How times have changed. The NFL was once a league where even legendary Black quarterbacks (anybody remember Warren Moon?) weren’t considered talented enough to start at their positions in the NFL.
Today, at least if money is any indication, that mentality has been sent to the bench. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that the Denver Broncos have signed a five-year, $265 million contract extension including $165 million in guaranteed cash with signal caller Russell Wilson. Add that to the two years left on his old deal that the Broncos inherited from the Seattle Seahawks when they traded for their new starter back in March, and the Broncos are now into Wilson for a total of $296 million between now and the 2028 NFL season.
That’s a bag big enough to keep Wilson and his spouse, the singer Ciara, in all manner of goodies for quite some time. But it’s also a milestone. Wilson’s deal is just the latest in a spate of huge contracts for Black quarterbacks that has pushed total compensation for Black starters at the position in the NFL past the $1 billion mark:
- In 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs signed their franchise QB, Patrick Mahomes, to a 10-year deal worth $450 million, including about $141.5 million in guaranteed cash, according to SporTrac.
- In July, the Arizona Cardinals inked a five-year, $230.5 million extension with Kyler Murray, including $160 million in guarantees. The deal was controversial because it initially included a stipulation for a minimum number of hours Murray had to spend on film study, recalling for some the old stereotypes that Black players weren’t intellectual enough for the position. The clause was ultimately removed.
- Deshaun Watson, who is suspended for the first 11 games of this season, signed a 5-year, $230 million deal with the Cleveland Browns, with the entire contract fully-guaranteed.
In total, the value of all four of those quarterbacks’ deals comes to $1.2 billion. That tally will go even higher once Lamar Jackson, the franchise QB for the Baltimore Ravens, negotiates a new deal. Jackson is still playing out his rookie contract, a 4-year, $9.5 million pact that came with a one-year option which the Ravens exercised.
Jackson, it’s been reported, wants a fully-guaranteed deal like Watson’s, but with Mahomes’, Murray’s and Wilson’s megadeals not fully guaranteed, he might face an uphill climb getting that done. Still, with the market for top-tier QBs now reset with a floor above $230 million, Jackson is in line for a huge raise that’ll also grow the overall compensation of starting Black QBs even more.