We Denver Broncos fans will never forget Brent, or else we will. He might have become the 2nd or 3rd best franchise QB the Broncos ever had (we HAD Elway and Peyton, and they were awesome in their time), but it's more likely he wouldn't have (tough acts to follow). Anyway, I'm not writing this article to denigrate Brent, bury him (that's Von's job in prime time on October 24), or praise him. What actually inspired me to write this is comments and conversations about QBs in articles and threads here at MHR.
Obviously the Broncos' QB situation for 2016 and beyond is unsettled. Some people think a QB prospect like Lynch or Cook might be worth reaching for or even trading up for in the first round since potential franchise QB talent is hard to find, even if it requires development time. And those who think that way will often use the potential cost savings of the 5th year option for first round picks as further support for their thinking. I honestly don't know what the Broncos should do about our 2016 QB situation (good thing Elway and his people are way more QB savvy than I am). I've just been trying to answer a question for a few days, and decided to use Brent, his contracts, some numbers that are set in concrete, and some that aren't to try to find an answer, and I still don't have one.
My question is this: Does the cost savings of the 5th year option for a 1st round pick make it potentially worthwhile to "reach" for a QB in the mid-late first round who would otherwise be rated as a later pick?
Real contract #1
Brent was drafted with the 25th pick of the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL draft, #57 overall. Some Broncos fans were peeved about it at the time, considering it to be a "reach." Some probably still are. I thought it was about right. His 4 year rookie contract cost the Broncos a rounded $3.52M (numbers from overthecap, spotrac, and my $2 Dollar General calculator, as will be most the other numbers I'll use). So about $0.88M per year. Pretty darned reasonable price for a backup QB if you ask me.
Real contract #2
Brent signed a 4 year $72M contract ($18M per year average) with a $12M signing bonus and $37M in guaranteed money with the Houston Texans early in 2016 free agency. The guaranteed money includes the $12M signing bonus, a $5M 2016 roster bonus, a 2016 base salary of $4M, and a 2017 base salary of $16M. His 2016 cap hit for the Texans (his 5th year in the NFL) is $12M. His 2017 cap hit will be $19M. His 2018 cap hit will be $21M assuming the Texans keep him. His 2018 dead money will be $6M, so it would be $15M cheaper to release him than to keep him if he doesn't work out for them). His 2019 cap hit MIGHT be $20M with $3M in dead money if he gets released before a $4M roster bonus guarantees.
My thoughts about real contract #2
Not as dumb as I originally thought, especially in light of dumber things (IMO) some of the other teams have done so far in 2016 free agency. It's potentially a 2 year contract for $37M with potential dead money accounted for, so $18.5M per year average. Still seems on the high side to me based on his limited NFL track record, but not long term cap wrecking high.
Moving on to the imaginary, hypothetical, what if stuff
What if the Broncos had seriously reached for Brent with their original #25 pick in the 1st round of the 2012 draft (the Broncos wouldn't have had Wolfe, but that's another story)? That pick was used to select Donta Hightower whose 4 year rookie contract cost a rounded $7.37M. Brock's contract would have cost about the same since rookie contract numbers are determined by draft order, NOT by position played. As a late 1st round 2012 pick, he would have been eligible for the 5th year option for 2016, and it would have cost $10.611M (documenting and crediting source). So the Broncos could have theoretically had Brent on the roster for 5 years for a total of a rounded $17.98M. Of course they wouldn't have had Wolfe. Probably wouldn't have had Hillman either, but that's another story.
Daggone it. Still haven't answered the original question
Does the cost savings of the 5th year option for a 1st round pick make it potentially worthwhile to "reach" for a QB in the mid-late first round who would otherwise be rated as a later pick?
I can play with numbers some more, but don't know which numbers to play with. If the Broncos had drafted Brent at #25 in the 1st round (a full round reach), his 4 year rookie contract would have cost about $7.37M, His 5th year option would have resulted in a 5 year price of $17.98M. But they drafted him at #57, a full round later. So his 4 year rookie contract cost $3.52M. Don't know what to use for the hypothetical cost of the 5th year the Broncos didn't get from him though. If I use the 2016 cap hit of $12M the Texans have, his 5 year cost is $15.52M. If I use his $18M per year average for his new contract, his 5 year cost is $21.52M. If I consider his Texans' contract to be a 2 year deal for $18.5M average per year, his 5 year cost is $22.02M.
Think I'll go back to the hypothetical and imaginary scenario in which the Broncos drafted him at #25 in the first round, used the 5th year option, and had him on the roster for 5 years for a total cost of about $17.98M. So how much would he cost in 2017 and beyond?
2017 and beyond hypothetical costs
Don't know. Just going to use average $ per year numbers for some young NFL QBs who got new contracts within the last couple of years, and might be considered to be franchise type of guys.
Russell Wilson: $21.9M
Cam Newton: $20.76M
Kirk Cousins: $19.95M (franchise tag)
Ryan Tannehill: $19.25M
Sam Bradford: $17.5M
Andy Dalton: $16M
Here's as close as I've come to a conclusion: It's kind of what I thought to start with, so naturally I'm going to let my inconclusive information support my original opinion. I don't think it makes sense to allow the potential "savings" afforded by the 5th year option to sway a team to make a big "reach" on a QB in the draft. The team might not end up saving all that much is cash or cap space, and the "reach" might cost them the opportunity to draft another talent like Wolfe. It might be worth considering with a lesser "reach" though, especially since potential franchise QBs are desirable and scarce commodities.