Let’s talk fantasy and reality — and economic reality, too.
Here’s the fantasy: Kirk Cousins will sign with the 49ers next offseason and become the team’s best quarterback since Jeff Garcia.
Is this scenario even realistic? Is there a legitimate chance Cousins will leave the Redskins and sign with the 49ers?
Let’s address the fantasy first.
The Niners absolutely should sign Cousins if he’s available next year. They should sign him in a heartbeat. Sign him even if they have to make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league. This is a fantastic fantasy and a no-brainer.
Why? Because there aren’t many good quarterbacks, and Cousins is one of the good ones, along with about 15 others. That means only half the teams in the NFL have good quarterbacks, while the other half have sub-standard quarterbacks and no chance to win the Super Bowl. Good quarterbacks are that valuable.
In fact, they’re so valuable, they actually are underpaid. They should be making far more money, especially considering how much the league’s revenue and salary cap increase yearly. Here’s a dose of economic reality, which is the real reality in the NFL.
Every year since 2013, the league’s revenue has increased by more than $1 billion and the salary cap has increased by more than $10 million. This year, the cap increased by $12 million. The league is growing rapidly and quarterbacks’ salaries aren’t keeping up with this growth.
Consider Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. He signed a five-year contract extension in 2013 which made him the highest-paid player in the league at the time. But this was a terrible contract for him. I’ll explain.
In 2014, Rodgers earned $17.55 million, or 13.2 percent of the Packers’ salary cap, which was $133 million that year.
In 2015, Rodgers earned $18.25 million, or 12.7 percent of the salary cap, which was $143.28 million that year.
In 2016, Rodgers earned $19.25 million, or 12.4 percent of the salary cap, which was $155.27 million that year.
In 2017, Rodgers will earn $20.3 million, or 12.2 percent of the salary cap, which is $167 million this year.
As you can see, every year Rodgers’ salary increased, but the percentage of the cap that he earned decreased. So, his contract actually lost value over time.
His agent should have demanded the Packers give Rodgers a fixed percentage of the salary cap every year instead of concrete dollar figures. That way, Rodgers’ salary would have increased proportionally with the cap.
I recently asked a prominent NFL agent why he and his colleagues don’t structure contracts this way. He got defensive. “Your premise is wrong,” he said. “That’s what we’re paid to do.” He explained that agents project how much the salary cap will increase yearly and then account for that increase in the players’ salaries.
I pointed out it’s impossible to project exactly how much the cap will grow each year, so why not ask for a fixed percentage of it? This stumped the agent. He said he wasn’t sure if the NFL would allow it. He should find out. That’s what he’s paid to do.