The History Of Paying Rookie QBs & The Lessons Preparing For Extending Baker

Baker Mayfield will be the Browns starting quarterback in both 2020 and 2021 but a question I have been wrestling with is how well does he need to perform in 2020 to get extended next offseason. It is in a team’s best interest to extend their star players early after year three and get them at the cheapest price as possible. The dangers though are extending a quarterback that is good but not great and then being stuck with them on an expensive deal.

I’m going to look at all the quarterbacks drafted since the introduction of the rookie wage scale in 2011, if they got paid by their drafting team and how it worked out on that first deal. I’m just focusing on ones who have at least three years as a starter in their first four years in the NFL. This will give us a good idea of setting the table for Baker and what we need/want to see this year.

Mayfield came into the league and was the most valuable rookie by a country mile, at the time I eased caution and said you need a three-year sample before claiming anyone is destined for Canton. Some fans were deeply unhappy in my mentions for trying to calm the hype but we saw a massive regression in year two. I’m still maintaining my position of let’s judge rookies after year three unless we see two elite or poor seasons out of them.

Advanced Statistics

For each player, I will break down data for each year of their deal before being paid and those on the second deal they signed. It will include games started, passing touchdowns, and interceptions from Pro Football Reference. These stats are just to give you an idea of how the player performed, I won’t be using any of these to compare the player as we know box scores or ‘QB Winz’ aren’t good data sets.

Advanced Statistics allow us to look in detail at what is going on, here are the four I am going to use. PFF‘s Offensive Grade from the best data company in all of sport. Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), this represents value, per play, over an average quarterback in the same game situations from Football Outsiders. Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/P), the average Expected Points Added per play in which an offensive player is directly involved from Ben Baldwin. From we get our final stat, Completion Percentage Above Expectation (CPOE) measures a quarterback’s performance relative to the difficulty of their throws on average. These stats all have their upside and downside. It is highly unlikely for a player to be elite or awful across all categories.

To give you an idea of what we are looking at with each statistic I will break down the average for Elite (top 5), Great (6th to 10th), Good (11th to 20th) plus the Rest (21st to 32nd).


For me PFF is the best place for NFL stats, it looks much further than the outcome and gives the quarterback credit for a perfect throw even if the receiver drops a simple catch. They have a whole range of stats and data that is available, I have just used their offensive grades but check out their site for some other brilliant data and articles.

Elite: 93 to 85
Great: 84 to 79
Good: 78 to 69
The Rest: 69 to 59


Football Outsider’s DVOA statistic is another stat that gives you an overall view of the game. It is adjusted per opposition and balanced per play giving you a good breakdown of how well a player is doing. It is a statistic once mentioned by John Dorsey during a press conference while Browns GM showing it is widely accepted across the NFL.

Elite: 37.6% to 22.1%
Great: 20.4% to 12.5%
Good: 10.6% to -2.8%
The Rest: -4.1% to -21.1%


Expected Points Added per Play is a metric about working out a particular player’s impact on the game. This breaks their impact down into an exact number so you can compare them. This is all about making sure that the player is creating value for the team and helping to score points.

Elite: 0.34 to 0.23
Great: 0.22 to 0.17
Good: 0.16 to 0.08
The Rest: 0.07 to -0.04


Completion Percentage by itself isn’t a very useful stat because you can’t treat the accuracy on a screen pass with a 40-yard pass. The advantage of Completion Percentage Over Expected is that it balances those things out and gives you a stat that can be compared between players. Unlike the other three stats, a quarterback just needs to be Great to be successful.

Elite: 7.8% to 4.4%
Great: 3.9% to 2.5%
Good: 2.1% to -0.4%
The Rest: -0.7% to -5.1%

I have added an asterisk to all the QBs taken outside the first round. These players are much more likely to get a deal after their third season whereas teams can wait with a first-round pick due to the fifth-year option.

2011 Draft

Cam Newton
Extended after Year 4: Got 5 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, Good, Good
DVOA – Good, Good, Good, Rest
EPA/P – Great, Great, Good, Rest
CPOE – Rest, Rest, Good, Rest

With Cam Newton, we have a “Good” player across his first four years, based on what he had done a team shouldn’t be looking to extend him. He doesn’t have a track record of success that should make you confident of him consistently performing at that level.

