Brock Purdy is currently the top-rated quarterback in the NFL. He is coming off a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where he had a perfect quarterback rating, the first ever San Francisco 49er to register such an achievement when throwing over 20 passes. That includes Hall of Famer Steve Young and arguably the greatest of all time, Joe Montana. Last week Purdy sealed a win against the stubborn Seattle Seahawks with a perfectly thrown 28-yard touchdown pass into the teeth of the Seattle secondary. “I couldn’t believe he was throwing it,” said his coach, Kyle Shanahan. “He has ice in his veins”, offered star running back Christian McCaffrey. And Brock Purdy is making $860,000 this year under his player contract negotiated when he now famously was the last player picked in the NFL draft two years ago.
I wrote previously that if Brock Purdy keeps up his level of performance that following this season the 49ers should voluntarily tear up the remaining two years on his contract since other starting quarterbacks in the league were making from $12 million to $50 million per year. At the end of that two year period his market value for his next agreement would be clear from his history of performance. As this season winds down and the 49ers firmly atop the NFC West, Purdy has already made the case for himself.
Joe Burrow’s contract averages $55 million per year and he is out for the season. At the time of his injury Burrow’s QB rating was far below Purdy’s. Injustice of all injustices!
In light of this, the most progressive thing to do is for the NFL to overhaul the entire system of how QBs are compensated. The reason is that the quarterback position is the single most important position on the team that determines the difference between winning and losing. Without a doubt, every position is important and even a great quarterback can’t win without a top-notch defense, a good offensive line and a steady running game. However, the quarterback position is far and away the most important difference maker in winning games in the NFL because the quarterback is called upon to make the most important decisions critical to winning and losing games and he must execute on those decisions. The market value for NFL QBs reflect this.
Consequently, the most equitable way to treat compensation for quarterbacks is on the basis of performance. Each QB should receive a certain base level of compensation determined by the round in which he is drafted. Such market value is determined by potential but that is only the beginning. After that, only his performance should trigger additional compensation. For example, if you are a starting quarterback, he should receive a pro rata share of what the average starting QB makes per game. If the average starting QB salary is $20 million and there are 17 regular season games, then if you start a game he should receive roughly $1.2 million per game started. The QB should then be eligible for additional bonuses for QB ratings, playoff games, and All NFL honors. The result would be that the top rated and winningest QBs would be the best compensated. Using round numbers here is how a top quarterback could get to that number:
- Draft Round Sliding Scale: 1st round choice from top of round to bottom between $5-10 million per year for length of the agreement
- Per Game Playing Bonus: $100,000 per quarter: If the QB played all 17 games and all quarters that would amount to another $6.8 million.
- Quarterback Rating: Each week the QB is from 1- 10 in QB rating additional compensation is award. For each week at #1 rating it would be an additional $1M in compensation going down 10% for each rank lower with $100,000 for #10 in the ratings.
- Playoffs and Super Bowl Win: The wildcard game should be awarded Per Game Playing Bonus as outlined above. The Division Playoff should be awarded double per game playing bonus. If a QB wins the Conference Championship there should be a $5M bonus. If the QB wins the Super Bowl there should be a $10 million bonus.
- All NFL Selection: If the QB is First team All NFL and his compensation is below the top compensated QB, his salary shall automatically be adjusted to match that top salary.
Theoretically, here’s how it could work. Let’s say our QB was the #1 pick in the draft so he would receive $10 million guaranteed. If he played in 17 games and played all quarters then he would be entitled to another $6.8 million. If our QB averaged #5 in the QB rankings for the season he would receive an additional $8.5 million and if he was in the playoffs and won the Conference Championship he would receive approximately $6M. If he goes on to win the Super Bowl tack on another $10M.
The grand total for all this performance base compensation would be around $41 million but that includes winning the Super Bowl. This would still be well below Burrow’s $55 million salary. The saving grace would be if the QB was also All NFL which would automatically trigger salary matching at the highest level.
While this proposed system may not be perfect it is thought starter for how to create. However, a system like this will extinguish all inequities and crazy negotiations because all compensation will be based on performance. Since the NFL is the only major sports organization that does not guarantee contracts and the average career of an NFL QB is under 4.5 years it is even more imperative to adopt this change. In every other industry, compensation is based upon merit. The NFL should be no exception particularly when compensating the QB, which is like the CEO of the team.