Pro Football Focus put together a list of the five worst quarterback contracts in the NFL. If you expected at least one Philadelphia Eagles passer to be on the list, you'll be surprised to learn that neither Sam Bradford nor Chase Daniel made it. Two other NFC East quarterbacks did, however!
Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys checks in as the third worst quarterback contract.
Years remaining: Four
Average remaining cap hit (per year): $23.6 million
Year he can realistically be cut: 2018
This is another case of a good-but-not-elite quarterback getting paid like an elite signal-caller. The situation is worse now that Romo is 36, coming off a season full of injury and bad play, and is under contract for another four years.
In six of the last seven games Romo has played in, he’s graded very close to average, and in his most recent game against the Panthers, he was on pace for one of the worst games in the PFF era in just 22 dropbacks. In 2015, even when Romo wasn’t under pressure, he only recorded an NFL QB rating of 93.2, his lowest in the PFF era (since 2007). Romo is one of eight quarterbacks who has a cap hit above $20 million in 2016; in order for him to live up to his contract this next season, he would need to be just as good, if not better, than he’s been in recent years. It’s unlikely that a quarterback coming off an injury-filled season at his age will produce the best season of his career. Realistically, Romo will be overpaid for the next two years, and then the Cowboys could let him go in 2018 or 2019 if his performance declines.
As PFF notes, Romo is showing signs of decline and he's not getting any younger. It remains to be seen if he can stay healthy. Romo's uncertain status is a big reason to be skeptical of the Cowboys dramatically improving in 2016. They'll probably be better than the four win team they were last year, but they're hardly a juggernaut just because they're getting Romo back.
Even the Cowboys realize Romo's reign is coming to an end. Dallas reportedly wanted to take Carson Wentz if he fell to the No. 4 overall pick. The Cowboys also tried to make efforts to trade up for Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook but failed on both attempts. Instead, they ended up drafting Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Dallas very well might have blown their chance to get a viable replacement option for Romo.
Elsewhere in the NFC East is the quarterback with the worst contract in the NFL: Eli Manning of the New York Giants.
Years remaining: Four
Average remaining cap hit (per year): $22.3 million
Year he can realistically be cut: 2019
At his best, Eli Manning was one of the top quarterbacks in the game, but the time where Manning’s play was elite didn’t last long. In 2011, he was the third-best quarterback in the NFL when you include the playoffs, but his PFF passing grade has been in decline every season since that point. In 2015, Manning recorded an overall PFF grade of 67.4, good for 26th-best out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks. At his best, the Giant was one of the best quarterbacks against pressure, but per Neil Hornsby, Manning has recently declined. He only had an NFL passer rating of 78.3 when under pressure in 2015, and it was even lower in 2014, at 65.4.
Prior to the 2015 season, the Giants gave Manning a four-year extension, which puts him among the top five quarterbacks in average cap hit per year. At that point, he was only playing like an average quarterback. They paid him like a top-tier QB, which looked more like a reward for him leading the team to two Super Bowl wins than paying him for what they expect him to do in future years. Because of that, the Giants are stuck with Manning for at least three more seasons, or will face a higher cap hit than cap savings if they cut him. Manning is 35, and if he continues on the path he’s on, he could become one of the NFL’s worst starting quarterbacks while getting paid like one of the best.
Unlike Romo, Manning is incredibly durable. He hasn't not played a full season since he was a rookie all the way back in 2004. Unfortunately for the Giants' sake, durability hasn't translated to much success in recent years. Manning is 28-36 as a starter since winning his second career Super Bowl. The Eagles have especially owned the Giants in recent years. Philadelphia is 13-3 in their last 16 games against Manning.
Like the Cowboys, the Giants have no real quarterback succession plan. So while Dallas and New York are potentially stuck overpaying aging, past-their-prime quarterbacks, the Eagles might have a bargain in Carson Wentz. Philadelphia's quarterback's rookie contract will remain cap friendly until at least when he's first eligible for an extension before the 2019 season.
There's a case to be made Kirk Cousins deserves to be on the list of worst quarterback contracts. Washington's starter is due nearly $20 million this season as he's set to play on the franchise tag. Note that Cousins is 0-6 all-time versus teams with winning records and 1-8 against teams with eight wins or more.
The thing that saves Cousins from making this list is that his tag is only one year long. If Washington doesn't sign him to an extension, they can move on from his after this season. This kind of reasoning also probably explains why Bradford and Daniel aren't on the list. Bradford can easily be cut or traded next offseason. The Eagles can't really cut Daniel after this offseason, but trading him would save $6 million and only cost $2 million in dead money.