Cam Newton – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Elite, Rest, Rest, Good, n/a
DVOA – Good, Rest, Rest, Good, n/a
EPA/P – Great, Rest, Good, Good, n/a
CPOE – Good, Rest, Rest, Great, n/a

He had one outlier season after he was extended in which he won the NFL MVP. Some might say it was worth the risk of him producing a season like that. We hadn’t seen that level in the first four or since. Relying on almost a heavy level of luck shouldn’t be the way a team builds its roster.

Andy Dalton*
Extended after Year 3: Got 5 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Rest, Good
DVOA – Good, Rest, Good
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Great
CPOE – Rest, Good, Good

It should have been an easy decision to draft another quarterback after year three, we hadn’t seen solid progress and he looked destined to be a solid middle of the road quarterback.

Andy Dalton – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Great, Good, Good, Great, Rest
DVOA – Rest, Elite, Good, Rest, Good, Rest
EPA/P – Rest, Elite, Good, Rest, Good, Rest
CPOE – Good, Great, Good, Rest, Rest, Rest

Across his nine years with the Bengals, we saw one brilliant season. They would have been better continuing their search with a rookie discount contract.

Colin Kaepernick*
Extended after Year 3: Got 6 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – n/a, Great, Rest
DVOA – n/a, Elite, Great
EPA/P – n/a, Elite, Great
CPOE -n/a, Great, Rest

Kaepernick produced an amazing half a season in his second year in the league. We then saw a solid year to follow it up. They would have been in a better position to let him play out the fourth season and then use the franchise tag to negotiate a deal after season four. Signing someone with such a small sample size is dangerous.

Colin Kaepernick – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Rest, Rest
DVOA – Rest, Rest, Rest
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Rest
CPOE – Rest, Rest, Rest

We then saw three poor seasons, it was nothing short of a disaster of an extension. It gives us a very important point of making sure you have a good sample size before making a decision on a rookie contract quarterback.

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, and Tyrod Taylor.

2012 Draft

Andrew Luck
Extended after Year 4: Got 5 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, Great, Rest
DVOA – Rest, Good, Good, Rest
EPA/P – Good, Great, Good, Rest
CPOE – Rest, Rest, Good, Rest

Andrew Luck failed to excel in his first four years, I would have been looking to trade him on after the fourth season and try to get back as much value as possible.

Andrew Luck – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Elite, n/a, Elite
DVOA – Good, n/a, Great
EPA/P – Great, n/a, Great
CPOE – Good, n/a, Good

The Colts certainly proved me wrong with this extension, while it looked like an unwise decision based on the first four years he produced. He managed to deliver two elite seasons before his early retirement. I will look more into the development of players after they are paid later in the article.

Ryan Tannehill
Extended after Year 3: Got 4 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Great, Good
DVOA – Rest, Rest, Good
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Good
CPOE – Rest, Good, Great

Tannehill produced three years without jumping off the page before being paid. They shouldn’t have kept hold of him.

Ryan Tannerhill – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, n/a, Rest
DVOA – Rest, Rest, n/a, Rest
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, n/a, Rest
CPOE – Good, Great, n/a, Rest

Tannehill failed to perform in Miami and we have now seen one good year with another team. We are yet to see if it is an outlier like Newton or a later change of career projection. Either way, the extension was bad for Miami.

Russell Wilson*
Extended after Year 3: Got 4 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Elite, Great, Good
DVOA – Great, Great, Good
EPA/P – Elite, Great, Great
CPOE – Elite, Great, Good

While Russell Wilson regressed in year three he had shown he was brilliant in years one and two so an extension was essential after year three.

Russell Wilson – Great Extension


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Great, Great, Great, Elite, Elite
DVOA – Elite, Good, Good, Good, Elite
EPA/P – Great, Good, Good, Elite, Great
CPOE – Elite, Good, Good, Great, Elite

He has gone on to produce amazing year after amazing year, so it was certainly an extension worth giving. He is an elite quarterback the sort that can regularly carry the team on their back. He is exactly what a team is chasing with a rookie contract quarterback.

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – Robert Griffin, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles, and Kirk Cousins.

2013 Draft

Wow, this QB draft was bad. I don’t think there is anything else to add. Next!

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon.

