For the first time in a long time the Chargers are on the look out for a new starting quarterback. A “franchise” quarterback.
“Franchise quarterback” though is a term that may take on a new meaning soon, if it hasn’t already. Why? First, consider these teams that have been to the Super Bowl since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement set a rookie wage scale that let teams pay their top picks a maximum salary that was much easier to digest than it was under the previous system when players like Sam Bradford and JaMarcus Russell signed record contracts before ever getting a snap:
2019 Kansas City Chiefs*
2018 Los Angeles Rams
2017 Philadelphia Eagles
2015 Carolina Panthers
2014 Seattle Seahawks
2013 Seattle Seahawks*
2012 Baltimore Ravens*
2012 San Francisco 49ers
All of these teams featured a quarterback who was playing on a rookie wage scale contract and the * teams won it all. Meanwhile, the New England Patriots made five Super Bowl appearances during this period with starter Tom Brady getting paid basically an average starting salary throughout. Only once in the last eight seasons has the Super Bowl featured two QBs on veteran contracts: a moderately paid Brady vs Matt Ryan in 2016.
Brady won, of course.
And if Patrick Mahomes doesn’t repeat as AFC title winner in 2020, it could be rookie wage QBs Lamar Jackson or Deshaun Watson, while Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and Drew Lock would like to have something to say about it. Jackson, Watson, and Allen were all in the playoffs last year too. This increased desire for a rookie wage QB will push teams to find new ways of acquiring and paying a quality starter at the position and could re-define what “franchise QB” means entirely.
The #Bills with nearly 100 mill in cap space in ‘19. After getting a franchise QB on a rookie contract this year, they will be able to offer a lot to FA’s to put them over the edge. This is how Super Bowl teams are built folks. It’s happening before our eyes. #TheProcess— Michael Iati-LaFave (@m_lafave) March 12, 2018
We could also be in the midst of the biggest transition in the history of free agent/trade market QBs as teams like the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, L.A. Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Las Vegas Raiders could all be mulling over the question “What’s a QB really worth today?” with their current or outgoing quarterbacks.
That’s the question that the L.A. Chargers must come to a conclusion on soon too, as free agency, the trade market, and the draft all approach. Though they are saying goodbye to Philip Rivers, they might soon say hello to a player who many will be referring to as the “franchise” quarterback. Is that in the draft? Through a trade? A signing? Or will they look to improve the rest of the roster and hope that Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick can man the position for long enough to allow a lottery ticket a chance to hit?
Eric DeCosta is NOT messing around with the @Ravens Super Bowl window.— Matt Wise (@TheMattWise) December 28, 2019
Peters is now locked in for the same years that Lamar Jackson is.
This is likely the 1st of many moves that the #Ravens will make to shore up the defense while their QB is on a rookie contract.#RavensFlock https://t.co/lxgPvZbPt6
I figured that we might as well look around the league and the landscape of the 2019 quarterback situation to see how all 32 teams acquired their starters and other key players at the position to gain perspective before we put our foot down that “drafting one immediately!” or “making a blockbuster trade” or “doing nothing” is the right way to get there. There is no “right” way.
But there may be a wrong way.
I’ll list out the names, give some notes, then leave the rest to you.
The High Draft Picks (1-3)
Sam Darnold, Jets
Baker Mayfield, Browns
Carson Wentz, Eagles
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears
Matthew Stafford, Lions
Matt Ryan, Falcons
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
Cam Newton, Panthers*
Jared Goff, Rams
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
I’m including Cam because he’s the franchise quarterback in Carolina and Kyle Allen, Will Grier did nothing to make anyone think otherwise. Even if Cam is on the chopping block, he’s the important QB to the premise of the article.
Two things I noticed: Only two of the 10 teams are in the AFC. That should change with the Bengals and Joe Burrow, while both the Dolphins and Chargers have been linked (by media members with no actual knowledge of its validity) to Tua Tagovailoa as a trade-up target into the top-3.
