Ranking the 10 most valuable quarterbacks in 2019
Who are the most valuable quarterbacks in 2019? To answer that question, I looked at both performance (or projected performance) and the salary commitment for the team. Getting great play out of a quarterback with the highest salary in the league is good. Getting great play out of a quarterback who is paid like many backups is way better. Here are my choices for the best quarterback values based on both contract and performance.
10) Philip Rivers, Chargers
Philip Rivers is getting just over $20 million per year with the Chargers. The four guys just in front of him in annual salary average are Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Nick Foles. That list of names is a good illustration of why Rivers makes this list. Even at 37, he’s still among the best eight or so quarterbacks in the league and has consistently been an underrated performer in the league. Last season he passed for 32 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions while leading the Chargers to a 12-4 season.
9) Andrew Luck, Colts
Andrew Luck rebounded from missing the 2017 season with a shoulder injury, and came on strong at the end of 2018. He passed for 4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns, and just 15 interceptions while returning to the playoffs. He is getting paid $24.5 million per year, which isn’t cheap, but it puts him at only 10th among quarterbacks this season. I would take him as being well inside the top 10 for the upcoming season and think we will see continued improvement two years removed from his surgery.
8) Baker Mayfield, Browns
Baker Mayfield already had a productive rookie year, and as we see with the rookie wage scale, it’s hard to beat a good starting quarterback on that rookie deal before the big price tag comes in. Cleveland now has two to three years to take advantage of that value. Mayfield is making just over $8 million per year as the top overall pick, and if he progresses from last season, expect him to challenge becoming a Pro Bowler in 2019, even if his coach is trying to downplay expectations.
7) Dak Prescott, Cowboys
I hesitantly put Dak Prescott on this list, but I suspect that he may actually go from a great value for the Cowboys to a bad one depending on the terms of an upcoming deal. Prescott has been the most underpaid quarterback for the last three years, playing on a four-year, $2.7 million total contract as a fourth-round pick. 2019 is the final year of the deal, and there is no fifth-year option because he was not a first-round pick. The problem with quarterback salaries is there is no middle class. Guys are either signing deals for well over $20 million, or they are signing backup contracts or playing on rookie deals. Prescott would be the perfect candidate for a middle class deal below $20 million but closer to $15 million, but it probably won’t work out that way. As the last three years have shown, when Dallas went 32-16 with Prescott starting, if you get great value at QB and get a good starter for cheap you can have a better team around them.
6) Jared Goff, Rams
The Rams will have an interesting Jared Goff decision when it comes to his value and what they want to do long-term, but that decision is a year away. For now, with his salary just under $7 million that puts him outside the 20 highest-paid quarterbacks, he is a great value as the facilitator in an explosive offense. In Sean McVay’s offense, he has averaged over 8 yards per pass and has an impressive 60 touchdowns versus only 19 interceptions over the last two years.
5) Carson Wentz, Eagles
Carson Wentz is coming off a myriad of injuries that have cost him games over the last two seasons, but if he can play the majority of games in 2019, he will be a major value. For this year, he’s 24th in average salary at under $7 million. He was an MVP candidate two years ago, and even last year with his injuries and criticism of his play, he was at a career-high 7.7 yards per attempt.
4) Drew Brees, Saints
Like Tom Brady, Brees is on a relatively team-friendly deal in his late thirties, and is thriving as the team has put the best offensive group of his career around him. Brees is getting $25 million for 2019, which puts him equal with Derek Carr, and just ahead of guys like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning in yearly salary. I’d say he’s worth all of that.
3) Deshaun Watson, Texans
Deshaun Watson may have been outshone by the emergence of Patrick Mahomes, so it’s easy to forget just how valuable he is. He is getting paid less than $4 million per year, which qualifies as high-end backup money in the NFL. He is the versatile threat who can both run and pass, and he will be a year removed from his knee injury, so expect great things in 2019. For his career, the Texans are 14-8 when he starts (and 1-9 in 2017 when he did not), and he averages 8.3 yards per attempt.
2) Tom Brady, Patriots
I know it gets old to say it, but Tom Brady taking relative below-market average deals to stay with the Patriots year after year gives them an advantage. His $15 million per year extension he signed prior to last season makes him the 18th-highest paid QB by yearly average entering the 2019 season. It’s also not lengthy, so the Patriots are not committed to a huge number in the future if he should falter. That savings compared to other quarterbacks getting nearly double that per year means the Patriots can buy an extra elite player elsewhere, or multiple good starters.
1) Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
Yes, the 2019 MVP is also the most valuable quarterback. Big news, huh? But the gap is really big between Mahomes and the rest of the league when it comes to value, and Kansas City needs to take advantage the next two seasons. Mahomes is making $4.1 million per year on average through the 2020 season. When you can get historic numbers while paying a quarterback less per year than Tyrod Taylor, Chase Daniel, and Ryan Fitzpatrick recently signed to be backups or caretaker starters, you know you are getting a great deal. The next question is: just how much will he make on his next contract? The estimates are astounding.