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With Matthew Stafford paid, who’s next?

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Now that Matthew Stafford has signed the biggest contract in NFL history, there are plenty of guys waiting to top that number including Aaron Rodgers.

Here’s an exercise first attempted after Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed the richest . . . contract . . . ever in June. Now that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has done the same, it’s time to look at whose hand will be the next on the baseball bat as quarterbacks outdo each other, one at a time.

1. The Next Wave.

Kirk Cousins.

With another one-year deal in Washington, at $23.94 million, four choices loom for the team by February: (1) sign Cousins to a long-term deal; (2) apply the transition tag at $28.78 million; (3) apply the franchise tag again, at $34.47 million; or (4) allow Cousins to hit the open market.

What he’d make on the open market remains to be seen. A tug of war could be looming between a pair of the player’s former offensive coordinators: 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Rams coach Sean McVay. Other teams could get involved, and Cousins could (should) emerge from the morass with a deal better than the one that Stafford has received.

Jimmy Garoppolo.

Some believe the Patriots will choose Garoppolo over Tom Brady in 2018. Most see that as inconceivable.

Regardless, Garoppolo is headed for a date with the open market, unless he does a new deal with the Patriots. With the franchise tag likely heading north of $23 million and the injury risk low (since he won’t be playing much if at all this season), Garoppolo has no reason to do a new deal before forcing the Patriots to decide whether to use the tag.

If the Patriots win a sixth Super Bowl and Gisele Bundchen yanks Brady into the sunset, the Patriots would then have a limited window to sign Garoppolo before applying the tag. Either way, the question becomes whether Garoppolo will push his leverage to the limit, or whether he’ll do a Brady-style discount.

If Brady stays, a tag-and-trade remains possible, as does the possibility of paying Garoppolo top-of-the-backup-market money. They also could choose to kick the can for a year by carrying Garoppolo at the franchise tag amount, which seems unlikely. But if the Patriots believe Garoppolo will be the next great quarterback, it’s a small price to pay to chase another decade of excellence.

Drew Brees.

Brees won’t extend his deal with one season remaining on it, which means he’ll become a free agent in March unless the Saints work out a contract with him before then. Either way, there will be no franchise tag or other device to hold Brees in place.

Which means that Brees may soon get a chance to show the football-following world the worth of a 39-year-old franchise quarterback on the open market.

It’s hard to think of him as anything other than a Saint, but he already has changed teams once in his career. Would it really surprise anyone if he ends up with a franchise that is merely a franchise quarterback away from seriously contending, especially if this year is finally the year that the annual Sean-Payton-May-Leave-The-Saints rumors finally come to fruition?

Sam Bradford.

Seemingly entrenched as the starter in Minnesota as Teddy Bridgewater recovers from a serious knee injury, Bradford has no contract beyond 2017. Which means that a player who cashed every check of a $78 million deal signed in 2010 and who then inked a two-year, $36 million deal in 2016 will get a chance to add to his $114 million career haul by becoming a free agent -- unless the Vikings give him yet another big contract, with the $23 million franchise-tag tender as the starting point.

A.J. McCarron.

McCarron is in the final year of his contract, but he may not be eligible for unrestricted free agency due to a years-of-service issue tracing back to his rookie season. That would allow the Bengals to hold him in place via the highest possible restricted free agency tender. They also could use the franchise tag, if they fear a team pilfering him for a first-round draft pick.

Regardless, the Bengals’ reportedly high asking price in trade for McCarron suggests that they have plans for him. Maybe those plans include becoming the successor to Andy Dalton, if they conclude that Dalton has taken the team as far as it can.

2. The Second Wave.

Matt Ryan.

With two years left on his second contract, the Falcons would be wise to consider getting a deal done before the market inches any higher. Come 2019, it would cost at least $25.98 million to keep Ryan under the franchise tag, and he’ll be paid a total of $35 million through 2018.

If he’s destined to eventually become the highest-paid quarterback, maybe the best move would be to do it now, via a four-year, $110 million extension that would have a new-money average of $27.5 million -- but that would pay out $145 million over six years, $6.5 million less than Stafford’s new deal.

Jameis Winston.

Eligible for a new contract after 2017, the Buccaneers need to decide whether to give him a second contract before his fourth year or before his fifth. The sooner they do it, the cheaper it will be.

Marcus Mariota.

The Titans are in the same boat as the Bucs, and it’s possible that Mariota will wait for Winston to do a deal, or vice-versa. Whoever goes last may end up with the better deal, even if he has to wait another year to get it.

3. The Third Wave.

Aaron Rodgers.

Four years ago, Rodgers signed a long-term contract with a new-money average of $22 million. He’s now $5 million per year behind a guy in his own division who has never won a single playoff game. In all fairness, Rodgers should be the next quarterback to get a new deal, even though he is signed for three more seasons.

The question becomes whether Rodgers will actively jostle for one. He doesn’t seem to be willing to complain about his deal, because to do so would be to invite criticism for signing it in the first place.

For as smart as Rodgers is, in hindsight it clearly wasn’t wise to commit through 2019 at a time when the cap was poised to jump eight figures every year. In fairness to Rodgers, no one expected the cap to move as much as it has since then, increasing by a total of 37 percent. Indeed, management was continuously pushing the idea that the cap would smooth, not spike.

Regardless, Rodgers’ once-great deal now looks almost average. If he squabbles too much, someone will say he should have had the foresight to not sign it when he did.

Russell Wilson.

Like Rodgers and others who have won Super Bowls, it would be easy for Russell Wilson to look at the trio currently atop the list of highest-paid quarterbacks (Stafford, Carr, Andrew Luck) and say, “What have they done?”

Not much, in comparison to the likes of Rodgers, Wilson, Brees, Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Eli Manning.

At an average of $21.9 million per year in new money, Wilsons now sits at $5.1 million per year behind Stafford. Despite his carefully-manicured public image, that can’t sit well with a guy who has led his team to two Super Bowls. And with two years left on his contract, the question becomes when Wilson’s representatives will begin quietly working the Seahawks for a deal that better reflects his value.

Dak Prescott.

The franchise quarterback of America’s Team still has two more years before he can even sign an extension. But as more and more quarterbacks pass the $25 million-per-year threshold, Prescott’s wage-scaled deal will look embarrassingly bad.

Prescott will make $540,000 this year, and $630,000 in 2018. That’s a total of $1.17 million over two full seasons. In that same period of time, Stafford will have made $67.5 million.

So, eventually, Prescott will get his deal. As will all of the other guys on this list. In time, more names will be added to it, and the cycle of quarterbacks getting enormous contract will continue -- even if the guys making the most at any given moment haven’t done nearly as much as their lesser-paid peers.