It's a good time to be a quarterback in the NFL right now. With the passing game taking over the league, the value of a franchise quarterback has skyrocketed in recent years. That has never been more apparent than the most recent offseason, in which four quarterbacks scored some of the biggest contract extensions in NFL history, and at least one more is looking to get a deal done before training camp starts.
Let's run down the quarterbacks who scored big paychecks this spring.
Six years, $120.6 million, $52 million guaranteed
Flacco was an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2012. He failed to get a long-term deal done with the Ravens, opting to play out the season and see what happens then. That turned out to be a brilliant move in hindsight, as Flacco won Super Bowl MVP and got what was, at the time, the biggest contract ever. That record only stood for a month, however, due to the next guy on our list.
Seven years, $130.75 million, $54 million guaranteed
The Packers locked up arguably the best quarterback in the league through his age-35 season. Rodgers was set to hit free agency at the end of 2014, but the Packers moved fast to ensure he won't make it that far. Still only 29 and with a Super Bowl and MVP season already under his belt, Rodgers will help the Packers remain a force in the NFC for years to come.
Seven years, $119.5 million, $55 million guaranteed
This deal is a bit riskier than the ones above. Romo is already 33 and has struggled with turnovers throughout his career. Still, he had career highs in passing yards last season, and the Cowboys are essentially giving him the keys to the franchise--he will have more influence in game plans, personnel and play-calling. If the offensive line improves and Dez Bryant continues his ascension, Romo has a few more quality years left in him.
Three years, $53 million, $41.5 million guaranteed
Stafford is the youngest player on this list, and he's also the only No. 1 pick to be drafted under the old rookie wage system, signing a six-year, $72 million deal in 2009. His new deal tacks onto his current one, keeping him in Detroit through 2017 and paying him $76 million over that span. He struggled with injuries early in his career, but has since stayed healthy and threw for 10,005 yards the past two seasons. Fun fact: Stafford will be only 29 when this new deal expires, so if he hits his considerably high ceiling he has a chance to collect yet another huge paycheck while in his prime.
QBs on the outside looking in
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan's rookie deal expires after 2013, although he should be locked up long before then. ESPN's Adam Schefter suggests that the two sides will get a deal done once Stafford's contract is finalized. Both sides fully expect Ryan to get a deal in place before training camp starts.
Cutler is a free agent after 2013. There haven't been any talks from either side about a possible extension, suggesting that Cutler has to prove himself under new head coach Marc Trestman. An improved offensive line and new pass-happy offense should help Cutler, but it's sounding like he'll have to wait until after the season before thinking about a long-term deal.
Head coach Greg Schiano has been tepid in his support of Freeman. The 25-year-old is entering a contract year after yet another second-half collapse last season. The Bucs drafted Mike Glennon in the third round and talked him up throughout the spring before throwing their public support behind Freeman, but the writing is on the wall. Freeman has talent but has never been able to put it together for any consistent stretches. 2013 is a make-or-break year for his Tampa Bay future.
A second-round pick in 2011, Kaepernick is making a measly $740,844 in 2013. Under the new CBA, he's eligible to re-negotiate his rookie deal after the third year. If he performs as well as he did last season in leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, don't expect him to be making six figures for much longer. He's scheduled for free agency in 2015.