While just about every preseason QB list projects Redskins starter Robert Griffin III to be at or near the bottom of the NFL, one former Washington star thinks RG3 will perform well this fall, and in turn, get paid.
"If he has a really solid, good year, he's looking at a $100 million plus. It's an economic situation as well as a playing situation," Joe Theismann said last week on a radio interview with 106.7 the Fan.
Why does money come up now? Griffin is in his fourth season, and the team has already exercised Griffin's fifth-year option for 2016, so any mega-deal for Griffin would be at least two years away. But, according to one expert, Theismann's assertion is pretty unlikely.
"If he does well, they will probably make him do it again," former agent and salary cap expert Joel Corry said. "I don't think there's a deal the Redskins would do long-term right now."
It's worth noting that NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed, but looking around the NFL, $100 million is not unusual. Arguably the game's best quarterback - Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay - has a contract with a total value of $110 million. Baltimore's Joe Flacco has a deal with a total value of $120 million. Jay Cutler is signed for $126 million, and most Bears fans view him as a malcontent at best.
Plus, remember the guy picked ahead of Griffin in the 2012 Draft, Andrew Luck? Luck is on a similar rookie deal as Griffin, and his contract will expire at the same time. Whatever money Luck gets will likely become the richest contract in NFL history.
To Theismann's point though, the market is obviously high for QBs. One interesting comparison is Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, a player with unreal athleticism but not the best pocket passer. Last summer, the Niners signed Kaepernick to a seven-year, $127 million deal.
While he did lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season, Kaepernick is a career 60 percent passer in 39 games started. Griffin has started 35 games, and completed 64 percent of his passes. Despite any similarities, Corry does not see Kaepernick and Griffin on level footing.
"Most people progress, he's regressed," Corry said of Griffin. "Kaepernick didn't look nearly as bad as RG3. It's been a couple years for RG3."
The advantage the Redskins have now is that Griffin's option only comes in play if he plays well, or a serious injury occurs.
"The only reason they exercised the option is to hedge their bets," Corry explained. "It doesn't really cost anything to exercise it. You can get out of it. It's a free look."
Corry believes that should Griffin play well this season, the Redskins would simply go into 2016 with Griffin on his fifth-year option.
"Since RG3 hasn't shown them anything since his rookie year, if he did play well enough to warrant keeping the option year, they would probably make him get off to a good start in 2016 and prove he's on an upward trajectory before they make a long-term commitment to him," Corry said.
While it's obvious the market for quarterbacks is sky-high, a new deal will require Griffin getting his game back. And Theismann thinks RG3 will do it.
"I believe he will be able to get it done," Theismann said. "I really do."
It's also worth remembering Theismann is a self-described eternal optimist about the Redskins. Yet, he brings a great point. This year is huge for Griffin, and if he does perform, a big contract could be in play.
In three seasons, the RG3 experience has obviously been a roller coaster. 2012 was the peak, but it's been downhill since. But at times in 2013 and 2014, signs emerged Griffin could still make electric plays. Since that rookie year, however, Griffin's body has taken a beating.
Jay Gruden was brought on as coach of the 'Skins with the specific task of helping Griffin as a pocket passer; understanding defenses, making the right reads. The work has been ugly at times, as Griffin is slow to release the ball and takes too many hits and sacks.
"I don't have any confidence that he's going to really progress in Gruden's West Coast offense," Corry said.
Theismann, however, is again optimistic about improvement.
"I think Robert will have had a full season now to understand Jay's offense," he said. Theismann added that RG3 has "made really good strides working out of the pocket."
The keys for Griffin are "being able to drop back, get the ball out of his hands and make quick decisions," Theismann said. "That's what this offense is all about."
Quick, correct decisions for Griffin could lead to a very big payday. The pressure is on.
"Money dictates whether you stay or go," Theismann said.