Note: This article previously appeared on our nationally-themed affiliate site, FranchiseTagged.com.
The Kansas City Chiefs are entitled to one more “cheap” year with boy-wonder quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. His cap hit for 2021 is smaller than that of gadget quarterback, Taysom Hill, with the New Orleans Saints. Use that at the water cooler this week.
The same goes for the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson – if the embattled quarterback plays football anywhere in 2021. The 25-year-old is bogged down in a whirlwind of sexual impropriety accusations. Watson is scheduled to earn around $16 million per cap hit in 2021. That will balloon to $40 million in 2022 if he still a part of the league.
After those noteworthy “grace periods” expire for the Chiefs and Texans, those men will lead discussions regarding highest-paid signal-callers.
For the upcoming season, though, here are the most expensive passers by cap hit.
5. Matt Ryan (ATL), $26.9M
Matt Ryan is at a career crossroads. The Atlanta Falcons will maybe (probably?) select Ryan’s successor in the 2021 NFL Draft. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot owns the 5th pick in the draft. Trevor Lawrence, Zack Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones are all theorized to go off the board in the 1st Round. That would leave “one of those guys” at No. 5 for Fontenot if it tickles his fancy.
Otherwise, Kyle Pitts – a freakishly tantalizing tight end prospect – will be available for the Falcons.
A selection of a quarterback plops Ryan into borrowed time. He won an MVP five years ago when the Falcons narrowly lost Super Bowl LI to the New England Patriots. Ryan dimed 26 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, a commendable individual effort on the backdrop of a stinky 2020 team season in Atlanta.
He can still play, but his days in Atlanta are likely numbered.
4. Ryan Tannehill (TEN), $29.5M
Tannehill went from a footnote Miami Dolphins overachiever in 2018 to an underrated NFL asset with the Tennessee Titans amid the last two seasons. What a turnaround for his biography.
After his Pro Bowl 2019 season, the Titans rewarded Tannehill with a four-year, $118 million contract. He’s in Tennessee for the foreseeable future, righting the offensive ship while Derrick Henry runs roughshod over the league in his physical prime.
The Texas A&M alumnus is unlikely to ever grab a Russell Wilson-like reputation because he rarely “put his team on his back.” But his performance with the Titans is outstanding. He authored 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in 2020.
3. Kirk Cousins (MIN), $31.0M
Probably the most controversial name on this list, Cousins is paid like a top-tier passer. He carried a dinky cap hit in 2020 after a contractual restructure, but the Minnesota Vikings will pay the piper [Cousins] in 2021 and 2022.
Like clockwork, Cousins delivers north of 4,000 passing yards and 30+ touchdowns per season. He did this in the nation’s capital with the Washington Football Team and carried over the tendency to the Vikings.
Cousins is frequently perceived as a stat-padder or dink-and-dunk talent, but neither dialogue surrounding his skill set is rooted in fact. He has tossed 23 touchdowns since becoming a Viking in the 2nd Half of games with a score margin within eight points – fourth-most in the NFL behind Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson.
2. Russell Wilson (SEA), $32.0M
Wilson squawked a couple of months ago about poor pass protection, leading many to believe he wanted a trade. The Chicago Bears pursued Wilson to the ends of the earth but ultimately decided that Andy Dalton would do the trick for 2021 instead.
The 32-year-old Wilson is one of the league’s best and most notable one-man wrecking crews. While he was significantly benefitted early in his career by The Legion of Boom, those men departed the team or retired over the last few seasons.
The Seahawks have been a Wilson-first operation as of late. And, as you can see, Wilson is paid top dollar to carry the mantel
1. Aaron Rodgers (GB), $37.2M
The Green Bay Packers have not signed a single new free agent this offseason. Why the hell not?
Well, their piggy bank is largely inhabited by dollar bills with Rodgers’ face on the greenbacks. Rodgers is the standard-bearer of the franchise, and the Packers often utilize a “you figure it out” philosophy with the 37-year-old. Green Bay could have splashed into the 2020 NFL Draft WR Sweepstakes but rather drafted Rodgers’ eventual replacement, Jordan Love, in the draft’s 1st Round last April. It was bizarre.
Yet, the monetary respect is there. Rodgers is the reigning league MVP and is the top-paid quarterback in 2021 per cap hit.