Breaking down QB contracts

As the four players at the most important position on the field this weekend, the quarterbacks are the featured players on the big stage. With that in mind, I thought I’d look at their “business,” with some observations about their contracts past, present and future. Two of the deals were done prior to the season (one for the 23-year-old and one for the 40-year-old), one was renegotiated early in the season to provide cap relief to the team, and one still exists from 2004 but will be renegotiated soon for numbers that will certainly be staggering.

Brett Favre

Let’s start with respecting the elder statesman. As you may have heard, Favre wanted to join the Minnesota Vikings 18 months ago when he was told the Packers had moved on. The Packers controlled his rights and would not let that happen, so he cooled his heels with the Jets for a season before being set free in March to pursue his desired team.

Finally, Brett signed a two-year deal in August for salaries of $12 million in 2009 and $13 million in 2010. Nothing is or was guaranteed, although his contract effectively became guaranteed the afternoon he signed when he walked on the practice field (he would obviously be paid if injured). Interesting, these two salaries were the salaries of the Packers contract he signed in 2001 a year removed, meaning he was to make them in 2008 and 2009 instead of 2009 and 2010. Nevertheless, Brett made his $12M for the season – the same amount he made with the Jets in 2008 -- with his next paycheck from the Vikings due in September should he still be there.

Peyton Manning

Manning signed a contract with the Colts in 2004 that had the league buzzing at the time. With $34.5M guaranteed on a seven-year, $99.2M deal, the contract still ranks among the top seven guaranteed amounts in the league five years later, behind only these:

Matthew Stafford $41.7M
Albert Haynesworth $41M
DeMarcus Ware $40M
Philip Rivers $38M
Terrell Suggs $38M
Eli Manning $35M

With one year left on that deal, it would be a major surprise if Manning is still playing under it when training camp opens next summer -- CBA or no CBA, cap or no cap, possible 2011 lockout or not. In fact, Colts owner Jim Irsay is on record saying he will address the deal. When he does, the numbers will fly off the page in what will be the largest contract in terms of guarantee and total value ever in professional football.

Drew Brees

Brees was a free agent for the taking in 2006. Coming off a labrum injury, many teams shied away – including Brees’ preferred choice, the Miami Dolphins, who opted for Daunte Culpepper and his knee issues over Brees and his shoulder issues. Talk about a franchise-changing decision.

Brees signed a six-year deal with the Saints, which was really a one-year, $10M deal, to kick the tires on him and his shoulder before making a decision on a $12M option and $3M salary in 2007. Brees, who was been quite the bargain, just completed year four of that six-year deal. Always the helpful teammate, he even restructured his $9.8M salary this season to allow the Saints some much-needed cap relief when they were hovering just above the Mendoza line in September.

Will the Saints address Brees’ deal this offseason with two years remaining? Although Drew will not make an issue of it, Tom Condon, Brees’ agent, who also represents Stafford and the Mannings, will. However, with the labor uncertainty and a team that had to have its head coach kick in money to hire a top defensive coordinator, it remains to be seen whether Brees will get a new deal.

Mark Sanchez

He was the second player in the first round to sign – after Stafford, who signed prior to the draft – inking his deal with the Jets on June 11. Unlike Stafford, Sanchez took a five-year deal that allows him to hit the market – or more realistically, negotiate a new deal with the Jets – one year earlier. The deal is structured without a signing bonus or roster bonus; rather $10M is in the form of a salary advance, a method teams try to use to allow for the possible forfeiture of money due to bad behavior. Sanchez and Broncos rookie Robert Ayers were the only first-round picks to agree to this structure.

In addition to the salary advance, Sanchez has guaranteed salaries of $18M, bringing his total guarantee to $28M. He’s certainly been earning a few of those million the past couple of weeks.

Four quarterbacks, perhaps the key pieces on championship weekend, with hundreds of millions of earnings behind them and ahead of them, now playing for $38,000 on Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter: adbrandt

For a look at the NFL's Rooney Rule, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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