Sean Pendergast

Which NFL QB Is Next to Get the Deshaun Watson Deal?

The gap is closing between new NFL quarterback contracts and Deshaun Watson's $230 million deal.
The gap is closing between new NFL quarterback contracts and Deshaun Watson's $230 million deal. Photo by Eric Sauceda
Over the last five years, it's become standard procedure for at least one quarterback, three seasons into his rookie deal, to get a market setting (or near market setting) contract extension. In the summer of 2019, 2016 rookies Jared Goff and Carson Wentz got paid. Ditto Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in the summer of 2020. The following year it was Josh Allen, followed by Kyler Murray last summer.

Keep in mind that Deshaun Watson's contract was completely torn up and redone by the Cleveland Browns when Watson was traded to Cleveland in March of last year, a market shattering $230 million, fully guaranteed deal that infuriated other NFL owners (not to mention, women's groups everywhere).

That brings us to this summer's contract extensions, of which we expect at least three. The first one landed on Monday, and it arrived for a player for whom no one would have expected before the 2022 season starters. Philadelphia Eagles QB (and Channelview native) Jalen Hurts inked a five-year, $255 million extension, with a non-Watson record $179 million guaranteed.

That's kind of how it's gone since Watson got his deal with the Browns. Every extension that's happened since then has operated on a separate grid, in a separate contractual university. After Watson's $230 million deal. Murray got $159 million guaranteed, which topped Aaron Rodgers $150 million. Russell Wilson got $161 million shortly after Murray signed his deal. Now comes Hurts and his $179 million.

These quarterbacks have all conceded that Watson's deal is a complete outlier, a bloated pile of money given in desperation by a wayward franchise in Cleveland. So they continue to one up each other, and inch closer to Watson's magical $230 million figure. The exception is Lamar Jackson, who has decided to chase Watson's guaranteed amount, with zero success in doing so.

So with $179 million as the standing figure atop the non-Watson quarterbacks, this begs the question — who will be the QB to finally catch the pack up to Watson and unify the bar set atop the quarterback market? There are a few candidates:

I group these two together, because either one of them should be the next big extension to pop, and it could come any day now. If both are of the mind to just take the next contract in line with everybody not named Watson, then it's likely neither tops Watson's $230 million guaranteed. It would be interesting to see Burrow dig in the way Jackson has, as Burrow is the one guy with a resume who might deserve it, having taken a sad sack of a franchise to a Super Bowl and an AFC Title Game the last two seasons.

As I mentioned earlier, Jackson's goal is to get Watson's guaranteed amount. The problem for Jackson is that he has now entered the stage of a running quarterbacks career where injuries stack up. I'm not sure what happened with Jackson, but the thing I am most certain of — he will NEVER get $230 million guaranteed.

Lawrence finally started reaching his immense potential over the second half of last season, where he took a Jacksonville team that started the year 2-6, and got them to 9-8 and a division crown. Lawrence led a comeback from down 27-0 to the Chargers in a playoff game, and nearly toppled the Chiefs in the divisional round. In other words, if Lawrence's progression continues, then he will be in line for an extension next summer. By then, the going rate is probably hovering near $200 million, but not close enough to $230 million to get over the top.

I feel that we need to mention Mahomes in this article for the sole reason that he is superior to every player we are discussing here. So why not him? Well, because Mahomes has a very unique contract with Kansas City that guarantees his money a year ahead of each season. I don't know that Mahomes ever ends up doing a conventional contract like all these other names here, so for now, he exists in his own world.

Yeah, I know, he hasn't played a snap in the league yet, but three years will go by before you know it, and Young is clearly the most highly acclaimed rookie coming into the league this year. By the time it's time to extend him (or any other 2023 rookie, it'll be the summer of 2026, and the Watson rate of $230 million guaranteed will likely be right there for the taking.

Of course, by then, Watson's deal will almost be up, so who knows? Maybe the player to shatter the Watson $230 million barrier is actually Watson himself on his next contract. The NFL financial environment is bananas.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast