On Kaepernick, Griffin and contracts for young quarterbacks

June 5

Robert Griffin III, right, in front of fellow 2012 draft pick Kirk Cousins, has a big season ahead for many reasons, future contract included. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The teams who start quarterbacks drafted in 2012 should be keeping a keen eye on the contracts for the quarterback class of 2011. They’re the first ones eligible, under the post-lockout CBA, for an extension after three seasons, although they agree to four-year rookie deals, and for first-rounders there are team options for a fifth.

Colin Kaepernick’s contract extension may set the ball rolling for others, although as a second-round pick (and sixth quarterback drafted) in 2011, they won’t be apples-to-apples comparisons. Kaepernick also has a Super Bowl appearance and road playoff wins on his resume. Fancy Stats examined whether he was worth his $126 million.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Carolina’s Cam Newton, if anything, as well as Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Tennessee’s Jake Locker and Minnesota’s Christian Ponder were also drafted in 2011, as was Kapernick’s backup, Blaine Gabbert, taken then by the Jaguars.

Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck, Washington’s Robert Griffin III, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles are the 2012-drafted quarterbacks most likely to be eyeing potential extensions after this coming season, though their teams are under no obligation to give them. And given that quarterback salaries are averaging well into the double-digits, in terms of millions per season, it’s a nice advantage to have your still-on-his-rookie-contract quarterback playing as well as or better than those making $18 million elsewhere. That partially explains why teams are so willing to spend draft resources on quarterbacks and rush them into playing quickly.

Though the teams seem to have most of the leverage, the quarterback could play out his fourth season and become a free agent. Imagine, though, where Carolina would be without Cam Newton. There’s great value in not having to worry about finding another top quarterback, or having to negotiate with him against other bidders following an outstanding fourth season, or having to burn your franchise tag to keep him. So when you look at the price paid to extend a quarterback early, consider the full spectrum of resources saved, and the alternatives. Minnesota and Jacksonville, for example, each used a first-round pick on a quarterback in 2011 and 2014.

It’s a complex issue. Let’s discuss it in the comments. But first, for a little perspective, here’s Washington safety Ryan Clark on ESPN, talking about how it plays in the locker room when your quarterback is up for a monster contract:

In addition, here’s some outside reading on the subject: Overthecap.com, with the help of ProFootballTalk, looks more closely at the Kaepernick contract and compares it to those of Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Elsewhere, MMQB’s Peter King compares Kaepernick negotiations with those of Alex Smith and Kansas City; ESPN on what it means for Newton; USA Today on what it means for Wilson; Cincinnati and New Jersey news outlets wondering what it means for Dalton and Foles.

For Washington, Griffin and Alfred Morris might be up for new contracts around the same time, and if nothing happens with linebacker Brian Orakpo but the team wants to keep him, he could be receiving a big contract next offseason too. But there aren’t 2013 and 2014 first-round picks to worry about re-signing further down the line, and several of Washington’s key cogs are locked up beyond 2015. So they have flexibility in how to deal with whatever inflation keeping Griffin requires. Plus, there’s the matter of Griffin’s crucial third season determining what his value going forward might be.

Have a football question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Williams believes line is off to a good start

Things come together for Griffin, Gruden

Bog: Morris angles for a role from McConaughey

Reid: The rush to get sacks from Orakpo and Hatcher

More NFL coverage: Home Page | D.C. Sports Bog |The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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Mark Maske · June 5