Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws a pass while being pressured by Indianapolis Colts strong safety Antoine Bethea (41) during the first quarter of the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

A Look At NFL QB Contracts: What Alex Smith Should Expect


ArmchairAddict1

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One of the main topics of the Kansas City Chiefs offseason thus far has been the contract status of quarterback Alex Smith. Smith has just one year remaining on the three year deal that he originally signed in 2012 with the San Francisco 49ers. After Smith’s performance down the stretch last season and in the playoff loss to Indianapolis many Chiefs fans are in favor of giving Smith an extension.

Last Wednesday, Jason Seibel (one of AA’s fantastic new editors) posted a great piece entitled “Chiefs Must Re-Sign Alex Smith To Create Cap Space“. If you haven’t read it yet, go give it a read. My original thought when reading it was that it wouldn’t be possible for an extension to lower his cap number, but after some discussion in the comments of that piece I must concede that it is possible (I would still argue unlikely, but I digress). Regardless, that conversation got me curious as to what the average NFL quarterback contract extension looks like.

I decided to do some more digging and basically looked at all the contracts for starting QBs that aren’t still on their rookie deal or one year “stop gap” contracts. That gave me 16 contracts to look at. Those include the contracts of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez, Tom Brady, Alex Smith, and Carson Palmer.

I decided I wanted to see what year the contracts were signed, how old these QBs were when they signed, how many years they got, how big the overall contract was, the average per year, the guaranteed money, and the % of contract that was guaranteed. Here’s what I found:

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First off, I should recognize overthecap.com for the contract amounts, it’s a great site and if the contract/cap situation of the Chiefs is of any interest to you at all, I highly recommend the site. The year signed and age when signed was simply a few minutes of good old google searches. I should also point out that not all contracts are created equal. The numbers above reflect the “new years” of the most recent contract that the QBs signed. So there’s a difference between Jay Cutler’s deal where he was literally about to hit the open market and an extension that was signed a year or two before the players current contract expires. The main difference is being able to spread the signing bonus out over more years.

Now, what can we learn from all those numbers?

First off, I think the averages are a good place to start. Starting QBs that signed new contracts were on average 29.6 years old (Alex Smith is 29 and will turn 30 before the season starts) and signed a deal for 4.8 years. In fact, 11 of the 16 contracts signed were for 5+ years. So I think there is a good chance that Smith would land a five year deal. The question is, will that be next year (already under contract) plus a five year extension or next year, plus a four year extension. I tend to think it will be the latter. So for the rest of this article I’ll be using numbers that would be based off Smith getting a four year extension (or five years total).

Next, the average total amount of the contracts signed was 81.2 million. This number was brought down by a handful of smaller contracts, but 10 of the 16 contracts were worth a total value of 88+ million dollars. After looking at these numbers I find it hard to believe that Smith will get a total value of less than 80 million over the five year span. 80 million over five years averages out to 16 million per year and the average of the contracts above is 16.2 million. However, quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger have contracts that are now over 5 years old. When those contracts are re-upped in the next year or two, you can bet that the average per year will go up. So a 16 million per year average is actually very low for 2014 standards when it comes to starting quarterbacks. You can see on the chart that the only contracts that have been signed since 2013 where the QB averaged less than 17.7 million are Carson Palmer’s (who is older and a bigger question mark) and Tom Brady (who took a HUGE discount to help his team after already having received a huge payday on his last contract).

So for the sake of this discussion let’s go with Smith getting 5 years/80 million total value for an average of 16 million per year average.

Now it’s time to talk guaranteed money. There was a wipe discrepancy in the percentage of the contracts that were guaranteed, ranging from 18.8% (Peyton Manning) to 78.3% (Matt Stafford). The low percentage for Manning makes sense given his neck concerns when he signed with Denver. Stafford’s deal had an abnormally high percentage because he was singing an extension with years still left on his old deal. Therefore not all that guaranteed money actually counts against the cap during the three “extended” years. It was distributed over those years plus the years he still had remaining.

