We're already three weeks down in the NFL season. With each week, we get a clearer picture of how these teams are performing and what their flaws are. This week’s Four Verts jumps all across the NFL landscape, but takes its first stop with the teams that have very expensive quarterbacks.
A quick look at the teams with mega-rich quarterbacks
The past few offseasons have seen the young quarterbacks in the league get their big-time paydays that entrench them as the future of the league. Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and plenty of others have secured generational wealth through their play, which gives their teams a chance to hold onto top-tier quarterback play as their careers continue to grow.
Let's rank the teams that have poured money into the quarterback position. Ranking things is fun, right? These are the teams with quarterbacks that are making at least $100 million in guarantees according to Spotrac.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes, $141.1 million guaranteed)
Patrick Mahomes! Patrick Mahomes? Patrick Mahomes. Oh, and the defense looks to be pretty good as well.
2. Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen, $150 million)
The Bills had a rough Week 1 against the Jets, but blew out the Raiders and Commanders over the past two weeks. They will be fine.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (Jalen Hurts, $179.4 million)
The Eagles have so many star players and they appear to have hit a total home run with defensive tackle Jalen Carter in the first round of the draft. Hurts and the rest of the Eagles' offense are too loaded to fully fail right now.
4. Baltimore Ravens (Lamar Jackson, $185 million)
The loss to the Colts was weird, but the Ravens are still a top-tier team. They just need to get a couple of their starters back from injury, but Jackson is still giving this team a chance while they recover.
5. Dallas Cowboys (Dak Prescott, $126 million)
Losing to the Cardinals is a huge red flag, but the team is still about as talented as they come in the NFL. That loss against the Cardinals will probably end up being a blip on the radar for a club that has talent all over the place.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (Justin Herbert, $218.7 million)
The Chargers have not been good this season as a team, but Herbert has played so well that they get a boost here. They have a chance to win any game he's healthy. Austin Ekeler coming back eventually will give this team a big boost.
7. Cleveland Browns (Deshaun Watson, $230 million)
Watson finally had his first good game as a Brown, but the real story here is the defense. The Browns have given up just 21 first downs this season, 20 fewer than the second-place Buffalo Bills. The defense is elite so far, and that gives the Browns a boost even with the uncertainty that they’re paying $230 million on a QB.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (Joe Burrow, $219 million)
The Bengals have had one of the worst offenses in the league this season, producing almost no explosive plays as Burrow attempts to play through a nagging calf injury. The defense is still quality, but the Bengals will need to get way more from their offense to scare people again.
9. Detroit Lions (Jared Goff, $110 million)
The Lions are a good team. The defense has taken a step forward and the offense is gelling well again this season. The only thing keeping the Lions here is Goff not being quite as dynamic as the other QBs in front of him — although he has certainly been better than Deshaun Watson recently.
10. New Orleans Saints (Derek Carr, $100 million)
The Saints’ defense is exceptional, but their offense has been up-and-down this season. They’ve scored only 20 points once, which is a number that needs to increase with the investment the Saints made in Carr.
11. Los Angeles Rams (Matthew Stafford, $130 million)
Stafford has tried his best in poor circumstances this season, but the Rams don’t have enough talent at critical parts of their roster. That was easily apparent when Bengals pass rusher Trey Hendrickson on Monday repeatedly ran around an offensive tackle who was previously on the Bears' practice squad.
12. Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray, $159.8 million)
The Cardinals might be higher with the services of Murray considering their recent performances, but for now they can be known as the team that didn’t give up 70 points Sunday.
13. Denver Broncos (Russell Wilson, $161 million)
You give up 70 points, you're last. It's that simple
The Bears and Broncos are about to play the saddest game of all time
Let's keep this one brief considering what's about to occur in Chicago on Sunday. The Bears and Broncos engaged in some of the foulest football that the professional level has ever seen this past weekend. The Broncos, as everyone knows by now, let the Dolphins score SEVENTY points in a game that could have easily ended with more for Miami. The Bears were down 34-0 at halftime in a game where the biggest story wasn't even the game itself — they were essentially used as a vessel to indulge on our parasocial relationship with celebrities.
