What a Quarterback’s Worth

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

With all of the contract extensions given out this off season to big time quarterbacks, like Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford, Aaron Rodgers  and now Matt Ryan, I decided to compare how much the QBs around the league are worth.   (I didn’t taking the rookie wage scale into account)

Tier 1 – The One man show

Smart, accurate and reliable, these QBs are the reason for their team’s success.  It doesn’t seem to matter if there are pieces in place around them, these guys get the job done. Plus, they’ve each won a Super Bowl.

Tom Brady – Three Super Bowl rings in five appearances, and two MVP awards.  The Patriots team has changed a lot since 2000, but Brady’s been a constant, and has altered his approach to the game on countless occasions.  He makes anyone in his offense more explosive, and whether it’s Randy Moss or Danny Woodhead, his offense has carries the team to the post season.

Aaron Rodgers  – Let’s face it.  Rodgers has never had any semblance of a running game behind him, or a defense to hold his leads.  And he’s never had a truly elite receiver to throw the ball to.  In fact, he rarely has the same group of guys on the field on week to the next.  But no matter who they throw out there, they become superstars thanks to Rodgers’ magic.

Drew Brees – Like with the Packers, it’s hard to know if the Saints have good receivers, or if Drew Brees makes them effective players.  Brees was able to keep most of the team intact during his coach’s suspension last year, and it was the defense, not Brees, that let the Saints down.

On the Bubble — Peyton Manning – Peyton’s a little older than the guys above him, and has a lot more in place.  A strong defense.  Three top receivers.  A young running game.  An established offensive line.  It’s not his fault that he has a lot to work with, and I think that he could still push a team on his own, but for the rest of his career he won’t have to.

Tier 2 – The True Franchise Quarterback

They may not be responsible for 100% of the team’s success (they’re backed by a strong defense or have other weapons to lean on) but are still irreplaceable.

Matt Ryan – This one probably seems a bit out of place because… 1) he’s still pretty young, 2) he hasn’t won it all yet, and 3) he does have some nice offensive weapons to lean on.  But consider this.  Ryan has been given more responsibilities each year, as the Falcons have moved from a physical ground attack led by Michael Turner to an explosive arial assault, which allowed him to lead the team to the NFC Championship game last season.  He rarely shows inconsistencies, never forcing the ball or making outrageous decisions, which allows him to control the tempo of the game almost at will.  Where a lot of the other high profile guys can at times dig themselves a hole, Ryan can work his way out of one that was created for him.  And where other high profile guys can occasionally divide a fan base with shaky play, Ryan is the unquestioned future of the team.  He’s proven that he’s an elite quarterback (the team will never fine a better option in free agency or in the draft), and the team has to lock him up for as long as they can.

On the Bubble — Ben Roethlisberger – Big ben is an extremely underrated QB.  Early in his career he had a good run game and defense to play with, but both have dried up significantly.  The team is still competitive thanks to Roethlisberger, but sometimes they ask him to do too much and his health has suffered because of it.

Tier 3 – Shown success

The next QBs may not look amazing all the time, but have excellent resumes and have played their ways into big contracts.

Eli Manning – Eli has two rings, and that’s all you need to know. The teams always competitive, and he stopwd loading games for his team two or three seasons ago.  Clutch, smart, and a proven track record. Just a few bumps in the road every now and then.

Joe Flacco – I don’t think Flacco’s this good of a QB, and if this list was purely tallent based he’d be much lower, but he did just win a Super Bowl and has made it to the playoffs every season.  Even if he rides his d and ray rice you can’t question sucsess and that’s why he gets payed

On the Bubble — Alex Smith – Smith was benched but led his team to the championship game two years ago, and was a missed field goal from the Super Bowl. A lot of his success was helped by the Niners’ stout defense and his stats aren’t really that flashy, but his passer rating has been fantastic the last 2 seasons. The guy’s in his prime, is more consistent on a game by game basis than the other two in this group, and he did it with no offensive weapons, unlike Eli and Flacco.

