The NFL is rapidly closing in on its first $30 million man, something that 49ers management and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo assured Thursday when, reportedly, they signed the former second-round pick to the largest per-year contract (five years at $27.5 million per) in league history.
The news, first reported by NFL Network, places a passer with just seven career starts at the top of the league’s current salary structure, ahead of Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, Joe Flacco and Andrew Luck. All at once it depicts the hilarious game of contractual Jenga being played by agents with high-profile quarterback clients, who are simply hoping to top the next-best contract by at least a million dollars, and the boon market for signal-callers, which shows no signs of slowing down as the salary cap continues to rise.
There was a time and place in sports history when something of this magnitude was mind-blowing. However, this was about simple logic when you consider the pragmatism of it. Sensing the market closing in, the 49ers, Garoppolo and agent Don Yee now get their moment in the sun, touting the highest paid player in NFL history. In a few weeks or months, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers will come in and smash that number (think of Carr and Stafford last summer). The Yorks and Lynches will high-five at the thought of saving roughly $4 million per season and we’ll all crane our necks again looking at the new highest paid player in football, hooting and hollering in faux amazement.
It seems tedious in a way; NFL players have become, like NBA players, a salary that fits into a slot. The business of projecting contracts is no more difficult than looking at the last number on a list and counting one or two above. Forget about production, too. Garoppolo has 12 career touchdown passes in seven career starts with five interceptions. He’s a quarterback who falls under might-be-good, and this is what a quarterback who is either good or might-be-good costs.
It makes at least one of us yearn for a day when the NFL will become wide open. The Eagles just won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles. The Jacksonville Jaguars nearly won the AFC with Blake Bortles. All around the NFL, smart teams without face of the franchise quarterbacks (or teams with injured starting quarterbacks, or teams with quarterbacks on their rookie deals) are enjoying newfound success by strengthening the middle of their roster. It’s how Seattle won a Super Bowl with Russell Wilson, before they had to hand over a fistful of cash that fit in line with current salary projections. There are new ideas out there.
But here, there are no fireworks. Owners and general managers are no different than us, slogging to the Apple store to pay for the new, slightly more expensive version of an iPhone because that’s what everyone else is doing and well, what the hell would we be doing if we weren’t doing that?
Good for the 49ers, who will be roundly back-patted by all of us around the league for this shrewd moment. What poise. What foresight to buy Property A at Price X, when in another two years, it might cost slightly more! Bully for you!
Just be sure to wake me up when a team does something truly interesting with that kind of dough.
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