The 2020 Ravens look a lot like the 2019 Chiefs. The fighting Harbaughs are coming off a stinging playoff defeat with a reigning MVP quarterback entering his third season. There isn't a bigger organizational advantage than a superstar quarterback on a rookie contract, and now's the time for Baltimore general manager Eric DeCosta to capitalize like Kansas City did.
Considering talent, production, age and contract, which QB would you most want to have under your team's control moving forward?
While the rankings below attempting to answer that question are incredibly subjective, I tried to use a few guiding principles ...
Production is still more important than projection. Simply put, it's more valuable to have a top-10 quarterback than a guy you hope may get there someday. Money and age mattered in this exercise, but I'd take a quality starter at an expensive price over a question mark on the cheap.
Also, there's a fine line between thinking long-term and overrating the future. The next 2-3 years in any NFL cycle are always the most important years because the league changes so quickly and nearly every GM is a bad year or two away from getting fired. With that said, ties went to the young guys below. Players like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray who have already produced have extra value because they are on their rookie deals. A high-caliber starter like Carson Wentz gets an edge over Matt Ryan because there's a longer career runway ahead. But in a league where it doesn't pay to aim for the middle of the standings, high-ceiling elder statesmen like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger still have value compared with some of their younger, highly paid middle-class counterparts.
Let's go. No arguing!
The easiest player to rank on this list. It isn't a problem that Mahomes may ask for $50 million per season because he's worth it and all great quarterbacks remain underpaid relative to their value. Not since Dan Marino has a QB put together two consciousness-expanding seasons to start a career like this. There's every reason to believe Mahomes can get better.
Eric DeCosta knows what a unique opportunity the Ravens have. The draft will be key in buttressing Jackson's supporting cast, and his rookie salary is partly why the Ravens can afford six players with a cap figure over $10 million. How Jackson follows up his MVP season will be one of the stories of 2020. He's already proven to be an expert problem solver.
It's easy to pick nits about Wentz's accuracy and occasional streakiness. It's also easy for the Eagles to feel comfortable with a 27-year-old established top-10 quarterback under contract for five more seasons at an average cap number under $30 million per. The Eagles signed Wentz at a modest discount coming off an injury, which gives him an edge over other options in the top 10.
I fear that Matt Ryan will remain underrated in perpetuity, a Ken Anderson would-be Hall of Famer overshadowed by flashier peers. With players like
Tom Brady and Drew Brees rewriting the rules for career arcs, Ryan, 34, should still be able to play at a championship level for at least 2-4 more years for under $30 million per season. And the next 2-4 more years are still the most important years, no matter how much youth intoxicates.