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The Jacksonville Jaguars just put quarterback Trevor Lawrence at the top of the NFL pay scale. Lawrence and the Jaguars agreed to a five-year, $275 million contract extension last week worth up to $282.5 million through incentives. The deal has $200 million in guarantees, of which $142 million is fully guaranteed at signing.

Lawrence, who had two years remaining on his rookie contract, ties Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow as the league's highest-paid player at $55 million per year despite a 2023 season in which the 2021 first overall pick and the Jaguars didn't live up to expectations. The Jaguars imploded down the stretch by losing five of the last six games to miss the playoffs after being in control of the AFC South with an 8-3 record.

The natural inclination for Jordan Love and Tua Tagovailoa's representatives will be to immediately think that Lawrence's $55 million should be the salary floor for their respective quarterback clients. It may not actually come to fruition, especially for Tagovailoa.

The Miami Dolphins have seemingly cleared the deck for a new Tagovailoa deal. A $22.102 million franchise tag wasn't placed on defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, which paved the way for him to sign a four-year, $110 million contract averaging $27.5 million per year with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. Robert Hunt also found riches on the open market. He became the fourth member of the exclusive $20 million-per-year offensive guard club by signing a five-year, $100 million deal with the Carolina Panthers.

Tagovailoa threw for a career high and league-leading 4,624 yards in 2023. He also set career highs with 29 touchdown passes and a 69.3% completion percentage, both ranking fifth in the NFL. Tagovailoa's 101.5 passer rating was also the league's fifth-best mark. A Pro Bowl berth was earned for the first time in Tagovailoa's career.

Tagovailoa, who is scheduled to make a fully guaranteed $23.171 million in 2024 on his fifth-year option, expressed confidence in getting a new deal at the Pro Bowl Games in February. He used "antsy" to describe how he was feeling when asked about his contract situation earlier this month. Tagovailoa also added that "the market is the market."

Another recent quarterback data point in the market besides Lawrence is Jared Goff. The Detroit Lions signed Goff to a four-year, $212 million extension, making him the NFL's second-highest paid player at $53 million per year. Goff is now third after Lawrence's signing.

Goff's deal contains $170,611,832 in guarantees, where $113,611,832 was fully guaranteed at signing. The $113,611,832 includes an NFL-record $73 million signing bonus.

Tua riskier investment than other QBs seeking new deal

There are durability concerns for Tagovailoa that don't exist for other quarterbacks who have signed lucrative contracts recently or are in line for new deals. A dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture cut short his final season at the University of Alabama in 2019. Tagovailoa's 2022 NFL season ended prematurely because of multiple concussions.

Health wasn't an issue for Tagovailoa in 2023. Tagovailoa was on the field for 1,045 of Miami's 1,098 offensive plays last season.

Tagovailoa's injury history, especially the concussions, may make the Dolphins reluctant to give him the type of security typically associated with high-end quarterback contracts. The average guarantees for the five highest-paid quarterbacks are slightly under $195 million with a little less than $135 million fully guaranteed at signing. The average yearly salary for these five deals is $53.5 million with the average contract length being 4.8 new years. The average guarantees drop to just under $185 million with slightly less than $125 million fully guaranteed at signing for the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks. Their deals on average are 5.2 new years for almost $50 million per year.

It's hard to imagine any Tagovailoa deal that doesn't put him in the $50 million-per-year quarterback club. Eclipsing the five-year, $255 million extension (worth as much as $270 million because of salary escalators) averaging $51 million per year Jalen Hurts signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in April 2023 could have some significance to Tagovailoa. Hurts finished his college career at the University of Oklahoma after losing his quarterback job to Tagovailoa at Alabama after starting for two straight years.

Hurt's deal currently puts him sixth in the NFL hierarchy. In order to crack the top five, Tagovailoa would need to top the $52 million per year Lamar Jackson received from the Baltimore Ravens several days after Hurts signed his deal. Jackson has $185 million in guarantees, where $135 million was fully guaranteed at signing.

Love could command bigger extension than Lawrence landed

Love probably has a better chance of surpassing Lawrence's deal. Both Love and the Green Bay Packers seem intent on reaching an agreement before veterans report to training camp on July 21.

Love is scheduled to make $11 million in 2024 after signing a one-year, $13.5 million contract extension worth up to $22.5 million through salary escalators in May 2023. The deal was in lieu of the Packers making a decision about picking up the 2020 first-round pick's fully guaranteed $20.272 million fifth-year option for 2024.

Love took a big step forward over the second half of the 2023 season. He performed at an elite level, which translated into team success. Love completed 70.3% of his passes for 2,150 yards with 18 touchdowns and just one interception to post a 112.7 passer rating while the Packers went 6-2 to secure a playoff berth. Overall, Love completed 64.2% of his passes for 4,159 yards with 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to post a 96.1 passer rating. He ranked second and seventh respectively in the NFL for touchdown passes and passing yards last season.

Love was the best quarterback on the field in Green Bay's shocking wild-card game win over the Dallas Cowboys with 2023 NFL MVP runner-up Dak Prescott as his counterpart. He more than held his own in a divisional playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers. The opposing quarterback, Brock Purdy, was also an NFL MVP finalist.