Confused yet?

Bottom line is that the average percentage of guaranteed money was about 42.5%. If we go with our 80 million figure from above, that would give us 34 million guaranteed. That’s actually slightly higher than the 31.8 million in average guaranteed money that you see on the chart. However, I think that’s pretty realistic given the guaranteed money in recent contracts. In fact, for our estimated contract I’m actually going to round it up to 35 million guaranteed to make it a nice easy number to work with.

So now we have a contract for 5 years, 80 million, with 35 million guaranteed. Let’s say that part of that 35 million in guaranteed dollars is a 15 million dollar signing bonus. Signing bonuses are spread out evenly against the cap over the length of the contract, so that would be three million against the cap for five years. So how might Smith’s contract breakdown look given these numbers? Let’s try something like this (all numbers are in millions):

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So in this scenario, Smith’s cap number for next season would go almost unchanged. His 2014 and 2015 salaries would be 100% guaranteed, assuring him of being the starting QB for the next two seasons. In 2016, he would still have 8 million of his 17 million cap hit guaranteed, making him a safe bet for still being a Chief that season but it would open the door for the possibility of looking elsewhere if things weren’t going well. Finally, his 2017 and 2018 salaries would be 0% guaranteed. That means that the Chiefs could cut him at that point and the only cap hit that they would take is the 3 million each year from his signing bonus.

I feel like after looking at the contracts signed by starting quarterbacks this is a fair place to start the discussion. So if Smith and the Chiefs do reach an agreement I think the 5 year, 80 million, 35 million guaranteed benchmarks will be a good measuring stick to compare the deal to. If the years/amounts are significantly less, then John Dorsey won the negotiations. If the years/amounts are significantly more, then Smith’s agent got him a very nice deal.

What do you think Addicts? Would you feel comfortable with KC signing Smith to a deal like the one I’ve outlined? After seeing what other QBs are getting do you feel like the numbers that I came up with are reasonable? Too high? Too low? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also, if you missed any of them (or would like to give them another read) here are links to my previous Armchair Addict posts on the Chiefs offseason plans:

The Kansas City Chiefs Salary Cap Options

Kansas City Chiefs FA Targets: Jeremy Maclin vs. Golden Tate

Kansas City Chiefs Free Agent Safety Targets

Kansas City’s Top Free Agent Targets Should Be In House

Finally, as regular readers already know, I’ve been trying out and reviewing some devices from Verizon this season. I’ve already taken a look at the Droid Maxx phone and Fitbit Force wristband and now I’ve received one more: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 tablet. My initial thoughts are all positive. It runs fast on either 4G or through my wireless and has a great picture. I’ve already got my NFL Game Rewind account set up on it and see some film breakdowns coming in the near future. Look for more reviews in the coming weeks and give me a follow on Twitter for even more thoughts.

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As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen


Tags: Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I’ll be a bit surprised if he gets a deal that lucrative.
    I would expect something closer to the Matt Schaub extension from 2012.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Really, my speculative deal isn’t much different than Schaub’s. Schaub got 15.5 mil/year w/29 mil guaranteed and I’m suggesting Smith will get 16 mil/year w/35 mil guaranteed. Smith’s total deal looks bigger because of the extra year, but there’s little chance he would play under that 5th year anyway. He would either be cut or restructured a new deal by then.

      • Stacy D. Smith

        Good catch, Graversen! Thanks for clarifying.

  • Chris Tarrants

    I hope he doesn’t get a deal any where close to that! Now I like Alex Smith, I think he has done some good things this year but I do not believe that he Ishtar future of the Chiefs. He is simply too old to hitch our wagon to for a decade or longer. I would like to see him get a comfy 3 year deal and either draft a early round QB or bring Bray up and get his feet wet so that we can have the somewhat seamless transition like Favre to Rodgers.

    • Kris

      Isn’t that exactly what the article said? It would basically be a 3 year contract under the scenario mentioned. After 3 years the Chiefs could walk away with a small cap hit. No one mentioned anything about 10 plus years. Plus 29 is not too old. It is on par with the average age that these qb’s signed their contracts.

