Even though many saw some upside and some downside in the Redskins’ decision to exercise the 2016 option in the contract of quarterback Robert Griffin III, team president Bruce Allen though it was an easy call to make.
“Well we think Robert is our starting quarterback,” Allen said on Monday. “We’ve seen him win. We’ve seen him win big games. We know his talent. It really was a no-brainer.”
The main concern about the option is that it becomes guaranteed should Griffin get injured and unable to play in 2016. With a medical record that includes two torn ACL’s (one in college, one at the end of his rookie year) and a dislocated ankle that caused him to miss six games last year the injury factor is a legitimate concern. But Allen looks at it as a cost of doing business.
“There’s a cost to everyone who gets hurt,” he said. “I don’t see that as an individual player thing. Any injury is going to cost you on the salary cap.”
Of perhaps greater concern than the injury problems is the fact that a healthy Griffin was benched in favor of Colt McCoy in late November. His inconsistent performance since his stellar rookie 2012 season casts doubt on whether or not Griffin will be worth the $16.6 million salary that comes with the option.
But the thing is that paying large salaries to quarterbacks with spotty records is the way the NFL does business. The Panthers have gone 30-31-1 in Cam Newton’s 62 regular season starts and 1-2 in the playoffs. The former No. 1 overall pick has completed less than 60 percent of his passes and has a pedestrian QB rating of 85.4. Despite that, Newton and the Panthers are close to agreeing on a contract extension that would keep the quarterback in Carolina through 2020 and pay him something north of $20 million per year.
It should be noted that Newton has generally improved his performance from year to year and he has rushed for 2,571 yards in his career (643 yards/season). He has a chance to be very good. But the $20 million per year mark used to be reserved for quarterbacks who have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. Now it looks like Newton will join Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins as .500 quarterbacks with deals that pay nearly $20 million per year (Tannehill’s recently signed extension pays him $19.25 million per year).
Perhaps one year at $16.6 million for Griffin isn’t a bargain compared to the deals signed by Newton and Tannehill but if he shows even modest improvement it would not be an outrageous salary for the team to pay.
It’s a matter of supply and demand. Top-notch quarterbacks are in very short supply and it’s tough to even find one who can be consistently competent. When the demand exceeds the supply, costs go up.
The owners and GM’s who are handing out these deals will, like Allen, say it’s the cost of doing business. But there may be as much fear as business acumen involved in these deals, as Kevin Clark, NFL writer for the Wall Street Journal tweeted after Newton’s contract numbers came out.
90% of QB contracts should be announced by a statement just saying "Wow are we terrified of having to find another quarterback."— Kevin Clark (@bykevinclark) June 1, 2015
The Redskins may not be very happy with Griffin’s play over the last couple of years. But one of the few things worse than putting up with inconsistent quarterback play is trying to find and develop a new one. They have a lot invested in Griffin, both in terms of the draft picks it took to get him and the time they have taken to try to turn him into a dependable NFL quarterback. Despite his struggles it looks like they think it is too early to start looking again. There is some legitimate fear of going down that path again.