Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings offense have been terrible lately.
They’ve scored a total of 17 points in their last two games, losses to the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
Monday’s dud against the Seahawks that saw the Vikings shut out until a meaningless touchdown in the game’s final minutes was the final straw in the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and raised questions about Cousins’ fully guaranteed $84 million deal.
At least Cousins can still sniff the playoffs
But Cousins can say one thing that his brethren of high-paid signal-callers can’t. He’s in position to make the playoffs.
NFL research highlighted a data set Tuesday noting that of the league’s six highest-paid quarterbacks this season, only Cousins is in line to make the playoffs. And with a tenuous hold on the NFC’s No. 6 seed, that number could very well end up being 0-for-6.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 11, 2018
It’s an interesting set of number if it doesn’t imply a single, clear conclusion about how quarterback pay translates to success in the NFL.
Merit doesn’t always determine QB pay
But it does reinforce that the quarterback market in NFL, perhaps like no other professional sports, is one that’s driven by market pressures more than merit.
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That list of top-six paid quarterbacks is a wildly variant one. It’s satisfying to see that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads the league in salary. While 2018 is clearly not his best showing, his bonafides as one of the game’s all-time greats is undeniable. He deserves to top the list.
But from there, it’s a mixed bag at best.
Good QBs paid like great ones
Matt Ryan has an MVP and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt from 2016 and a contract that reflects it. But other than that run to the Super Bowl, Ryan has done little justify being the league’s second-highest paid player.
Matthew Stafford Stafford is approaching his 10th season without a playoff win, while Derek Carr has been part of a massive Raiders collapse since signing his second NFL contract.
And Garoppolo, injured in the third game of the season, cashed in on the same high-demand market last offseason that saw Cousins and his history of zero playoff wins sign his historic deal.
What about the guys who look playoff-bound?
Of the quarterbacks in playoff position, several are on their rookie deals while some are just vastly underpaid compared to their counterparts.
Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott are all playing on their league-suppressed rookie contracts that prevent them from negotiating.
The rest of the likely playoff-bound quarterbacks compile a lineup of Pro Bowl regulars and Super Bowl champions. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson are all either Hall of Fame locks or guys who will make a strong case for Canton.
Timing is key
So what does this say about quarterback pay? It’s not necessarily how good you are. It’s about when you sign your contract. Good quarterbacks are scarce and great ones are priceless.
But when it comes down to a team desperate for a quarterback, even an average one becomes coveted. And the pay reflects that fact.
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