      • Chris Tarrants

        Did you actually read what I wrote? Or is it your comprehension? The article said 5 years and I said that I would like to find a QB that would be around for a 10 years! Alex is a good QB but he is not going to be a world beater especially when he is in his upper 30′s which is what he would be in ten years. Now if we get Bray or some other young draftee up to speed by 23-24 years of age then you get a signal caller who could play for ten plus years and still be fairly young. If he gets a front loaded 3 year deal and we need to cut bait in a year or two then we can. If its a 5 year and we have to wait three years to cut bait then we will find ourselves in the same spot we were before, paying a QB who can’t get it done any longer. I don’t think it would happen like it did with Cassel but I don’t want to tempt fate. Play it safe and find OUR guy

        • Spencer

          Did you actually read what Kris wrote??? Go back up to the original article you see that graph with the salary, salary that is guaranteed, signing bonus, and cap hit??? Do you see that??? Read what the salary is that is guaranteed….please READ, this gives Alex Smith a 3 year contract of which we can cut with having very limited repercussion to just cut him on the 4th (or 5th) year of his contract. That has us with Smith in 2014, 15 and 16 with this deal…that’s 4 (when including the 2013 yr) years to develop a Tyler Bray…Which is a perfect amount of time IMO…

          Can you not comprehend yourself??? I mean come on, learn how to read a graph rather then insult other people due to your own faults. “Finally, his 2017 and 2018 salaries would be 0% guaranteed. That means that the Chiefs could cut him at that point and the only cap hit that they would take is the 3 million each year from his signing bonus.” You could also actually read the article rather then just blab on the moment you see 5 years.

          • Chris Tarrants

            I understand that it’s 0 cap hit after three years, that’s not what I don’t like, I will say it again. What happens if the wheels fall of after the first year or second year of that deal? Then we are stuck with having a QB for the third year that can’t get it done or we have to swallow a huge cap hit to cut bait. I am fine with giving him an extension but it needs to be identical to the one he has now. Three year, flat, no more with the ability to bail on the deal if it goes south.

          • micah stephenson

            Actually it would b 3 mill a yr cap hit, which is too much for me.

        • CalifChiefsFan

          Perhaps it’s my comprehension, too, as I read what you wrote. You say Alex is “too old to hitch our wagon to for a decade….” and the article in no way suggests that. As Kris points out, the article has guaranteed money for 2014-2016. After those three years there is no guarantee and a small cap hit if he doesn’t play for the final 2 years. What are we missing….

          • Chris Tarrants

            The second and third year of that deal being unable to get out of without setting ourselves back several years or suffering a miserable year if for whatever reason he fails to get it done. I just don’t like the idea of going three years without a safety net in case the wheels fall off

          • berttheclock

            However, one major problem with only a 3 year plan is how it would hurt the cap in 2014. If you condense a favorable contract into only 3 years, you would really hurt the current cap problems facing the Chiefs for 2014 and even beyond. In negotiations, there must be a way to keep both parties satisfied. A 3 year plan would only help Alex Smith. It would hurt the Chiefs.

          • calciomoti

            Indeed, I don’t mind the proposed contract in the article (albeit I think its a bit pricey) but the years are what benefits the chiefs.

          • calciomoti

            I think that’s where the draft comes in…draft this year or next a qb in either first or second round and you have some one who can learn how to take care of the ball from smith and at a very low price.

          • micah stephenson

            LMAO! Talk of drafting a QB will get you clowned around here. They don’t believe in that. There will always b an excuse for why they should not draft a QB.

          • calciomoti

            No joke Micah except last off season when the geno bandwagon rolled through here.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Chris, the problem is a starting QB has too much value in the NFL to short change them. Alex Smith has proven himself over the past three seasons and if KC won’t pay him then somebody else will. Smith’s agent won’t go for some little 3 year 30 mil deal w/no guarantees where Smith can be cut after just a year. We either pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of market value (which is what I tried to figure) or he could walk next season.

