An average of 38 touchdowns were scored per week in the NFL in 2013. Out of 1214 TDs this season 804 were passing touchdowns. The NFL continues to be a passing-dominated league, and with only a few teams like the Vikings and Chiefs being defined by their run games, more and more quarterbacks are putting up large numbers.
In the last ten years the NFL single season record for passing touchdowns has been broken three times, once by Tom Brady (50) and twice by Peyton Manning (49, 55). In 2011 Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a single season with 5476. This year Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles threw for an NFL record 7 touchdowns in a Week 9 blowout against the Oakland Raiders. As the NFL’s passing records continue to fall, the running game is becoming more and more of a luxury for many teams.
In recent years only a couple of running backs have broken or gotten close to breaking any major rushing records. While there are only a handful of elite running backs in the league, sports media outlets are constantly naming their top ten or top fifteen quarterbacks every year. And while there are arguably only four or five truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL, new names are constantly being thrown into the discussion, while those running backs who have established themselves as elite at their position have been set in stone as such.
There has been a shift in the balance of power in the NFL. The passing game has replaced the running game as the way to go for most teams, and because of that we are seeing more and more explosiveness at the quarterback position. With that being said, here are he top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL per touchdown thrown in the 2013-14 regular season.
10. Chad Henne – Jacksonville Jaguars – $201,923 per TD thrown
Chad Henne started 13 games for the Jaguars in 2013 after the team benched former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert in Week 5 against the St. Louis Rams. Henne started off slow in 2013, managing only 4 passing td’s in the first 10 weeks of the season. He finished strong though, throwing for 9 touchdowns in 7 weeks and finishing with 13 passing tds and 14 interceptions. Despite Henne’s late season efforts, the Jags still ended up finishing 4-12. Holding the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Jaguars are expected to pick a QB for the second time in 10 years, and Henne’s long-term future with the team is clouded.
9. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers – $218,750 per TD thrown
Having thrown a total of 35 interceptions in his last two seasons Philip Rivers bounced back in a big way in 2013. With only 11 interceptions and 32 touchdowns, he and the chargers fought for a Wild Card spot winning four straight, three of those victories being decided by a touchdown or more. Rivers is half way through a 6-year, $91 million dollar contract extension signed in 2009 but he solidified his status as the franchise QB in San Diego long ago.
8. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints – $250,000 per TD thrown
Having passed for over 5,000 yards over the last three years, Drew Brees continues to be a staple for the New Orleans Saints on offense. With Brees at the helm, the Saints’ passing attack finished second in the NFL, and the team managed to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks. Brees continues to show that he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league today, and has matured greatly since he was drafted by the Chargers in 2001. Brees signed a 5 year/$100 million deal back in 2012 that’ll likely keep him with the Saints for the remainder of his celebrated career.
7. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers – $264,705 per TD thrown
Aaron Rodgers missed eight games in 2013 due to injury, but still managed to put up 17 touchdowns through the air and lead his team to an NFC North title over the Chicago Bears. After going down in week 9, the Packers went 2-4-1 without their star QB. The Packers were then eliminated in the Wild Card round by the San Francisco 49ers despite Rodgers’ best efforts. Since he first started for the team, Rodgers has had 5 consecutive seasons with a passer rating over 100. The Packers have him signed throughout the 2019 season, as he inked a 5-year, $110 million extension on April 26, 2013 and is set to make $20 million in the final year of his contract at the age of 36.
6. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos – $272,727 per TD thrown
Leading the NFL with a record 55 passing touchdowns in 2013 is quite a feat for anyone, but especially for a 37-year-old two years removed from spinal fusion surgery. Peyton Manning however, isn’t just anyone. The 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year looks as good as ever and has his Denver Broncos facing the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game for what will no doubtedly be another classic installment of Manning vs. Brady. With only 10 interceptions for the year, Manning completed the 2013 season with an outstanding touchdown to interception ratio of 5.5, behind only Josh McCown and Nick Foles, neither of whom started all 16 games in 2013.
5. Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs – $326,086 per TD thrown
The Chiefs made a big trade for former 49ers first-overall pick Alex Smith that eventually cost them two second round picks. The trade paid off, however, as the Chiefs found themselves a solid game manager. Smith put up a career high 23 passing touchdowns compared to only 7 interceptions and threw for over 3,000 yards. Despite theses pedestrian numbers, Smith’s play throughout the season was a big reason why Kansas City made it to the playoffs. He showed leadership and consistency throughout the season and uncharacteristically threw for 4 touchdowns in the Chiefs’ Wild Card loss to the Colts. The Chiefs are reportedly looking to extend Smith’s contract.
4. Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears – $445,789 per TD thrown
Jay Cutler started eleven games in 2013, missing five due to injury. Stellar play by backup Josh McCown almost threatened Cutler’s starting job, but he returned as Chicago’s starter in Week 15. In his fifth season as a Bear, Cutler threw for 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions but failed to lead his team to a playoff birth as they lost the NFC North to the Green Bay Packers in a week 17 showdown. The Bears committed to Cutler long-term by signing him to a seven year $126 million deal that will keep him with the team through the 2020 season.
3. Sam Bradford – St. Louis Rams – $642,857 per TD thrown
Sam Bradford’s 2013 season was looking good until he suffered an injury seven games into the regular season. In 7 weeks Bradford had put up 14 passing touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. As a former first overall pick, Bradford’s career hasn’t really taken off yet. He’s shown potential in the two full seasons he’s played, winning Rookie of the Year, but has missed 15 starts in the last 48 games. In his four years as starter, Bradford has never once led his team to the playoffs, injury being one of the main reasons. Despite this, Rams GM Les Snead says that the team is committed to Bradford, despite holding two top 15 picks in a draft that holds great potential at the quarterback position.
2. Eli Manning – New York Giants – $722,222 per TD thrown
2013 was one of, if not the worst NFL season Eli Manning has played. Failing to throw for 20 touchdowns and turning the ball over a career-high 34 times, the Giants fell into an 0-6 slump. Despite a four game winning streak, Manning and the Giants lost to the Chargers in a must-win week 14 match up. Manning wasn’t the only thing wrong with the Giants’ offense in 2013 as inconsistent play from the receivers and running backs, as well as injuries to the offensive line played a part as well. But just as they get all the credit when things are going well, the quarterback is also the player who receives the most blame when the wheels fall off. The Giants are currently searching for a new offensive coordinator, one that can help Manning better his 0.7 touchdown to interception ratio.
1. Matt Schaub – Houston Texans – $725,000 per TD thrown
After his 2013 campaign proved to be mediocre at best, Matt Schaub is likely to be wearing another uniform in 2014. Benched halfway through the season after throwing 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 8 starts, Schaub posted a touchdown to interception ratio of 0.7 and a turnover differential of -4. Schaub has won two divisional titles and put up 130 passing TDs as a Houston Texan and at 32 is still in his prime. Although his recent performance may not convince many skeptics, Schaub should be one of the biggest free agent QBs of 2014 if he is released.