2014 Draft

Blake Bortles
Extended after Year 4: Got 2 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Rest, Rest, Good
DVOA – Rest, Rest, Rest, Good
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Rest, Good
CPOE – Rest, Rest, Rest, Rest

They should have been preparing to move on from Blake Bortles after his second season as the data showed he wasn’t very good. They weren’t positive based on the extension he got but it should have been addressed way before that.

Bad Extension – Blake Bortles


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest
DVOA – Rest
EPA/P – Rest
CPOE – Rest

The Bortles disaster continued and his starting position in the league was over a year later. The Jaguars then started their quarterback search again three years late.

Derek Carr*
Extended after Year 3: Got 5 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, Elite
DVOA – Rest, Good, Great
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Good
CPOE – Rest, Rest, Good

Carr made great strides in year three, while it was very promising it shouldn’t have lead to an extension alone. The correct judgment should have been to give him a fourth season and use the franchise tag to extend and negotiate a deal if he continued that performance in year four.

Derek Carr – Bad Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Good, Good, Great
DVOA – Good, Rest, Great
EPA/P – Rest, Rest, Great
CPOE – Good, Great, Elite

Carr then returned to performing at an average level before a great 2019 season. It would have been a tough decision to walk away from him but he isn’t the right quarterback to carry you to the Super Bowl.

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo.

2015 Draft

Jameis Winston
Allowed To Walk in Free Agency


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, Good, Good, Rest
DVOA – Good, Good, Great, Good, Rest
EPA/P – Good, Good, Good, Great, Good
CPOE – Rest, Good, Elite, Great, Good

The hardest thing a Front Office has to do is walk away from a quarterback, Tampa deserves to be applauded for doing it. They have a couple of years of Brady before searching for another rookie quarterback.

Jameis Winston – Good Pass

Marcus Mariota
Allowed To Walk in Free Agency


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – Rest, Rest, Good, Good, n/a
DVOA – Rest, Good, Good, Rest, n/a
EPA/P – Good, Great, Good, Good, n/a
CPOE – Good, Good, Good, Great, n/a

Mariota never produced an above-average season and the Titans should have been searching for their next quarterback after their third season. They were right not to extend him and now how their hopes tied to an outlier season from Tannehill.

Marcus Mariota – Good Pass

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – Trevor Siemian.

2016 Draft

Jared Goff
Extended after Year 3: Got 4 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Rest, Good, Great
DVOA – Rest, Elite, Great
EPA/P – Rest, Great, Great
CPOE – Rest, Good, Good

Goff made massive strides in years two and three with McVay as his Head Coach. The advanced statistics really liked his progress. There was no need to hurry and secure his contract yet. If he had performed at an elite level in 2018 then maybe he should have been. Personally I didn’t like this deal at the time and criticized it but based on the advanced stats it is a little early so I will give it an okay extension.

Jared Goff – Okay Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Good
DVOA – Good
EPA/P – Good
CPOE – Rest

We saw Goff regress to an average level of performance in 2019. If they had held off of the quick extension then they would probably be hesitant to make the deal after year four. It was an okay extension to give him if you felt really confident as he was better than some of the other quarterbacks we had seen before but there was no reason to rush it after year three.

Carson Wentz
Extended after Year 3: Got 4 Extra Years


Pre Extension Stats:
PFF – Good, Elite, Great
DVOA – Rest, Elite, Good
EPA/P – Rest, Elite, Good
CPOE – Rest, Good, Elite

Wentz is an intriguing one, he performed at an elite level during the 2017 season and carried his team to the playoffs, the rest they say is history. He followed it up with a good to a great year in 2018. The issue that would have given me concerns overextending him early is the injuries. They could have waited out the 2019 season to see if he was healthy and again performing at a great level. I will give this an okay extension as I get the idea but personally I would have waited one more year as I said last offseason.

Carson Wentz – Okay Extension


Post Extension Stats:
PFF – Good
DVOA – Good
EPA/P – Good
CPOE – Good

Wentz was able to play a full 16 game season which is very positive for the Eagles. Unfortunately, the level of play regressed down to average. It could have been linked to the complete lack of wide receiver talent last year. I think if they were waiting then they might let him play his final fifth year before using the franchise tag to force a long term deal.