      My contract gives KC an easy out after 3 years while still giving him a contract that shows him they have faith in him going forward. If they had a QBOTF that was ready to take over year three they could even cut ties after 2 years and eat the 8 mil cap hit.

      Finally, its real easy to say the grass is greener and KC needs to find their Andrew Luck to build around for a decade, but those guys are extremely rare and you typically need a high draft pick to land one. Risking losing a proven winner for the hope of landing a QB in the draft is reckless in my opinion.

      • Jim Harper

        Absolutely Lyle. Some of these guys are never happy. I think we already have our work in progress in Bray and that is a helluva lot more than a lot of NFL teams. Doing what they suggest would take several years and then guess what? No more Jamaal Charles. We are closer to be a legit SB contender than we have been since ’93.

  • berttheclock

    Lyle, your plan works for me. Now, where do I sign? Oh, you meant Alex Smith. Yeah, I concur.

    • micah stephenson

      I agree with wat you said about the defense. We gone have to win with defense too. We ain’t winning any shoot outs with Smith, so if the D don’t play good we will most likely lose. O yea there is a real affordable way to get a good QB. Draft one. You would pay him 5 mill a yr or less for 4 yrs instead of 16.2 mill a yr for 5 yrs. That leaves you plenty of money to spend other places.

      • toperspective

        AS isn’t worth 16M. If his demands aren’t Chief/Cap friendly then I’d let him play under his contract in 2014 and then figure it out from there. They need money to fix this horrible defense. 2014 is going to be a much more difficult season than many fans think. They will not be 11-5 next year. I’d also like them to draft a QB if it’s the right one. One problem is that Daniels is too expensive to cut in 2014 and IF Bray has potential then I can’t see them carrying 4 QB’s.

        • micah stephenson

          I agree he is not worth that much. I’d like to keep him at his current pay.

    • toperspective

      Absolutely as it relates to spending on the QB position. The two best teams in football, the Seahawks and SF, are paying a pittance for their QB’s. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Of course they were smart enough to draft a QB outside of the 1st round that could get the job done. That Brady only gets 11M highlights how much he wants to win. The Flacco and Ryan contracts are nuts.

    • Jim Harper

      Amen!

  • berttheclock

    One problem with following the leader in contracts is a situation developing with the Niners. The Titans, foolishly, overpaid a guard, Levitre?, I believe. Now, the agent of Iaputi, the All-Pro guard for the Niners, who is coming off season ending injuries to his knee and ankle, wants Levitre money for his client. If the Niners do so, he would end up being paid more than their excellent left tackle, who, then, would want more money, followed by the right tackle wanting more. Sort of a financial arms race. More than one GM in the league have fallen for the arms race trap. I trust Mr Dorsey will remain calm and rework contracts in a responsible manner. Meanwhile, the agent for Kaepernick hopes the opposite.

    • Lyle Graversen

      I don’t think the contract I suggested follows the “arm race” at all. Flacco and Cutler just got over 120 million, so I’d call 80 million a responsible compromise.

      • Jim Harper

        So would I Lyle, so would I!

  • berttheclock

    The comparison of Rodgers learning under Favre and Bray learning under Smith is a bit misleading. Favre had been with the Packers for 13 years when Rodgers was picked in 2005. Craig Nalls was the backup, but he left in 2006 for the Bills. The Packers selected Ingle Martin, a QB, in the 2006 draft. They brought Nalls back in December of 2007 as a backup QB. So, the Packers, as usual, were covering their bases and not just relying on Rodgers taking over for Favre. This has been a Packers tradition of bringing in a QB a year to develop and have around in case of an injury.

    • micah stephenson

      I hope dorsey continue that tradition here in Kansas City.

