There is no more important position in all of North American professional sports than NFL quarterback. None.
A good starting quarterback is the on-the-field CEO of his team and the face of the franchise. One who performs well in a single Super Bowl sets himself up for a major payday and a check that has eight figures. Just as some QBs in the league are way overpaid (i.e. Romo, Tony), some were nothing shy of bargains for their clubs in 2013.
Here's a fun fact for you: The only current Super Bowl champion quarterback in the league didn't have a top-ten cap number last season. Heck, he's wasn't even in the top 50. Here are the top 10 quarterback bargains for the 2013 season.
10 Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers: $6,006,954 in 2013
Newton deserves to be on this list despite having such a high cap number. He has eliminated any doubts that he can be a franchise quarterback who can lead a team to the Super Bowl, and Newton earned every cent of his paycheck in 2013. He would be worth up to three first round picks if another team wanted to grab him, and that's what makes him such a good value.
9 Brian Hoyer - Cleveland Browns: $715,000 in 2013
Hoyer was handed the No. 3 spot on the Cleveland depth chart by a coaching staff that has since been booted out of Berea, but he landed the starting gig just three weeks into the season after Brandon Weeden injured his thumb and Jason Campbell was unimpressive in relief. Hoyer was a revelation for a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2007, helping to take the Browns from 0-2 to 2-0.
Cleveland professional sports would have no luck if not for bad luck, though, and that was again the case in October. Hoyer tore his ACL in Week 5, and the Browns spiraled out of control and to an overall record of 4-12. He will be given the chance to keep his starting job this coming summer, but the team will likely be selecting a quarterback early in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.
8 Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals: $4 million in 2013
The veteran of 11 years came out of nowhere to have a pretty solid season. Sure, he tossed 22 picks, but he also threw 24 touchdowns, and he finished the campaign with over 4,200 passing yards. Palmer was a big reason for Arizona going 10-6, and the Cardinals would have made the playoffs if they were an AFC side.
Some would say that an aged QB with a cap hit of $4 million couldn't be considered to be a bargain. Palmer outplayed many who had bigger cap numbers, such as Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans starter Matt Schaub.
7 Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts: $5,024,545 in 2013
Luck continued to look like the next Peyton Manning in 2013, throwing for over 3,800 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also decreased his total interceptions from 18 in his rookie campaign to nine, and he raised his completion percentage from 54.1 to 60.2.
Luck is one of many on a rookie deal to be mentioned in this piece. He is, down the road, going to cash in on a big contract, one he will earn. For now, however, he's a steal for the Colts.
6 Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins: $2,879,205 in 2013
Tannehill has, in two years, evolved into a pretty good starting quarterback. I'd have no problem putting him low in the second tier or high in the third tier of QBs in the league. He matched 17 interceptions with 24 passing touchdowns, and he completed over 60 percent of his attempts.
I don't at all believe that Tannehill is going to become the next Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. I can, however, see him soon entering the same group of quarterbacks that contains the likes of Joe Flacco and the previously mentioned Ryan. That's not too shabby considering his price tag.
5 Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs: $8.5 million in 2013
“Game manager.” That has been the knock on Smith throughout his NFL career. Smith helped manage the Chiefs to an overall regular season record of 11-5, and he had what was statistically the best season of his career.
Smith left many fans and analysts shocked when he outplayed Luck in the playoff game at Indianapolis. He threw four touchdowns, he wasn't picked off once, and he finished the contest with a rating of 119.7. It wasn't his fault that the Chiefs gagged that postseason game away.
4 Andy Dalton - Cincinnati Bengals: $1,422,054 in 2013
I'm not going to pretend that there aren't serious concerns about Dalton's ability, or lack thereof, to help the Bengals take that next step towards a championship. He looked absolutely awful in the playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, causing rumours to start swirling that the Bengals could be considering bringing in a veteran who would compete for the starting gig.
Don't look now, but Dalton's numbers are very good for a guy with a cap hit of under $1.5 million. He threw 33 touchdowns, and he was close to tossing for 4,300 passing yards. Know who would have happily taken those numbers in 2013?
3 Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers: $1,397,535 in 2013
Kaepernick had an up-and-down campaign, but he found his form during the holiday season. He helped lead the 49ers to six straight victories to end the season, and he was one better-thrown ball away from potentially beating the Seahawks in Seattle on NFC Championship Sunday.
There should no longer be any questions about whether or not Kaepernick can get it done on the big stage. It's still very early into all of their careers, but there is a possibility that Kaepernick could turn into the best of all of the young quarterbacks in the league. Yes, everybody, he is that good.
2 Nick Foles - Philadelphia Eagles: $655,880 in 2013
Foles entered training camp as the second option behind Mike Vick. He ended the season with 27 touchdown passes, over 2,800 passing yards and only two interceptions in 13 appearances. Foles' quarterback rating of 119.2 was the best in the NFL.
The MVP of his team, one could argue that Foles should be atop this list. The roster of the Eagles couldn't hang with the top teams in the NFC, and there was a time last fall when Foles was the hottest quarterback in all of the NFL. Let's see if he can do it all again for an entire season.
1 Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks: $681,085 in 2013
Wilson struggled in the final month of the regular season, and some saw him as a liability heading into the playoffs. Then, he went and outdid Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLVIII. Wilson will now be receiving some shiny new championship jewelry later on this year.
Wilson, undersized when compared with the majority of quarterbacks in the league, could be the ideal QB of this current era. He uses his legs to extend plays, but he does so to first allow wide receivers to get open before he considers rushing down the field. His arm is underrated, and he showed on the final Sunday of the season that he is a calm and cool customer under pressure.
Wilson, who just finished his second NFL season, will likely be atop this list for the next several years.
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