Dak Prescott*
Franchise Tagged


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – Great, Good, Good, Great
DVOA – Elite, Good, Rest, Elite
EPA/P – Elite, Rest, Good, Elite
CPOE – Elite, Good, Good, Great

Dak played at a phenomenal level during his rookie season, possibly the most valuable we have seen from a rookie since Russell Wilson. He then played at an average level in years two and three. They were right to give him year four to see if he could return to his rookie performance level. He shone last year returning to an elite level of play. They were correct to use the franchise tag and attempt to secure a long term deal this offseason. I think he likely sits in that top six to ten range rather than being a top-five player but that keeps Dallas competitive every year.

Dak Prescott – Great Use Of Franchise Tag

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, Jacoby Brissett, and Cody Kessler.

2017 Draft

Mitchell Trubisky


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – Rest, Rest, Rest
DVOA – Rest, Good, Rest
EPA/P – Rest, Great, Rest
CPOE – Rest, Good, Rest

Trubisky has been very poor in his first and third years with an average one in the middle. The Bears are no doubt regretting the Mack trade else they would have tried to address the quarterback position in the draft this offseason, unfortunately, they decided to grab a stop-gap to tie them over a year instead. Keep an eye on them to be interviewing the upcoming quarterback class for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Patrick Mahomes


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – n/a, Elite, Elite
DVOA – n/a, Elite, Elite
EPA/P – n/a, Elite, Elite
CPOE – n/a, Good, Good

Wow, Wow, Wow, there isn’t much else to say about his explosion in the league. No doubt Andy Reid plays a big benefit as his Head Coach but we have seen historic numbers from Mahomes. The Chiefs should be looking to get this deal tied up at the end of the offseason once we have a better idea about the NFL salary cap over the next two seasons.

Deshaun Watson


Seasonal Stats:
PFF – Rest, Great, Great
DVOA – Elite, Good, Good
EPA/P – Elite, Good, Great
CPOE – Great, Elite, Great

Watson got injured in his first year but has been performing at a great level throughout. If the Texans have any health concerns then it makes sense to wait one year and let him play another 16 game season. It could be smart though to get early on the deal ahead of Mahomes so the market doesn’t get too inflated.

Notable players who didn’t qualify for three years as a starter – DeShone Kizer.

After You Pay A Quarterback, Do They Get Better?

Throughout the piece I’ve looked at the stats a rookie contract QB produced before and after they were extended. So let’s look and see what the overall difference is, then we will know if teams should hold out hope their player will improve after he has been paid or will he remain the player he already was?

Some improved after their contract extension:
Luck: Good > Great/Elite

A few quarterbacks saw their performance regress after being paid:
Kaepernick: Good/Great > Rest
Tannerhill: Good > Rest
Goff: Great > Good
Wentz Great > Good

The majority though stayed very much in the same range as they already were:
Newton: Good > Good
Dalton: Rest/Good > Rest/Good
Wilson: Great/Elite > Great/Elite
Bortles: Rest > Rest
Carr: Good > Good

We are only looking at 10 players here so it isn’t a massive study we can draw big conclusions from but based on the trends, you shouldn’t be hoping for much in the way of improvement once you extend them. You are generally going to get the same player moving forward or a slight change. This means teams need to be happy with what they are getting before extending a quarterback because betting on ‘upside’ that they believe might be there isn’t very smart.

How Good Is Good Enough For A QB?

The question to ask yourself and different people will come to a different answer: how well does your quarterback need to be for you to feel that that is the guy you want to run your franchise through for the next four to six years. For me, that player needs to be able to put the franchise on their back and carry you to the playoffs, no matter what. If they are in the camp of you can build a team around them then it’s okay on a rookie deal but not good enough for a veteran one.