  • Troy Utt

    Thanks for the info… I firmly believe we must lock down Smith, as he has proven he is capable of being a top QB if we give him the tools! That said I would hope (as Stacy pointed out) we could find some common ground somewhere in between, keeping his new deal more in the range of
    4yr /$14-$15 per… I like what you have done keeping the guaranteed money front loaded, so should KC bring Bray (or ?) along we are not left holding the bag or yet again trying to dig out! IMHO These teams that are paying their QB’s or other single players such astronomical salarie’s will find themselves in either “cap hell” or hurting as they are not able to sign enough mid-level players… Alex want’s badly to suceed & I believe he would be willing to take less to surround himself with the necessary pieces!

    • berttheclock

      You do realize Alex Smith will require some change as the magnificent Kaw River Valley view homes atop the ridge between glorious Argentine and splendid Rosedale are getting a bit pricey. Ah, to overlook Armourdale on a sunny day and see the soap particles from Proctor and Gamble float towards the Mighty Mo.

      • Troy Utt

        LOL… Pending that is he get’s his home in Ca. sold! Lucky for him this wasn’t first “BIG” contract, or at least he played his way to larger $$ when he opt to stay in SF when he re-upped for his 3yr tour… Now he’ll be able to afford those soap chips!

  • micah stephenson

    Lol. I’d offer him 3 yrs $30, NONE of it guaranteed. I’d also draft a QBOTF ASAP!!!! I know I know, the Chiefs don’t draft QBs nor do the fans care if they ever did or not. Alex is too mediocre for me. We all predicted an 8-8 season with him. Luckily we played a bunch of bad QBs early so we got 3 more wins than we predicted. This yr we predicting another 8-8 season. With Alex I can’t imagine much more than 8-10 wins a yr or a serious superbowl run. I hope the Chiefs ain’t setting us up for the okie doke.

    • berttheclock

      Hmmm, there must a coffee break over at one of the areas Community College “English as a Second Language” program. But, I do see some improvement, so, keep studying, micah. Plus, once again, I give thanks to whomever up there advised Mr Hunt not to select you as the GM for the team.

      • micah stephenson

        I’d bet you would LOVE the team if I built it!

      • micah stephenson

        English is my second Language. unfortunately I don’t know my true language which is arabic.

  • micah stephenson

    What ever they do, they need to structure the contract so that at any time they cut or trade him, there would b no dead money.

  • micah stephenson

    Instead of paying him 16.2 a yr they cud pay him for his last yr and draft somebody better and a lot Cheaper.

  • micah stephenson

    I’d offer him his 2012 deal again. 3 yrs 27 mill. If he don’t want it, I hear the Jags need a new QB. Lol.

  • Chuck Burrell

    I can’t wait for the extension to happen so i can check your work again and see how close you came to the exact number. Nice breakdown! If I had to guess, I’d say since Alex already made his money (being a former number 1 overall pick under the old cba) and with him turning 30 soon, he might place a greater importance on a Super Bowl run than hitting the lottery…….. again. Keep the 5 year deal and divide the rest of your numbers by 18-20% leaving him with roughly $65 mil over those 5 years while front loading the money

    • Jim Harper

      That won’t fly. We will be doing good if we can just get him for average market value as Lyle outlined. There is a severe shortage of quality QB’s that any number of teams would jump at the chance to take Alex.

      • Chuck Burrell

        I agree his price tag is higher with the high demand of quality qbs around the league. But unlike Russell Wilson or kaep he’s made a boatload of money already. Maybe I’m just hoping he’ll take an extremely cap friendly deal.

        • Jim Harper

          Come on Chuck. That would be like your employer saying there will be no more raises because your previous employer paid you too much. Besides which, his last contract was anything but fat.. It was for 3 years and a little over $25 mil. Now I really don’t think Alex want to take us to the cleaners, but he surely wants fair market value, and I believe he should and will get it.