Tier 4  – The Stats Without The Results

The crazy statistics don’t match the results, with only two playoff win between them, but their ridiculous upside is definitely worth the risk of over paying.

Matt Stafford – 61 touchdowns and 10,005 yards over the last two seasons and injuries are a thing of the past.  But the Lions have been pretty much irrelevant every year Stafford has lead the team (except for the 2011-12 season), and Calvin Johnson is responsible for a lot of his inflated numbers.

Tony Romo  – Tony Romo’s both the most over scrutinized and overrated quarterback in the NFL.  The Cowboys are usually pretty good, and he gets a lot of unwarranted blame when his team fails.  Bad play calling and questionable defense in usually the culprit.  At the same time, he isn’t a quarterback that can single handedly bring his team to the post season, and at times he tries too hard to do it himself, and forces passes.

Andy Dalton – Similarly to Stafford, Dalton relies heavily on his star receiver AJ Green. His stats aren’t as good as Stafford’s but he’s a smarter game manager and had taken his team to the playoffs in his first two seasons.

Matt Schaub – Schaub is an older version of Dalton but with injury risk.  His success is tied to Andre Johnson and his own health. His team has made the playoffs lately but it took a while to get there and it’s more because his defense finally developed, not because of an improvement he’s made

Andrew Luck – If you were to ask me which of the young QBs would still be in the league in 10, even 5 years, I’d put my money on luck. Obviously not as flashy as the other guys, but He has under rated speed, is smart, fundamentally sound, with good young talent around him and a positive attitude.

On the Bubble — Cam Newton – Newton’s statistics over the last 2 seasons have been remarkable, and unlike most other running QBs in the league his big body makes him durable and a long term option. Even if he slows down he could be an effective passer. The one strike against him is his team hasn’t improved with him on it.

Tier 5 – The Running Quarterback

My Top 40 Quarterback Rankings
My Top 40 Quarterback Rankings

The league is transitioning to a high-speed offense, and guys like this are hot commodities. But even with their resent success, the reason they aren’t higher on this list (and why Cam is higher up) is they have smaller builds and take a beating on a weekly basis, meaning durability is a huge concern.  Plus, it’s impossible to predict how fast a guy will be 5 years down the road, and that’s not something you want to be putting your teams money on.

Russell Wilson – In my mind, Wilson was the best rookie QB last season, and relied on his speed the least. He used his legs when plays broke down, but rarely looked to run right away or had plays design for him to do so.

Robert Griffin III – Griffin’s injury last season hurts his and everyone else’s value in this category. All the designed runs may have did him in, and if you take them out of the equation he’s a lot less confusing to opposing teams.  With that said he still has a great arm and could develop into a pure pocket passer eventually.  His longevity is the main concern.

Colin Kaepernick – Out of the “rookie” QBs from last season, Kaepernick had the most to work with.  He inherited a really good offensive system and one of the best defenses in the league.  And out of the running QBs he still probably has the most to learn in terms of being a team leader and managing the game efficiently.

On the Bubble — Mike Vick  – Vick has had ups and downs throughout his career.  Even though he brings a lot of uncertainty to a team, he still has a lot of speed and a strong arm at his disposal.  Combine that with veteran leadership and you get something the younger running QBs don’t yet possess.

Tier 6 – Haven’t Made It In a While

They were once considered elite quarterbacks, but over the last few year’s they’ve struggled to get anything done.  Teams hope that they’ll return to greatness, but in some cases it’s only downhill from here.

Philip Rivers – Once Rivers took over the starting job in San Diego he was one of the highest rated passers in the league, and as a result the Chargers consistently made it to the playoffs.  But the team has struggled the last few seasons, and Rivers has turned the ball over than most others in the league.

