The LA Chargers pulled off another big and somewhat surprising move in 2020, this time extending franchise pass rusher Joey Bosa to a five-year, $135 million extension that pays him $27 million per season. That is $3.5 million more per year than Khalil Mack, who had the record salary for a non-QB prior to Myles Garrett signing a five-year, $125 million extension with the Cleveland Browns last month.
Following the other apparent shifts in organizational philosophy from GM Tom Telesco this year (goodbye Philip Rivers, making a trade for Trai Turner, drafting a quarterback early, trading a draft pick and moving back into the first round for Kenneth Murray), this too sets a new normal for the Chargers by extending a player who as a rookie heldout into the season despite the 2011 CBA setting a standard for what he had to be paid anyway.
However, I’m sure that some people will worry about the numbers in a league where injuries seem to be far more common than consistency.
What exactly are the odds that Bosa can be worth $27 million per year? Do pass rushers, even elite ones, tend to fall off after getting their massive contracts? Or maybe if they succumb to a season-ending injury? The easiest way of course to find out is to look and see what other pass rushers like Bosa did after their first four seasons, which often lines up with when they were extended. So I went back in the last 15-20 years to look at how these players performed before and after their transitions from year four to year five.
The results: I would feel more confident than ever that the Chargers made the right move in paying Bosa whatever it took to keep Bosa.
I obviously couldn’t look at any player drafted 2013 or later because those players have yet to play their eighth season in the NFL. Instead I saw who had the most sacks in their first four years from the period of starting their careers from the period of 2004-2011. Then I saw what they did in the second four years. It’s as simple as that. I’ve added contract details, including when the deals were signed.
Here’s what Joey Bosa has done in his first four years:
2016-2019: 51 games, 40 sacks, 148 solo tackles, 53 tackles for a loss, 82 QB hits, one batted pass, five forced fumbles.
Now let’s look at 10 other pass rushers who you are probably familiar with and compare.
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
2011-2014: 64 games, 57 sacks, 242 solo tackles, 103 tackles for a loss, 159 QB hits, 37 batted passes, 12 forced fumbles
2015-2018: 40 games, 35 sacks, 116 solo tackles, 51 tackles for a loss, 85 QB hits, 14 batted passes, 10 forced fumbles
Contract: 2014, six years, $100 milion, $20.8 million guaranteed
Watt lost no effectiveness after signing his deal but missed the majority of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In the last four years, Watt has only played in more than eight games one time and that year he had 16 sacks and was a first team all-pro.
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
2011-2014: 56 games, 49 sacks, 175 solo tackles, 72 tackles for a loss, 91 QB hits, nine batted passes, 13 forced fumbles
2015-2018: 64 games, 49 sacks, 172 solo tackles, 53 tackles for a loss, 105 QB hits, 10 batted passes, 13 forced fumbles
Contract: 2016, six years, $114.5 million, $42 million guaranteed
Though Miller was slightly less effective per game in the second four-year phase of his career, he didn’t miss a start and he helped the Broncos win a Super Bowl. He was also still super effective.
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
2011-2014: 59 games, 48.5 sacks, 200 solo tackles, 57 tackles for a loss, 67 QB hits, 19 batted passes, seven forced fumbles
2015-2018: 43 games, 30 sacks, 119 solo tackles, 39 tackles for a loss, 51 QB hits, 13 batted passes, seven forced fumbles
Contract: 2015, six years, $101 million, $32.5 million guaranteed
After signing his deal, Houston missed five games in 2015, 11 games in 2016, one game in 2017, and four games in 2018 for a total of 23 games missed. That’s basically one-third the number of games KC was hoping for and they released Houston after 2018. He played a full season with the Colts in 2019, recording 11 sacks and QB hits, basically as effective as he was in the first phase of his career with Indy. Houston was injured but continued to be effective.
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
2005-2008: 64 games, 53.5 sacks, 235 solo tackles, 71 tackles for a loss 74 QB hits, 12 batted passes, 18 forced fumbles
2009-2012: 64 games, 57.5 sacks, 182 solo tackles, 65 tackles for a loss, 99 QB hits, nine batted passes, 14 forced fumbles
Contract: 2009, six years, $78 million, $25.5 million guaranteed
Somehow I wonder if Ware is underrated. He didn’t miss a game until his ninth season in the league. He was a first team all-pro in years three, four, five, and seven. Extremely consistent and he got better with age, including helping Miller win the Super Bowl when Ware was 33 years old in 2015.
