A Rational Marketplace?

There was plenty of “action” over the weekend in the world of NFL contracts and signings.  The deadline for applying “franchise tags” and “transition tags” is almost upon us but two QB signings over the weekend should have interesting repercussions around the league.  Yes, I know that QBs get too much credit for winning games and that they attract more attention than makes sense given that football is the ultimate team game.  Nevertheless, success in the NFL is far more tied to “having a good QB” than it is to “having a bad QB”.

The two signings I am referring to are:

  1. Geno Smith re-signs with the Seahawks for 3 years and $105M
  2. Derek Carr signs with the Saints for 4 years and $150M

Smith’s situation tells me that the “marketplace” for QBs in 2023 is what economists might call “rational”.  In 2022, Geno Smith had – by far – the best season of his career.; he was voted Comeback Player of the Year..  Smith came into the NFL in 2013 and in the ten years since then, he earned approximately $18M total as a backup/stopgap QB.  Starting in 2023, he will make an average of $35M per year or almost twice in one season what he made in the previous 10 years – – and I said that was “rational”.  Here’s why:

  • Smith will be 33 years old in October.  This contract is only 3 years long; there is flexibility for both sides.  If 2022 was a huge anomaly in Smith’s career, the Seahawks are not going to be severely burdened by this contract for the long haul.  And if Smith is truly a “late-bloomer” who really has 7 or 8 top-shelf years ahead of him, he gets another shot at free agency at the end of the 2025 season.
  • I have not found any report with the contract details as yet, so I do not know what the guaranteed money is or any of those nuances.  But in terms of the average salary in the deal, Geno Smith will make a little more than Kirk Cousins and a little less than Derek Carr on an annualized basis.  Looking only at last year, that may be a bargain for the Seahawks; looking his 10-year career, that is a bonanza for Geno Smith.
  • And as a bonus for the decision makers in Seattle, re-signing Geno Smith means they do not have to go on a frantic QB search over the next 10 weeks.  They have a guy signed to the roster who “knows the system” and who “fits the system” in Seattle.
  • Both sides win = “rational marketplace”.

The Darek Carr/New Orleans Saints deal is also “rational”.  Carr was released by the Raiders about a month ago; and as a free agent, he had the ability to pick the team he wanted to join at something less than a frenetic pace.  There were – – and still are – – QB-needy teams out there but Carr and his agent had the time to make their own decision(s) absent pressures and time deadlines.  Derek Carr will take an average annual pay cut in this deal; with the Raiders he was making just over $40M per year; with the Saints he will make $37.5M per year.  [Aside:  Cry me a river…]

  • This is a good deal for the Saints because Derek Carr is a better QB in 2023 than the other guys on the Saints roster (Andy Dalton, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston).  The team is not paying a top-shelf price for Carr and the length of the deal makes it such that the deal is done when Carr is about to turn 37 years old.
  • Given the players currently signed to the rosters of the other NFC South teams, Derek Carr is clearly the best QB in the division.  That means this deal makes sense for the Saints and for Carr.
  • Both sides win = “rational marketplace”.

The Derek Carr signing does, however, put the spotlight on the Las Vegas Raiders’ braintrust.  They need to get themselves a QB who will perform for them in 2023 at a level above the way Derek Carr plays for the Saints.  They need to accomplish that acquisition for more than just the obvious reason that they want to improve the team.  Consider:

  • A year ago, they signed Carr to a contract extension.  They chose to do that; he was not a free agent.  In that deal that they negotiated, they gave Carr a full no-trade clause and they timed a huge roster bonus in the deal to mid-February of 2023.
  • Once they decided that Carr was not “their guy” for the long-term, they had no choice but to release him once he made it clear that he would not waive his no-trade clause.
  • Raiders’ fans may have a dim view of Derek Carr, but the reality is that the team will get a compensatory pick – possibly in the late 4th round – for Carr this year and that is prima facie evidence that the Raiders’ braintrust wasted an asset.

And since I am on the subject of “signing QBs” today, let me throw a bizarre thought out there.  The Ravens and Lamar Jackson have been at a contract impasse for about a year now.  Some commentators say that the Ravens lack some leverage in those talks because they have built an offense that is designed around Jackson’s specific skill set as a “running QB” and would need to do major overhaul work were they to try to – or have to – replace him with a “pocket passer”.  Let me assume that those commentators have drawn a reasonable conclusion there.

The Bears need help in just about every part of the team; they have the overall #1 pick this year but there is no single player that is going to yank the Bears out of the situation they find themselves in today.  [Aside:  I checked; Bruce Banner has not entered the NFL Draft list.]  Moreover, the Bears reportedly have “about $100M in cap space” this year.  So … if the Bears would be amenable to meeting Lamar Jackson’s contract demands might it be a good idea to trade Lamar Jackson to the Bears for Justin Fields even up.

  • The Ravens get a “running QB” to work into their system that is geared to that skill set.
  • The Bears get the best QB they have had on their roster for at least the last 35 years and perhaps for the last 70 years – – AND – – then the Bears could trade back that overall #1 pick more than once to acquire players that can patch some glaring holes in the team roster.

OK, now that I have that out there, let me go and adjust my medication levels…

Finally, since I have spent today on rational marketplaces and economics in football, let me close with this observation from Stan Kroenke – – owner of the LA Rams:

“Economics is about creating win-win situations.  But in sports, someone loses.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “A Rational Marketplace?”

  1. Before 2022, the Raider braintrust shrugged and said something like “Things just didn’t work out to find offensive linemen; we’ll see what happens.” Well, Raider fans saw what happened. It wasn’t pretty.

    Now, I am getting the same vibe in relation to 2023 QB shopping. Which tells me the team will opt for the unadvised path again. That translates to taking Mr. Glass Jimmy Garoppolo?

    1. TenaciousP:

      Timing is important here for the Raiders’ franchise. If Jimmy G were to sign elsewhere this evening – – pick a team, any team – – then the Raiders would have to go hard for Aaron Rodgers AND pay whatever price the Packers might want to extract for him in a trade. Because the way I read the list of free agent QBs, Jimmy G and Aaron Rodgers are the only ones who are equal to or better than Derek Carr. The Raiders need to get busy while there is still a “Plan B” out there.

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