burning effigy-s of him across the land. Even more important, is if Wilson somehow gets his way BEFORE a Luck deal gets done. Colts' owner Jim Irsay will need his A.A/N.A. sponsor nearby if he's forced to fully guarantee a contract for Andrew Luck...

So just how has the market point been set? Let's take a look:

"Newton will earn $31 million in 2015 -- $22.5 million signing bonus, $7.5 million roster bonus (due later this week) and $1 million base salary. The deal guarantees $31 million with $60 million guaranteed for injury (which becomes fully guaranteed in March 2017). The five-year, $103.8 million deal averages to approximately $20.76 million per year, which is roughly equal to Matt Ryan's deal." NFL Media's Albert Breer, June 3, 2015

"The four-year extension includes $77 million in new money. The Dolphins now have their quarterback under contract for $95 million over six years in total. $25 million is fully guaranteed, with $45 million in "guarantees" over the life of the deal. (Tannehill has to be on the roster to earn those guarantees.)" -  NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport

NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Rodgers shattered Joe Flacco's six-year, $120.6 million contract as the highest-paid player in football. The new contract, which runs through the 2019 season, is for $110 million over five years, according to Rapoport, with $62 million in the first three years and a whopping $40 million in the first year. Rodgers' $22 million average beats Flacco's annual salary of $20.1 million. - April 16/26, 2013; NFL.com

...And I complain about gas prices going up for no reason? Eeek! But in truth, the NFL had to know this was coming their way after they signed the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. They got their way with a rookie salary ceiling, and they had to know pressure would be huge when those initial contract expired. One way or another, a player is going to get paid. True, at least it's after they've proven themselves over four or five years, so there's that, right? The lost money to draft busts over the years has diminished to a point. But a guy like Russell Wilson - a third round draft pick wunderkind - offers a rather intriguing situation...

Can Seattle risk letting Russell walk after his rookie deal expires? I wouldn't think so, but you never know? Marshawn Lynch's future may hold a key here, with his career nearing it's seeming end within the next couple years. He's on a two year deal right now, so could Seattle simply be thinking to slam forward for the next couple years and hold Wilson with the Franchise tag? It would pay Wilson a salary based on the average of the contracts for the Top 10 NFL quarterbacks, or 120% of his current pay - whichever is greater. Before the contracts of Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton were signed, this would've set the price to tag Wilson at around $18.51 million for ONE year. (based on the 2015 salary cap estimate in the article I used)

The number itself isn't un-manageable. What could choke the proverbial horse for Schneider, is if this sets a baseline for a new Wilson contract extension with high guarantee values. Let's not even get into the discussion how a fully guaranteed contract for Russell would set a new contract standard at virtually EVERY position, and not just at quarterback... It would skew and screw salary cap machinations NFL teams have been edging themselves toward as new TV contract money pours in. It would have a thorough trickle-down effect too. Even sub-performers would feel the effect, and I can't help but think it would cause a huge expansion of players becoming "salary cap casualties" down the road?

The players' bargaining arm - the NFLPA - has to be squirming a bit too. To my mind, they took it in the tuchus when they signed the 2011 CBA. The owners work them, and they're now in a position where they can't really move one way or another without screwing a large portion of their membership.

So it looks like $100 million is the baseline for signing an "Elite" quarterback, but it's the details that'll kill NFL GMs. Fully guaranteed contracts for Luck and Wilson may not happen this time around, but they very well may be just around the corner...