The Packers aren't strangers to having the NFL's highest-paid player. It was done with Aaron Rodgers' 2013, 2018 and 2022 deals. Most notably, Love outperformed Rodgers' last season with the Packers in 2022 as a first-year starter last season. Coming off back-to-back NFL MVP seasons, 2022 was a down year by a then-39-year-old Rodgers' standards. He completed 64.6% of his passes for 3,695 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for a 91.1 passer rating. The Packers missed the playoffs with an 8-9 record. Rodgers' request to be traded to the New York Jets was granted following the season.

Lawrence's contract could be the impetus for Love being at the top of NFL salary totem pole, especially if the Packers feel his performance over the second half of the 2023 season and the playoffs is a sign of things to come.

Hurts, Jackson and Justin Herbert each took a turn as the NFL's salary king in 2023 before Burrow signed. The smallest increase among the four quarterbacks who become the league's highest paid player was Herbert getting 0.96% more than Jackson's $52 million per year. Burrow got the biggest jump. His deal is 4.76% more than Herbert's $52.5 million per year with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The average increase was 2.3%. Should the Packers be inclined to do something similar for Love, his extension could average $56.25 million per year.

Presumably, the Packers will make the major structural accommodation to Love that was consistently done for Rodgers in order to consummate a deal. Generally, Green Bay is in the dark ages when it comes to structuring contracts for veteran players. The only guaranteed money in Green Bay veteran contracts is a signing bonus and/or a roster bonus payable within a few days of signing. The bigger deals contain an unsecured third or fifth day of the league year roster bonus in the second and third years. The roster bonuses are supposed to be substitutes for additional contract guarantees. The overall guarantees in Packers contracts are less than comparable deals on other teams.

Rodgers has been the lone exception. His 2013, 2018 and 2022 deals had traditional salary guarantees.

Prescott enters contract year in unique situation

Lawrence's contract isn't particularly relevant to Prescott's situation. If anything, Lawrence's deal confirms that Prescott's contract demands are justified because he is a much more accomplished and consistent quarterback.

Prescott, who is in a contract year, is in a unique situation because of the nature of the four-year, $160 million deal averaging $40 million per year he signed in March 2021. He has leverage in any substantive negotiations for a contract extension despite a subpar performance when Dallas was upset by Green Bay in the wild card playoff round as the NFC's No. 2 seed. Prescott has a no-trade clause in his contract. He also has a provision preventing Dallas from designating him as a franchise or transition player in 2025 should he play out his contract. There also isn't a legitimate starting quarterback alternative currently on Dallas' roster.

Thanks to four different contract restructures strictly to create salary cap room since signing the $40 million deal in 2021, the Cowboys will have a $40.46 million 2025 salary cap charge from voiding 2025 through 2028 contract years if Prescott plays out his contract and tests the open market in 2025 free agency. The Cowboys would get a 2026 third-round compensatory pick at best from Prescott's departure in this manner.

There haven't been any serious discussions about a new deal despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stating he wants to keep Prescott. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who is also in a contract year, has been thought to be the negotiating priority. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported a few days ago that the Cowboys would like to get a deal done with Prescott first.

Prescott received some criticism after saying he didn't play for money several weeks ago. More importantly, Prescott also stated he would leave it to the business people to decide his value. This suggests that Prescott is empowering his representatives to do what they see fit given his circumstances. Presumably, Prescott didn't fight for the no-trade clause and franchise/transition tag prohibition not to use the provisions to his advantage in negotiations.

Prescott's camp attempting to fully exploit leverage could mean initially insisting on Joe Burrow's contract adjusted for the 13.61% growth in the salary cap from last year when he did his deal. This would essentially put Prescott at $62.5 million per year.

Burrow got an extremely player-friendly structure from the Bengals in which his three new contract years average $61,320,327 per year. This will likely be used by Prescott's camp to justify at least a $60 million-per-year deal. Overall, the top of the quarterback market increased in 2023 by 9.41% from 2022. A $60 million-per-year extension would be a 9.09% increase over Burrow and Lawrence's deals.

Prescott probably doesn't want to give more than four new years, just like he did with his current contract, although signing for five new years has become the norm at the top of the quarterback market. Goff's four-year extension is an anomaly among players making at least $50 million per year. Removal of the no-trade clause or provision preventing a franchise or transition designation would likely be deal-breakers for Prescott.

Strong contract guarantees would also be a necessity. Getting at least $150 million fully guaranteed at signing and more in total guarantees than Deshaun Watson's fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns might be important benchmarks for Prescott's camp.

Personally, I would like to see Prescott play out his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2025. I'm curious to see what Prescott could command on the open market as long as he didn't have a stunning collapse in 2024 along the lines of Russell Wilson's first season with the Denver Broncos after being acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in a 2022 offseason trade.

A healthy Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in his prime is never available on the open market. A fully guaranteed contract could be conceivable for Prescott, who turns 31 at the end of July, with strong interest from at least two teams.