Let’s look back to the start of last year and try and break the NFL quarterbacks into different tiers:
Elite QB (5) – Brady, Brees, Mahomes, Rodgers, Wilson
Great QB (5) – Rivers, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Watson, Wentz
Good QB (9) – Carr, Cousins, Dalton, Garoppolo, Goff, Newton, Prescott, Stafford, Winston
Promising Youngster QB (6) – Allen, Darnold, Jackson, Mayfield, Murray, Rosen
Replaceable QB (7) – Brissett, Flacco, Foles, Keenum, Manning, Mariota, Trubisky

Now let’s have a quick look at the situation going into 2020:
Elite QB (4) – Brees, Mahomes, Rodgers, Wilson
Great QB (6) – Brady, Jackson, Prescott, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Watson
Good QB (9) – Carr, Cousins, Garoppolo, Goff, Mayfield, Rivers, Stafford, Tannehill, Wentz
Promising Youngster QB (8) – Burrow, Foles, Haskins, Jones, Lock, Minshew, Murray, Stidham
Replaceable QB (5) – Allen, Bridgewater, Darnold, Fitzpatrick, Taylor

Looking at those two lists, I want my quarterback to be an annual be top 10 to justify them getting a veteran contract. For me, there is no point having a quarterback like Carr, Cousins, Dalton, Goff, and Stafford on a veteran deal, you are much better betting on the upside of another youngster hoping they become Great to Elite and having their cheap rookie QB to boost the overall roster too.

What Should The Browns Do With Baker Mayfield?

After the 2020 season the Browns will have three distinct choices with Baker Mayfield.

Option 1 – Baker has another year like 2019 and they decide to use the Browns first-round pick on a QB in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Option 2 – Baker has a good to a great year. The Browns decide to give him one more year to prove he is a top 10 quarterback before offering a contract extension.

Option 3 – Baker produces to an elite level and the Browns feel confident enough that 2019 was a complete outlier and happily get an extension wrapped up in the offseason.

How Was Baker In 18/19 & What Are His 2020 Targets?

Let’s look at each of the four stats outlined in the article and see how Baker stack up across the league and what he needs to do next season to be considered Elite (top 5), Great (6th to 10th), Good (11th to 20th) plus the Rest (21st to 32nd).



Baker’s performance fell into the great category during the 2018 season but then regressed to good last season. We need to see a solid step forward in 2020. For him to be pushing for a contract extension next offseason we likely need to see something around the 90.0 range. On the other side, if we see a PFF grade of 75.0 or below in 2020 then I think the Browns should be looking at the QB class in 2021.


Baker only performed at a good level in his rookie year but last year he was just a member of the pack. We really need to see him break the 25% mark to secure a deal in 2021. If he drops into a negative again then there should be concerns about his level of play and the decision the Browns make moving forward.


Here we have another stat where Baker has been in the Good category in 2018 and then in with the rest of the league in 2019. It doesn’t fill you with optimism when Baker’s rookie season isn’t considered in the Elite to Great range. We need to see a season above 0.25 points added per play for a new contract in 2021 but if he is below 0.10 then we may be the search for a new quarterback should be on.


Baker’s Completion Percentage Over Expected was the middle of the road average in 2018 and then dropped to one of the worst in the league in 2019. This is an area he needs to make sold progress in. If he can get to above 2.5% it will set him in great stead. Anything below 1% should result in a cautious approach from the front office moving forward.


Before researching and writing this piece I had confidence there was a solid route to extending Baker during the 2021 offseason but now I see that as a very unwise option regardless of the outcome of 2020. We will be in a much better position by using the extra season a fifth-year option allows us. Then we can fully see the range of outcomes for Baker and make a more reasoned assessment on extending him during the 2022 offseason. The cap saving of an early deal is negligible compared to the cost of getting it wrong.

If there is any doubt about Baker after the 2020 season then the Browns should be looking to trade back in the 2021 NFL Draft and add a second first-round pick in 2021. This will allow maximum flexibility in the draft if we need to trade up and get a quarterback in the future. You don’t want to be like the Bear and handcuffed to a quarterback because you lack draft capital.

I’m confident Baker has the potential to be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL but I would be skeptical about betting the next four years of the Browns on him next offseason unless he produces a Mahomes-level season in 2020.

The toughest decision this front office will face is if Baker is still in the 11-19 quarterback range after the 2022 offseason. He would be a good quarterback but not one capable of carrying you to the playoffs, so you can’t give him a deal. They must hold firm and make the best decision for the franchise which would be drafting his replacement and trying to get as large a return as possible in a trade. Considering Sam Bradford went for a first I don’t think its an unreasonable asking price for a good quarterback in that 11-19 range.

I hope you enjoyed the piece, if you have any questions feel free to ask me on Twitter at @JackDuffin, my DM’s are always open.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: