NFL salaries: Pay for play, pay to stay or pay and pray?

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Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford has a massive NFL contract but the Detroit Lions quarterback has yet to lead his team to a playoff victory (Photo: Parker Waters).

It was a stunning tweet.

It is not that we should have been surprised.

We are privy to the salaries paid out to professional athletes on a daily basis. Such information is very easy to obtain and is reported frequently.

Still, when I saw the tweet from Fox Sports, it was stunning.


For those who complain about the money Drew Brees makes as the fifth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, seeing the fact that the four highest paid players in the league are all quarterbacks is one thing.

It is a totally different thing to see that none of the four have ever quarterbacked a team to a playoff victory.

In the age of the salary cap, it is incumbent upon teams to make tough decisions, to make shrewd evaluations of how to analyze not only the player and his future but how to structure contracts to make the deals team-friendly with regard to the future and cap hits incurred.

Kirk Cousins has six years and 57 starts to his credit. He was with an average to mediocre team in Washington. He was 0-1 in the playoffs as a starter with the Redskins. He is now with a very good team, a team with a real chance to go to and win the Super Bowl in Minnesota. Perhaps now we will see how good he really is.

Jimmy Garoppolo is just getting started with the 49ers. Clearly, he has never been in the playoffs – other than standing on the sideline with the Patriots. He has just seven starts in the NFL and has not lost a game. You are unquestionably paying it forward on potential with the 26-year-old.

Matthew Stafford is perhaps the most perplexing.

He has never been on a very good team in Detroit, though the Lions have had good players and have been decent to solid in a given year. Stafford is 0-3 as a starter in playoff games for Detroit and he is entering his 10th year in the league. He is a talented player. Is he really that guy or worth that kind of investment?

Derek Carr is entering his fifth year in the NFL.

He is 26 and now will have a new head coach in Jon Gruden. Soon, the Raiders will have a new location as well and Carr figures to be the face of the new franchise. He has three Pro Bowl appearances in four seasons. Considering those elements, the investment is understandable.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, feel fortunate to have Brees at the price he comes with, even at this stage of his career. The Saints and Brees structured a team-friendly deal. If Brees remains very productive in 2018, he will no doubt return in 2019. If he slips, falls off, the deal allows for wiggle room on both sides.

Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger have proven themselves continuously. They have the skins on the wall and deserve every penny they are paid, getting paid for performance. In the case of Stafford and Carr, they are getting paid to stay where they are. In the case of Garoppolo and Cousins, there is the massive investment on potential, followed by a prayer that it works out.

If you are New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh or New Orleans, be thankful for your quarterbacks and the deals they operate on. In the world of free enterprise and consumerism, you are getting bargains.

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Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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