Starting an article off with the words “When I was a kid” might make me seem old, but I don’t care. I love it. So……….when I was a kid there was a candy called Now and Later and, in fact, it’s still around today. The Phoenix Candy Company still makes it, a whole 50 years after they launched the little taffy candies back in 1962. Six square chews in 14 different flavors. A six-pack of Now and Laters will set you back only about 35 cents today – way back then, I’m sure it was only a nickel.
Well, what does this have to do with the NFL? How about EVERYTHING! Look no further than this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks and the NFL’s new rookie wage scale.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III became the first quarterbacks to go 1-2 in the 2012 NFL draft in more than a decade. It last happened in 1999, but I’d like to look at the 1998 draft by comparison. That year, the debate was between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. We all know how that worked out, but do you remember that Manning got an all-time rookie record $48 million for six years and Leaf signed for $31 million in a five-year deal?
Fast forward to this spring and Luck ends up with four years and $22 million, while RG III pockets $21 million over four seasons. These deals are nothing to sneeze at, of course, but I’m just saying. In the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are able to find out if these kids can play before dishing out monster deals and all over the NFL landscape that is what’s happening. Last year’s crop of first-year signal callers that will be under center again in 2012 include Andy Dalton of Cincinnati, Blaine Gabbert of the franchise that will play 87% of its home games in Jacksonville and 13% in London, Christian Ponder of the Vikings and Rookie of the Year Cam Newton of Carolina. And you can also add in a guy that was a “later” last year for the Titans but has morphed into the “now” — Jake Locker.
Put it this way, if your team’s quarterback is 30 years old and he doesn’t have a Lombardi Trophy on his resume, he’d better watch his back. In the new NFL, it makes sense to get ‘em while they’re young and relatively inexpensive. New Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill came via the 8th pick and Miami has him on the hook for four years and just over $12 million. Brandon Weeden is the young man in charge now in Cleveland, with the 22nd pick earning $8 million over four years to try to take the Browns back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Oops, did I say young? Just so happens that the former Oklahoma State QB is about two months older than the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Why do these things keep happening to the Browns?
Now is coming sooner than later for Russell Wilson, who is going to be one heck of a bargain for the Seahawks if he gets the job done at just $2.9 million over four years.
Former Arizona Wildcat Nick Foles landed in Philly as the 88th pick and signed a four-year deal worth $2.7 million. And while he’s definitely in the “later” category on paper, now could arrive quickly if Michael Vick can’t protect himself. And with Vick’s track record, it seems like you’d better have this kid ready.
How about a vote for “much later” in Denver with Brock Osweiler. The 57th pick (4 years, $3.5 million) was, not surprisingly and by a considerable margin, the second-most-talked-about quarterback to join the Broncos this off-season. But if something happens to Peyton, you’ll start hearing a lot about the former Arizona State Sun Devil.
And finally, a tip of the cap to the biggest head-scratcher of the 2012 Draft when the Washington Redskins selected Kirk Cousins with the 102nd pick. It’s not that Cousins didn’t produce at Michigan State, but they’d just chosen the franchise quarterback days earlier. I guess the ‘Skins felt like they needed one QB for NOW and one for LATER. Chew on that.
– James Lofton