Which quarterback will be the first to get to $60 million?

In two years, the market has gone from $46 million (Deshaun Watson) to $51 million (Jalen Hurts) to $55 million (Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence). Inevitably, a quarterback will get to $60 million per year in new-money average.

Who will it be? Rich Eisen asked that question recently. I threw out a couple of possible names. I’ve since had a chance to go team by team and to compile a full list of possibilities.

In the end, it’s going to be a product of negotiations and circumstances. More than one of the names listed below could get to $60 million. For now, the question is who gets there first?

Here they are, listed in a loose hierarchy of most likely to least likely. For anyone who isn’t on the list, it’s not just unlikely — it’s likely impossible.

Dak Prescott, Cowboys: He’s currently in the best position to get a contract that starts with a 6. Between the growth of the market, the ongoing increases to the salary cap, and the leverage that comes from the final year of the contract that the Cowboys waited too long to give him, Prescott can basically name his price. Why wouldn’t that price be $60 million per year?

Jordan Love, Packers: The Packers and Love are working on a new contract. With $11 million in cash due for 2024, a five-year, $300 million extension would have a new-money average of $60 million — and a total-money average of $51.83 million over six years. With no owner diverting profits to superyacht construction or maintenance, the Packers can reinvest all profits in their football operations. If they’re truly sold on Love (and if they can construct the contract to give them an out after two or three years), it wouldn’t be a shock if he gets to $60 million first.

Matthew Stafford, Rams: He originally wanted a new contract in order to have fully-guaranteed money beyond 2024. Now that the guy he beat in a Super Bowl is at $55 million (Burrow), a guy who has never been past the divisional round is at $55 million (Lawrence), and the guy the Rams gave up a first-round pick to get off their books is at $53 million (Jared Goff), why shouldn’t Stafford want $60 million?

With $94 million owed to Stafford over the next three years, a three-year, $180 million extension would get him to $60 million per year in new money — at a total six-year average of only $45.66 million.

Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins: He wants a market-level deal. The Dolphins haven’t offered one yet. Whatever they put on the table, it surely won’t reach $60 million per year. At very best, he’d get something like $55.1 million, nudging the current bar up by just a little bit.

That said, don’t discount the possibility of a fugazi back-end year or two that artificially drives up the average. The Dolphins already did that with Tyreek Hill, getting his latest contract from a true $25 million to a phony $30 million per year in new money. If Tua wants to be able to tell the world he got $60 million, there’s a way to get there without actually going there.

Brock Purdy, 49ers: He’s not eligible for a new contract until after the end of the 2024 regular season. If no one else has gotten to $60 million by then, could he? For Purdy, having $1.1 million in 2025 salary makes it easier to pump up the new-money average. A five-year, $300 million extension translates to a six-year, $301.1 million contract with an average value from signing of $50.18 million.

That still seems like much more than the 49ers would want to pay.

C.J. Stroud, Texans: The window for a new Stroud deal opens after the conclusion of the 2025 regular season. If no one else gets to $60 million by then, Stroud likely will. He’d have $1.145 million for 2026 and the fifth-year option for 2027. A five-year extension at $60 million would entail another much lower total payout at signing.

Josh Allen, Bills: With each new quarterback contract, Allen’s six-year, $258.3 million extension becomes more glaring. He has a new-money average of $43.05 million. Thus, one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL isn’t even in the top 10 in new-money average.

He has four years left on his current contract, at a total payout after 2024 of $156.05 million. That’s an average of $39 million per year on the back end of his current deal. The Bills might not want to hear this, especially with upcoming cap charges of $60.7 million, $56.4 million, $49.4 million, and $45.7 million, but Allen is underpaid. He should want a new deal. He should get a new deal. If his agents are currently rattling the cage behind the scenes, he could be the first to $60 million.

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: Mahomes did an ultra-long-term deal at $45 million per year in new money. The contract ties him to the Chiefs through 2031 (possibly their first season in Kansas) and relies on the willingness of the organization to move money around in order to ensure that the player with the most value in the NFL feels like he’s being treated fairly. Last year, for example, the Chiefs reshuffled the financial deck after the Burrow deal was done to give Mahomes cash flow of $52 million per year from 2023 through 2026.

The Chiefs hope to keep doing that, every few years. At some point, a new deal will be needed. If that were happening now, he’d surely get to $60 million per year in new money — especially since he’s worth far more than that to the Chiefs, and to the league at large.

Lamar Jackson, Ravens: From the player with the most value to the league to the league’s defending Most Valuable Player. He’s only one season into his current contract. It’s highly unlikely that the Ravens would even consider giving him a new one now. Still, at some level, Lamar Jackson might be looking at the ongoing growth of the market and wondering what’s wrong with this picture?

Consider this wrinkle. If the Ravens had given Jackson a market-level deal after 2020 (and not after 2022), he’d be three years into his second deal and, riding last year’s MVP award, in position to ask for an extension. That logic could prompt him to ask for one now.

At this point, there’s no reason to think Jackson wants to revisit his contract. If he unexpectedly decides to take a stand, he could potentially emerge from a training-camp holdout as the first $60 million quarterback.

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