The quarterback market sucks. It sucks for the teams who have a star because they'll be paying him $20 million per season, completely out of whack from any other player. It sucks for the mid-level quarterbacks because the quarterback market is all or nothing and mid-level means you're nothing. Or the team overpays you and the team ends up the loser.
I have written a few times about the absurdities of the quarterback market. It's just so out of balance with every other position in the league. I'm not sure what the solution is. Quarterbacks really are valuable.
The Alex Smith contract situation looks like a great example of why the quarterback market sucks. In this market, you are either paid like a franchise quarterback ($20 million per season) or you're a young player on his rookie deal hoping to eventually be paid $20 million per season (lookin' at you, Russell Wilson).
Key "problem" for #Chiefs/Smith: There is no 2nd-tier QB market. It’s franchise QB or… not. Why he’s pushing to be paid like a top-tier QB
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 28, 2014
You may have heard this described as football purgatory: a quarterback who is just good enough to merit a contract extension but not good enough to win a Super Bowl. Those players should be your second-tier market. Some people might say Alex Smith is at the top of that class of players. (Joe Flacco is one of those second-tier guys who ended up winning a Super Bowl but, like Trent Dilfer, he's going to screw with all quarterback discussions forever so just ignore him.)
Smith is currently the 14th highest-paid quarterback going by average per year, according to Over The Cap. The 13th highest paid is Tom Brady, who is pretty good, according to multiple league sources. Above him is Sam Bradford, working off the old rookie pay scale. That's obviously a contract that is out of whack.
The 11th-9th are Ben Roethlisberger ($14 million), Phillip Rivers ($15 million) and Eli Manning ($16 million). Those three will likely all be receiving new contracts in the next year or two as they're scheduled to be 2015 free agents.
If I'm the Chiefs, I am thinking Roethlisberger (Super Bowl winner), Rivers and Manning (Super Bowl winner) are going to cash in even more and do it soon. If I'm the Chiefs armed with this information, I'd wondering if I should be pushing for a new deal now, basing Smith's deal off their $14-16 million per year, rather than the $18-20 million those three could be signing this time next year. Smith's camp is going to see the same and want to be ahead of the curve and set the market for a player like Smith.
The market for Smith would probably be Tony Romo or Jay Cutler. (FYI: I have no idea what Alex actually wants. Ask Mrs. Smith about that. Just comparing him to others.)
Pushing for Cutler money would place Smith in the top 6-7 quarterback contracts in the NFL. Crazy, yes, but he'd be bumped back down with other quarterback contracts coming up in 2015. Making him the 10th highest paid quarterback, rather than the sixth, doesn't seem so bad.
At some point, the QB market has to create a middle. In this new CBA, every QB has gotten paid.
— Carrington Harrison (@cdotharrison) May 28, 2014
On paper, Smith has a strong case to get that Romo or Cutler contract as Over The Cap lays out here. Despite what he's worth on paper, it seems many people know that the $18 million per year figure is crazy. It's crazy for almost all the quarterbacks in the NFL. Even the biggest Alex Smith fans realize that.
This $18 million per year figure folks are throwing around could also be out-dated information. The reason it's coming up now is because Jason Cole and Ian Rapoport both tweeted this week that they knew Smith's camp was looking for Cutler money ($18 million per year) ... back in January. Four months ago. Considering they didn't report that information back in January (that I know of), color me confused about why it was just reported this week.
More recently, Pro Football Talk reported in April that Smith's final numbers should come in at $14-17 million per year. Those numbers seem like a better fit for Smith's talent and still demonstrates the Chiefs desire to keep him.
The Chiefs leverage in all of this is that I doubt there's any other team in the league that would pay Smith $15 million per year, or whatever numbers they're talking about in Kansas City. The Chiefs are Alex's best bet.
Back to the whole point of all this. The quarterback market sucks. It sucks because all the non-elite quarterbacks are going to say they want Cutler money even though no one stops to ask whether Cutler is, ya know, worth Cutler money.
Coming summer 2015: Is Nick Foles worth $18 million per year?