The other thing is that it is not that impressive of a list. Wentz is the only one to win a Super Bowl, and that was as a non-factor for the final two months of that regular/postseason. Ryan, Newton, and Goff all came close, but only one time each.
Darnold, Goff, Wentz, and Trubisky were all traded up for in their drafts.
An 11th player you could mention here is Eli Manning, the first overall pick in 2004, as you know. He lost his position to Daniel Jones, however, and retired this year. Speaking of Jones ...
The Rest of the Top 10
Josh Allen, Bills
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Philip Rivers, Chargers*
Daniel Jones, Giants
Stopping at a top-10 because of round numbers. You could argue Rivers as a number one pick because the Chargers did trade down from the top for him once Manning made it known that he wouldn’t play in San Diego. Thus far we know that Rivers and Mahomes are special (Mahomes, also traded up for on draft day) and we can’t come to any key conclusions yet on the other two.
Rest of the First Round (11-32)
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers*
Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Deshaun Watson, Texans
Dwayne Haskins, Washington
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Same thing for Big Ben as with Cam, he’s the only QB of note in Pittsburgh at the moment. Jackson and Watson were traded up for by those teams. Where we are at now: 19 of 32 teams acquired their most important QB of note in the first round, leaving 13 (or so) more to consider.
Cap percentages of the highest paid QBs of Super Bowl winning teams of the past 17 years:— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) April 16, 2019
—Russell Wilson's new $35M APY deal is 18.6% in column 2, higher than any listed contracts.
—But only 5 teams won Super Bowls w/rookie contract QBs, & only one wasn't a 1st rounder—Wilson. pic.twitter.com/cGtqoWsK7O
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Drew Lock, Broncos*
Derek Carr, Raiders
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Tom Brady, Patriots
Gardner Minshew, Jaguars*
For every round after round one, we see seven more names, including Brady, Wilson, and Dak. Of course there have been other solid picks after round one (Drew Brees, who went 32nd overall when there were still 31 teams) but I’m only looking at how their current teams acquired these players.
I’m including both Lock and Flacco, both Minshew and Foles for this article.
Nick Foles, Jaguars*
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Jacoby Brissett, Colts
Ryan Tannehill, Titans
Joe Flacco, Broncos*
One of these teams went to the Super Bowl with said quarterback and another nearly met them there before Tennessee’s playoff run fell short against the Chiefs. The last Super Bowl to feature two starting quarterbacks who went in the first round was Peyton Manning vs Cam Newton in 2015, but the last Super Bowl to feature two starting quarterbacks who were drafted in the first round by those respective teams was Rodgers vs Big Ben in 2010. Before that was Manning vs Rex Grossman in 2006.
Also, the last three Super Bowls have featured one QB in which the team traded up for them in the first round: Mahomes, Goff, and Wentz, respectively.
NFL Twitter: "The key to winning the Super Bowl is having a great young QB on his affordable rookie contract ..."— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) January 7, 2019
Also NFL Twitter: "#Eagles should trade Wentz and pay Foles because WINZZZZZZ"
Drew Brees, Saints
Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins
Free agency has given us two Super Bowl appearances by Manning with the Broncos, Brees winning with New Orleans in 2009, and Kurt Warner’s miraculous run with the Cardinals in 2008. Most free agent QB signings don’t turn out this way because most good QBs do not become free agents. There were major concerns with the health of both Manning and Brees, while Warner was pretty much a part time player from ages 31-35 prior to taking over in Arizona full time in 2007.
Josh Rosen, Dolphins (Traded 2nd round pick)
Mason Rudolph, Steelers (3rd round)
Devlin Hodges, Steelers (UDFA)
Marcus Mariota, Titans (2nd overall)
Ryan Finley, Bengals (4th round)
Case Keenum, Washington (Trade)
Alex Smith, Washington (Trade)
Kyle Allen, Panthers (UDFA)
Will Grier, Panthers (3rd round)
Eli Manning, Giants