This wasn’t how the season was supposed to go for either team. Both of these clubs paid money and/or draft picks to be here. The Broncos invested first-round draft picks into Russell Wilson and Sean Payton to end up with a 70-20 loss in their third game together. The Bears spent money on linebackers T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds, who have allowed 25 of 27 passing targets into their coverage to be completed this season. These teams actually tried to take strides this year, but ended up right back where they started — nowhere.
Now, they play against each other in a game that could be so bad that it’s actually good. Maybe this is the team that Justin Fields needs to see in order to get his career moving back in the right direction. Or maybe they’ll do the right thing and black out this game on all possible platforms so people can do something else with their Sunday.
The Browns have built a total monster on defense
Cleveland has had a tough start to the season, but the Browns still sit at 2-1, thanks to the help of one of the toughest defenses in the league. Their defensive line is cruising so far, the linebackers are playing well and the secondary is performing well, too. Even with some of the struggles they’ve had offensively this season, the Browns are still 2-1 and no one really has been able to move the ball on their revamped defense led by longtime coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Through three games, the Browns are putting up some absurd numbers. They’re first in opposing yards per play (3.2), first in total first downs allowed (21), first in net yards per pass attempt allowed (3.5) and seventh in sack percentage (9.4%). The additions that they’ve made on defense are keeping them afloat in the AFC North while the offense continues to figure out what they want to be in the wake of Nick Chubb’s injury.
Myles Garrett has been an absolute monster this season, nabbing 3.5 sacks on Sunday against the Titans. According to Next Gen Stats, Garrett is getting pressure on 21.5% of his pass rushes and has the fastest get-off of his career at 0.61 seconds. He’s a one-man wrecking ball that allows the Browns to be a devastating defense instead of a merely good or great one. Barring injury, there’s no reason to believe Garrett won’t keep this pace of destruction up. He’s developed into everything they wanted and more coming out of Texas A&M.
This is the unit that the Browns needed to get off the ground in a hellish division and conference. Losing to the Steelers in Week 2 was a setback for the team, but the Browns actually have a defense that is as valuable as most offenses — a tough thing to accomplish in 2023. If the Browns’ defense can continue at this pace for the rest of the season, Cleveland might be able to accomplish what it needs to with its $230 million quarterback. Playoff football in Cleveland might be back (again) with the defense it has built this season.
C.J. Stroud? He’s good at the football
Of the three rookie quarterbacks who have played this season, C.J. Stroud has gotten off to the best start, even with the acknowledgement that Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young have been injured. Stroud has hit the ground running and looks to be the quarterback who can get the Texans back to being relevant again.
Stroud has always been a talented prospect, but the way he is commanding the Texans’ offense and making big-time throws down the field is incredibly inspiring for his future prospects and he’s done it against some quality opponents. Even with a pressure percentage that ranks eighth in the league among starting quarterbacks (40.9%), Stroud has stood tall and routinely made big throws. The play under pressure isn’t as consistent as some of the other veteran quarterbacks, but that’s to be expected.
Now that the Texans appear to have their new franchise quarterback, everything gets a little bit easier for head coach DeMeco Ryans and the Texans as they continue on through their rebuild. They’ve seen enough positives from Stroud already this season to alleviate the concern of his transition. Yes, he’s going to have some stinkers in his rookie season, but he also looks to be a high-floor player who is a stabilizing presence for any offense. Through three games, Stroud is on pace to throw for 5,134 yards and 43 touchdowns — a pace that won’t last but is impressive nonetheless for a player just starting his first season.
The Texans look to have found a quarterback in Stroud and hit another home run with the selection of Will Anderson Jr. Anderson has already established himself as one of the more disruptive edge players in the league and has a chance to swiftly become a dominant force in the NFL. Stroud and Anderson are leading a future for Houston that finally looks bright after the messes the Texans have dealt with over the past few years.