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams/Miami Dolphins
2011-2014: 63 games, 45 sacks, 133 solo tackles, 52 tackles for a loss, 83 QB hits, 11 batted passes, 14 forced fumbles
2015-2018: 48 games, 24 sacks, 67 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, 40 QB hits, six batted passes, nine forced fumbles
Contract: 2014, four years, $57 million, $15.6 million guaranteed
St. Louis paid Quinn a bit earlier than they had to (a common theme for Les Snead), choosing to do so as he came off of a 19-sack campaign in 2013. He was pretty effective in 2014 but after missing only one game in his first four years, he then missed 15 games in the next two years. Though he had 8.5 sacks and was only 27, the Rams traded him to the Dolphins and basically only got a fourth round pick back. Last season, only 29, Quinn had 11.5 sacks and 22 QB hits for the Cowboys and he signed a five year, $70 million contract with the Bears this offseason.
For all the faults Quinn had in years five and six, he remains one of the top edge rushers in the NFL.
Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos/Baltimore Ravens
2006-2009: 61 games, 43 sacks, 107 solo tackles, 28 tackles for a loss, 61 QB hits, eight batted passes, 10 forced fumbles
2010-2013: 45 games, 30 sacks, 81 solo tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 54 QB hits, four batted passes, eight force fumbles
Contract: 2010, five years, $61.5 million, $43.1 million guaranteed
Thought to be to small for the NFL, Dumervil was a fourth round pick who had 8.5 sacks as a rookie and 12.5 sacks in year two, providing a threat at the position for Denver well before Miller and Ware. He led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 but then missed all of his fifth season with a torn pec.
Elvis, who is not only named Elvis but who has adopted the middle name “Kool” since he was in elementary school, had at least already signed his extension. After two more years in Denver, Dumervil and his former agent had that weird filing problem and he became a free agent, at which point he signed a five-year, $35 million contract with the Ravens. He had 26.5 sacks in his first two seasons there.
Cam Wake, Miami Dolphins
2009-2012: 62 games, 43 sacks, 142 solo tackles, 55 tackles for a loss, 95 QB hits, eight batted passes, seven forced fumbles
2013-2016: 54 games, 38.5 sacks, 90 solo tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, 74 QB hits, six batted passes, 14 forced fumbles
Contract: 2012, four years, $33.2 million, $17 million guaranteed
Because he started late, not reaching the NFL until 27, his contract figures have never matched his production really. Wake had 14 sacks in year two, 15 sacks in year four. Other than missing nine games in 2015, Wake was consistently productive in Miami for all 10 years he was there.
Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
2009-2012: 58 games, 42.5 sacks, 160 solo tackles, 58 tackles for a loss, 95 QB hits, 23 batted passes, seven forced fumbles
2013-2016: 55 games, 30 sacks, 140 solo tackles, 48 tackles for a loss, 61 QB hits, 16 batted passes, six forced fumbles
Contract: 2013, five years, $66 million, $20.5 million guaranteed
Matthews is perhaps one of the only players who was clearly more productive during his first four years. This is not to say he wasn’t productive from 2013-2016 but he was just that much more effective early in his career and then didn’t have that same level of production again. He didn’t do anything to make Green Bay regret his extension though.
Mario Williams, Houston Texans/Buffalo Bills
2006-2009: 64 games, 39.5 sacks, 160 solo tackles, 51 tackles for a loss, 67 QB hits, eight batted passes, nine forced fumbles
2010-2013: 50 games, 37 sacks, 97 solo tackles, 40 tackles for a loss, 57 QB hits, 10 batted passes, five forced fumbles
Contract: 2012, six years, $96 million, $25 million guaranteed
Though he missed 14 games, Williams was noticeably better per game in the second four-year phase of his career, which was split between Houston and Buffalo. His lone first team all-pro season came in the ninth year of his career.
Jared Allen, Kansas City Chiefs/Minnesota Vikings
2004-2007: 61 games, 43 sacks, 200 solo tackles, 56 tackles for a loss, 39 QB hits (since 2006), 26 batted passes (since 2005), 14 forced fumbles (since 2005)
2008-2011: 64 games, 62 sacks, 177 solo tackles, 74 tackles for a loss, 108 QB hits, 16 batted passes, 13 forced fumbles
Contract: 2008, six years, $73.2 million, $15.5 million guaranteed
Going back the furthest of any player here, Allen represents how a pass rusher, even maybe the best in the league at the time, can get even better. Allen’s career-high in sacks, 22, came during his eighth season in the league. He had more QB hits at age 31 than he had at ages 24, 25, and 27.