Quarterbacks have been cashing in with lucrative long-term extensions around the NFL this offseason and, despite having three years left on his deal, Ben Roethlisberger may join them soon. Roethlisberger isn't scheduled to hit free agency until 2016, but high salary cap numbers could lead to an extension before the 2014 season, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.
Roethlisberger is scheduled to count $17.895 million against the 2014 salary cap according to Spotrac. Strapped against the salary cap and having already restructured Roethlisberger's deal twice, the Steelers could extend his deal to gain salary cap flexibility while also locking up the 31-year-old Roethlisberger for the remainder of his career.
Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco all signed lucrative extensions this offseason and, while Roethlisberger could receive a new deal soon, he isn't the only quarterback in line for an extension. Here is a closer look at a few extension candidates and what they may receive.
Unrestricted free agent: 2016
If they were in better salary cap standing, the Pittsburgh might wait until after the 2014 season to start working on a deal, but with with very little flexibility and a 2014 cap number approaching $18 million Pittsburgh may have no choice but to extend Roethlisberger.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as an extension should keep Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career. He will likely be 32 by the time he signs his new deal, but that may not prevent him from inking another $100 million deal. At 33, Romo signed a seven-year deal worth close to $120 million and although Jerry Jones won't be involved in Roethlisberger's negotiations, he should still receive a lucrative deal. Having earned over $70 million on his previous deal, Roethlisberger could potentially take the Brady approach and sign a deal for less money, but have the majority of the contract guaranteed like Brady did in his recent three-year $33 million extension.
Unrestricted free agent: 2014
Ryan is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could soon become the highest-paid player in NFL history. Although he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring like Flacco and Rodgers, Ryan has accomplished enough in Atlanta to put him in the discussion of elite quarterbacks. Flacco signed a six-year $120.6 million deal while Rodgers set the NFL record for average annual salary with his five-year $110 million deal. Even if he doesn't top either deal, Ryan will surely top the $100 million club and should approach a deal worth $20 million annually.
Unrestricted free agent: 2016
Stafford has two years remaining on his rookie deal with a club option for the 2015 season. He hasn't had much playoff success, but has racked up passing yards and escalating cap numbers could force Detroit's hand. Stafford will count nearly $21 million against the 2013 salary cap and then more than $19 million in 2014. If the Lions exercise their club option in 2015, Stafford will be on the books for more than $17 million.
More on Stafford's contract:
@sbnfootball FYI: Stafford's '15 contract year automatically voids 2 days after Super Bowl XLIX. It will be $23.184M to franchise him.— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) July 2, 2013
Instead of continuing to tie up a significant portion of their salary cap, the Lions could lower Stafford's upcoming cap hits with a long-term extension. Stafford may not approach the deals Flacco and Rodgers got, but at 25 he's only entering the prime of his career. Instead, he could wind up with a deal similar to the seven-year $98.25 million deal Phillip Rivers signed when he was 27.
Unrestricted free agent: 2015
Unlike the other quarterbacks listed, Kaepernick doesn't have a proven track record of success. Including the playoffs, he's started 10 games in his NFL career, but could be a strong season away from a very lucrative long-term deal. According to the collective bargaining agreement, Kaepernick isn't eligible for an extension until after the 2013 season. If he has similar success over the entire season like he did over the second half of 2012, he could command a massive raise.
Although he would still have less than two seasons of starting experience, he would be 26 and entering the prime of his career. Instead of being a candidate for a massive extension, Kaepernick could take a path similar to Rodgers. Despite being in his first season as a starter, Rodgers signed a six-year $65 million deal in 2008. That would then put Kaepernick in position to sign a second long-term deal before he turns 30 as Rodgers did.