As usual, the flashy numbers came in a furore as the NFL’s free agency market opened (unofficially) on Monday.
Daron Payne: 90, as in millions, on a four-year contract while he remains in Washington.
Another defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave, stormed from Philadelphia to San Francisco on a four-year, $84 million deal.
Mike McGlinchey? The former 49ers tackle goes to Denver. Five years, $87.5 million.
Atlanta was busy replenishing guard Chris Lindstrom with $105 million over five years, then lured Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III to a four-year, $64 million deal.
These are just a few of the deal headlines that will become official when the NFL’s new league year begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. As NFL revenue escalates and the salary cap continues to rise, up to $224.8 million per team for 2023, the fun money is flowing.
Then there’s Jimmy Garoppolo. Against the backdrop of insane cash, the veteran quarterback looks like a big bargain for the Las Vegas Raiders.
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No, Jimmy G. wasn’t dirt cheap. The Raiders landed Garoppolo on a three-year, $72.75 million contract guaranteed with $45 million. The contract averages $24.25 million.
All in all, the game that reunites Garoppolo with Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, his former coordinator with the New England Patriots, might have been the smartest move of all as the new market takes hold.
Remember, the New York Giants paid $40 million a year to hold on to Daniel Jones, who has not thrown for 20 TDs in a season since 2019. That’s a type of market compensation to consider when estimating what the Raiders will pay Garoppolo, who also appeared to be on Houston’s radar.
Sure, other bargains will pop up as the market rolls into season.
But as it stands now – weeks after the Raiders sacked established quarterback Derek Carr – it’s going to be quite the challenge for Las Vegas. No need to feel sorry for Carr. He ended up in New Orleans, reunited with his former head coach Dennis Allen, on a four-year, $150 million deal with $100 million guaranteed.
Rather than keep Carr, who would have been guaranteed $40.4 million if he’d been on the roster Feb. 15, the Raiders saved more than $15 million by moving to Garoppolo by starting quarterback rotation.
Dave Ziegler, the Raiders’ second-year GM who also has a history with Garoppolo from his time in Bill Belichick’s scouting wing with the Patriots, can bow. Garoppolo’s contract accounts for the injury woes that have dogged the quarterback over the years.
There’s no question that 31-year-old Garoppolo can win when he’s on the field. He led the 49ers to Super Bowl 54. It’s reasonable to think he’ll work well again in the McDaniels’ system. And it will help to have a leading running back in Josh Jacobs to fuel the fast attack, while Davante Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and newly added Jakobi Meyers embody deadly targets in the passing game.
The unknown is whether the Raiders can count on Garoppolo being on the field. During his five seasons with the 49ers, Garoppolo missed 30 non-playoff games through injury. Setbacks include the broken foot that ended his final season after suffering cruciate ligament, thumb, shoulder and ankle problems.
To acknowledge the possibility of starting but not finishing with Garoppolo, the contract includes bonuses of $90,000 per game. Stay healthy, he collects. Follow the story and the Raiders’ payoff is modest.
No, there was certainly no question of a fully guaranteed contract in this case.
Yet the Raiders can look at their salary cap ledger and talk about the money that will be available to pursue other free agents or, just as importantly, secure long-term extensions for the likes of Jacobs or defensive end Maxx Crosby .
Even with the seventh pick in the first round, the Raiders are still able to draft their future quarterback depending on how the board falls in play with a top-heavy quarterback crop. It’s possible the Raiders could nurture a young quarterback and even decide to part ways with Garoppolo after a year or two without delving into the purgatory of the salary cap.
It might be difficult to get bookmakers on the Strip to place high odds on Garoppolo, who is playing a full season, but it’s a strong Moneyball move nonetheless, and offers at least some hope of paying huge dividends on the field as well pay.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.