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As Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson becomes NFL’s highest-paid player, eyes turn toward Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff

The money machine is pumping. While that obviously benefits Wilson immediately, it could pay dividends for Goff down the road.

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff talk after the Seahawks beat the Rams, 16-10, Oct. 8, 2017.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff talk after the Seahawks beat the Rams, 16-10, Oct. 8, 2017.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson agreed to a contract extension early this AM:

It’s a record deal that makes Wilson the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Beyond what it means for Seattle, it reshapes what will be an absolutely massive free agency window for quarterbacks next offseason. This year was pretty light in activity in the sport’s most important position. Next year? Not so much.

With Wilson off the board, the list of quarterbacks set to become free agents include Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, New York Giants QB Eli Manning, Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston, Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota, and Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.

It also includes Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff and Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz, though they’re both expected to play on a fifth-year option for 2020 and not hit free agency until 2021 when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. Keep an eye out for those options before the May 3 deadline. In any case, that class will go a long way in resetting the market for Goff and Wentz and their prospective deals.

The bottom line is that there’s not an environment for each of those quarterbacks to outpace each other contractually. Still, Goff at just 24-years old with a Super Bowl appearance, full health and a season with more than 4,500 passing yards under his belt makes a strong claim to a record-setting contract.

The four markers for gauging a new deal for Goff remain the same.

Goff’s individual performance

This aspect grew substantially in 2019 with key performances in which Goff displayed individual brilliance and not just a mastery of the system he operates or a chemistry with the pieces around him. In wins over the Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, Goff had moments of pure excellence that were stronger than anything in his previous work. And his play late against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship showed the growth of a young player that was able to summon the requisite performance to win in the postseason.

If he somehow has an even better 2019 season, this aspect is going to drive negotiations and drive them over the line Wilson set.

The team around him

This was always going to be a bit tougher to pin down because of the distance from now to then (a 2021 and post-2021 environment), but things are getting a bit clearer.

The Rams inked RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks and RT Rob Havenstein to long-term deals, so we at least know some of Goff’s potential offensive teammates beyond his current deal. And the megadeal for DT Aaron Donald gives some certainty to the other side of the ball.

But there’s still much to be seen for the offensive line overhaul to come. LG Rodger Saffold III and C John Sullivan are now both gone, and LT Andrew Whitworth stuck around for his swan song. While discussions need to be had surrounding WR Robert Woods and WR Cooper Kupp, the biggest portion of this aspect is the O-line. Will OL Joseph Noteboom and OL Brian Allen turn into long-term components? Who will the Rams draft this year in the 2019 NFL Draft that could join them? And then what are the Rams’ plan for the O-line next year between free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft?

You’re already seeing criticisms of the Seahawks that there’s a degree of salary cap waste by plugging so much money into a quarterback (albeit a very talented one) with such a porous offensive line. The Rams will be facing the same calls if they don’t manage the O-line personnel transition well.

The NFL market in 2020 and the Rams’ cap situation

This one is so hard to parse.

We’re headed out of the old NFL with Tom Brady (yes, at some point all things must end) and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and toward the new NFL. A new guard of Goff, Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield are headlining things at the quarterback position while teams of previous futility like the Rams, Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars are pulling themselves out the basement after years of failure.

So what does the NFL look like heading into the new CBA? The salary cap has expanded substantially in the current CBA going from $120m in 2011 to $177.2m this season. We’ll get one more increase next year before needing a new CBA to set the boundaries of discussions, but at least we know how this one will play out.

As for the Rams’ cap, things look fine if only because the Rams have so few long-term deals in place. Into a new CBA, the Rams have just # players: WR Robert Woods (2022), Havenstein (2023), P Johnny Hekker (2023), Gurley (2024), Woods (2024) and Donald (2025). So while we’re far from being in the vaunted salary cap hell that so many ascribe to teams with high-cost quarterbacks, it’s because our future roster is largely TBD. Letting Saffold leave while Whitworth is set to retire keeps the Rams from getting too tied up in big money deals. Were DT Michael Brockers to leave in a year, that too would keep the Rams from being too tight. The biggest immediate decisions with respect to the cap along with a potential Goff deal leading the way will be at the cornerback position. Both CB Aqib Talib and CB Marcus Peters are heading into contract years. At 33-years old, Talib would be a risky veteran to ink to a long-term deal; a shorter one would be wiser albeit more difficult to negotiate. For Peters though, he’s likely looking for a massive payday. Former Rams CB Janoris Jenkins and CB Trumaine Johnson were both able to get market value that the Rams weren’t willing to meet. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if the same happens to Peters, but if the Rams are keen to keep the ebullient Peters around it’s going to cost them.

The QB market

This is where Wilson’s deal is illustrative for the Rams’ and Goff’s purposes. I don’t know if anyone will top Wilson’s by the time a Goff deal starts to become a hot topic, but we’ll have to see.

And who knows what the options will look like for teams looking for starters. As of right now, the 2021 free agent QB class includes Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (whom Pro Football Talk mentioned as a possible Rams target down the line), Brees, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton and Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton. There’s also the 2021 NFL Draft class to consider which is sure to be headlined by Clemson Tigers QB Trevor Lawrence who is the best QB prospect I’ve seen since Andrew Luck and maybe better.

The last time I looked at a potential Goff extension, I closed it with this:

Plenty of football to come. Plenty of moments in big games that will help decide how easy or difficult this decision will be.

But halfway through Goff’s rookie deal, it looks like the scope of the decision will affect not just the Rams’ future but the entire market of the NFL and depending on how Goff plays the next two and half seasons, it may just affect the postseason outcomes of the Rams let alone any other teams they face as well.

While that all remains true, though we’re beyond the halfway point in his deal now, we’ve gotten a new barometer to gauge Goff against: his postseason play. Goff helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl last year. That’s a new bullet point in his resume to add since we went over this in early November.

But the outlook remains the same for the Rams and Goff even in light of the Russell Wilson.

It’s going to be franchise-defining, career-defining and possibly record-setting.