Mike Glennon, EJ Manuel contracts prove it pays to be unproven

Sporting News

A trend is developing in the NFL. Teams are paying big money to free-agent quarterbacks whoessentially have never playedmeaningful snaps in the league.At the same time, those teams arepenalizing quarterbackswho have been designatedfailures because, as starters, they did notimprovebadteams.

If this trend continues, it mightchange the way certainquarterbacksapproachopportunitiesto start in the NFL.It might not be worth the risk.

The amount paid to theunproven QBsismassive. Houston in 2016gave Brock Osweiler, who had started just seven NFL games, one of the worst modern quarterback contracts when itsigned him to a dealworth $18 million perseason. This year the Bears signed Mike Glennon, who started 13 games in 2013 and '14 before he wasbenched, to a $15 million-per-year contract.

Neither QBwas considered a can't-miss prospect in the draft —Osweiler was selected in the second round in 2012,and Glennon in the thirdround in 2013 — and neither has played enough to change those pre-draftopinions. Osweiler sat behind Peyton Manning until (and after) the starter was injured. Glennon was replaced by Josh McCown and, eventually,Jameis Winston.

IYER: Glennon a bigger trap than Osweiler

We all knowthe NFL is desperate for quarterbacks and is willing to pay for them, as those deals illustrate.

It’s the flip side of the equation that makes little sense.

EJ Manuel recently signed a one-year contract worth$800,000 with no money guaranteed. Geno Smithsigned a contractworth $1.2 million with an additional $800,000 in potential incentives. He received just $300,000 in guaranteed salary. Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.

Manuel and Smithgenerally were higher-regarded prospects than Glennon andOsweiler. Manuel was drafted in the first round in2013, andSmith in the same class was given a first-round grade but dropped to the second round. Both started as rookiesand for a portion of their second seasons.

Then they were relegated to the bench. Kaepernick, who already cashed in with a contract onceand for a brief period was considered one of the more exciting prospects in the NFL, alsowasbenched.

Nothingindicates that Osweiler, Glennon or any other questionable quarterback isworth $14 million to $16 million morea seasonthana player like Manuel or Smith. Thedifference:The quarterbacks not making moneyonce were expected to turn around bad football teams. Those who are now getting good dealsnever really had the opportunity to fail.

Manuel’s Bills haven’t been to the playoffs in the 2000s. They'vehadan ownership change and multiple coaches.Yet Manuel wassomewhat of a scapegoat. Smith saw both his general managerand head coach fired in his first two years in the NFL and was looked at as a failure. Kaepernick went through multiplecoaches and was viewedas part of the reason why the team went from Super Bowl contender to the second pick in the draft.

By actually playing, all threebecame damaged goods and now are picking up the table scrapsin free agency.

If you wereSmith or Manuel and you could get a re-do, wouldn’t you siton the bench for threeor fouryears? How different would their careers and financial futureslook? Would Kaepernick’s situation be different hadhe refused to waive his guarantees and just sat on the bench last season?

Smith's desire to start for the Jets —and his ability to actually win a starting job in 2013 and '14 —likely cost him somewhere between $12 million and $14 million. Had he been a success, how much more would he have made?

If you are Jimmy Garoppolo, AJ McCarron, Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg or anylate first- to mid-round draft pick who has some name value,why would youjeopardize your financial future? Look good enough in the preseason or a few snaps in mop-up duty to get some interest, butnotgood enough to unseat the starter.

MORE: Where will Kaepernick land?

In general, the salary disparity comes off as unfair and should makeplayers in the future think aboutthe benefitsof playingwhen things around them arebad.

This mightnot be a problem in the NFL today, but if thedividein contract valuation between the Glennons and the Manuels of the leaguecontinues to exist, it will have an impact in the future.