          • Chuck Burrell

            If you recall, I stated that he may accept a team friendly contract that would put him, and the team, in a position to be more successful. It’s called being a team player. It’s not at all like a boss telling you you’ve already made too much. It’s about a financial sacrifice for the betterment of the team (IMO it’s not that much of a sacrifice from what Lyle proposed considering I only thought to drop it from $80 to upper $60-70 mil). I’m not making a case for Alex not to be paid the money he is deserved. He’s done very well these past few years and deserves all the incentives and recognition he gains.
            But since I’ve seen a variety of writers express that they expect smiths contract to look similar to schaubs extension, it by no means seems unreasonable to compare the two and how they have faired financially since entering the league just one year apart. With Schaub making around $50 mil since 2004 and Alex making $75 mill since 2005, there may be some room to speculate that Alex could very possibly sign the aforementioned 5 year $65-70 million dollar deal after all. That will have made him $145 mil since 2005 and schaub will have received $112 since 2004. Maybe smith places a greater importance on making sure he doesn’t get underpaid for his services, but maybe he doesn’t. We’ll find out soon enough.

          • Jim Harper

            It just comes down to opinions and that is all either you or I have and we are both entitled to our opinions whether they be right or wrong.

  • 3rdgen CHIEFS fan

    If the offense gets better than the second half of last year then it’s a great deal. As long as he produces like he did in the second half it’s a good deal for the team.

  • CalifChiefsFan

    With a very basic look at NFL QB stats, Alex played 16 regular season games in 2011 with a 90.7 rating; only 10 games in 2012 with a rating of 104.1; and 15 games in 2013 — 89.1 rating. His wild card game this year gave him the highest QB rating in the postseason. That is three years of similar performance and had he not sat out quarters in two games and all of another at the end of the year, his stats would be better.

    Alex is MY guy but get it he’s not the guy many of you want. Based on QB rating only, he ranked 16 this year. Cutler was 15, Dalton 17, Cam Newton 18, Brady 19 and Luck 20. Clearly that stat doesn’t tell the whole story, but it says something. Plus, the other QBs were all playing on teams for at least the second year with players they were familiar with. Not Alex.

    So, perhaps those who don’t like Alex or just have low regard for what he did for the Chiefs:

    1. Trade him for that #2 draft pick and start Daniels or Bray. Saves all that money you don’t want to pay him.

    2. Don’t extend. If he plays well, franchise him and Alex has in two years what several want to limit him to in 3.

    I think the deal proposed in the article is fair. But a ton out there doubt Alex. I like what Dan Hanzus wrote in an NFL article yesterday: “It’s time for us — as a people — to respect Alex Smith”. I like it, but don’t see it happening. .

  • Stacy D. Smith

    I hereby place a moratorium on all Alex Smith-related posts until the new season begins. Micah’s going to drive us all nuts! Hahahaha. Kidding, Micah… Only kidding, pal…

    • micah stephenson

      Lol. I’m trying to take a break untill the draft, but they won’t let me. He he he.

  • Jim Harper

    This is amazing Lyle. Your numbers are exactly what I had predicted it would take to get him signed to a fair contract that both he and the Chiefs could live with and nearly everybody else was suggesting a 4 year deal at about 9 mil per year. If we can get to the numbers you and I are talking about then it better be done this year because the numbers will go up dramatically next year. I totally expect that to happen since I have no doubts Dorsey knew that when he signed him last year. Not only that but the Chiefs got way more than expected in performance from Alex last year. So even if we get him for the numbers you suggest he will be a bargain.

  • QBKev

    Sign him you idiots!!!! He got you into the playoffs with NO RECEIVERS! The offense was the second highest scoring offense in the NFL!!!! KC needs a pass rusher, DB’s and RECEIVERS!!!!! You basically have a copy of Joe Montana….Except Alex has virtually no talent around him excepot for Charles and the Defense gives up way too many big plays!!! KC with a few tweaks is on the verge of a possible super bowl!!!! Not signing Alex for five or six years you have to be complete IDIOTS!!!!!!! He’ll get $$$$ elsewhere and many teams will be fighting for him if KC doesn’t……….Just how stupid can you be? And passer ratings and TD’s are for fools!!! All that matters is completion % (should subtract dropped passes as KC had the highest % of dropped passes in the NFL!!) and interceptions…..And I posted previously KC would be 8-1 to start last season………….Obviously I was wrong!!!!!!!