Jay Cutler – If you were to take every quarter back in the league and evaluate them based off the 5 greatest passes they’ve ever thrown, Cutler would probably rank number one.  There are times when you watch Cutler and he just looks like the best quarterback in the league.  But injuries, leadership concerns, and bad decision making have capped his potential.

Carson Palmer – He’s old.  There isn’t really much more to say than that.  Since his Cincinnati days Palmer has been inconsistent at best and is clearly at the tail end of his career, looking at a Matt Hasselbeck typed role for the future.

Matt Cassel – He had a really good season in New England and another in Kansas City, when he took the Chiefs to the playoffs.  The other years were below average, but the struggles could be attributed to something else, offensive line play, bad play calling, injuries to running backs, receivers and himself.  That’s why I feel that his numbers could improve if you inserted him into an established offensive system.

Kyle Orton – Orton was an above average QB for the Bears and then the Broncos, and going into the 2011 season he was a hot trade target.  Then after 4 games he fell off the face of the earth, taking a back seat to Tebowmania.  He’s one of the most qualified backup in the league, and could be inserted into a starting role pretty easily.

On the Bubble — Josh Freeman – For the record, I would probably take Freeman over Orton and Castle, but he’s never made the playoffs, even with an increased amount of help around him.  Once a top prospect, his window of opportunity to become a true franchise QB is shrinking.

Tier 7 – The Prospects

The jury’s still out.  These players haven’t had the most success in their time with the league, but still have the potential to become effective down the road.

Christian Ponder – Ponder rode Adrian Peterson to a playoff appearance but his success seems capped.  There were weeks were it looked like he was developing into a starting QB, and others where rookie mistakes got the best of him.

Jake Locker – Out of the young, non-running quarterbacks in the league not named Andre Luck, Locker has the most advanced arm and has shown some leadership traits.

Matt Flynn – Probably the QB we’ve seen the least of, Matt Flynn has shined in his few NFL starts, but has never been able to capture a starting job.

Sam Bradford – Bradford hasn’t shown much improvement at all in his first few seasons, but also hasn’t had much help.

Ryan Tannehill – Tannehill showcased strength and good decision-making, but didn’t look like an impact player in his first season.

EJ Manuel – The only incoming rookie to make the top 32 on my list, and it’s really because the Bills have faith in him.  EJ wasn’t part of the most exciting offensive system at FSU, but is a true leader on the field.

Kirk Cousins – Cousins made a name for himself when filling in for RG3 last year, and could be an asset for the Redskins either as a backup or as a trade chip in the next year or two.

On the Bubble –Mark Sanchez – Sanchez has looked more like a backup each year in the league.  Most franchises would prefer to take a chance with one of the guys above him, but there is still the chance that in the right system, and with the right pieces around him, Sanchez could be a valuable starter.

On the Bubble — Brandon Weedon – In his second season in the NFL, Weedon might already be on the downswing of his careen.  There is a chance that with one year under his belt he’ll adjust to the league and make a noticeable improvement, but it’s more likely that the Brown’s will be looking for a new QB come the next offseason.

Tier 8 – The Back Up Quarterback

Their potential has already peaked.  They can work as a fill in for a minor injury, but although they can get the job done in stretches you would never want to rely on them for the long term.

Matt Hasselbeck

Matt Moore

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Kevin Kolb

Chad Henne

Jason Campbell

Chase Daniels

Shaun Hill

Bruce Gradkowski

David Carr

Tarvaris Jackson

On the Bubble — Brady Quinn

On the Bubble  Matt Leinart

Tier 9 – Project Players

Developing QBs that are a work in progress.  They have high potential but also have fundamental flaws that need to be addressed before they see the field on a regular basis.

Tim Tebow

Geno Smith

Terrelle Pryor

Matt Barkley

Nick Foles

Tyrod Taylor

Brock Osweiler

Ryan Mallet

Colt McCoy

Mark Glennon

T.J. Yates

Josh Johnson

Tyler Wilson

Blaine Gabbert

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