When NFL teams pay their starting quarterback a king’s ransom, they also take out a massive insurance policy in case their Ferrari crashes. Backup quarterbacks may have the most boring job at the surface, but they’re vital to an NFL team’s success when called upon. They make a lot of money, too.
Being the backup NFL quarterback potentially opens the door for a career-defining moment. Take the Philadelphia Eagles’ run to their Super Bowl LII win, or movie legend Jon Moxon, as prime examples of what happens when the backup quarterback takes advantage of his opportunity to step in and become “the guy.”
Backup quarterbacks are overlooked until they’re needed. It’s a position that leans on the mantra “be ready for anything.” Only 32 quarterbacks start in the NFL every week. Being ready to step into those shoes as a team’s quarterback can happen at any moment, so franchises make sure to sign the next-best option.
NFL backups, despite being the side-chick of their team, get paid big bucks to ride the bench.
Excluding rookie quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, both of whom made more than $20 million with signing bonuses in their first year, what remained was a slew of veteran backups who still made an insane amount of money.
All these figures are the cash values that every player brought home for the 2018 season as the “other guy” on their NFL team.
8. Matt Schaub, Atlanta Falcons: $3.25 million
The 37-year-old Schaub is the most decorated long-term backup in the league. A long-time for Houston Texans, Schaub earned Pro Bowl bids in 2009 and 2012 — Schaub led the league in passing yards and attempts in ’09. The journeyman has since made stops with the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens before settling in as Matt Ryan’s insurance since 2016 in Atlanta. He may not see the field again, but the Falcons have a known commodity waiting in the wings, just in case.
7. Drew Stanton, Cleveland Browns: $3.5 million
Stanton isn’t even the second-string quarterback in Cleveland and he’s making more money than Dak Prescott. The Browns are laughing their way into another season that could be a huge turning point for the franchise. Tyrod Taylor is the starter for now, but fans already want to know when first-overall pick Baker Mayfield will take the field. Stanton’s biggest action will come during the fourth quarters of preseason games, yet he’ll make 23-times as much money as Ohio governor John Kasich.
6. Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins: $3.6 million
McCoy is, statistically, one of greatest quarterbacks to ever put on a Texas Longhorn uniform — he owns almost every UT passing record imaginable. McCoy’s first two seasons in the NFL were his only as an NFL starter, racking up 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 21 starts. Since then, he’s appeared in 14 games, starting four, over the last six seasons. The Redskins gave Alex Smith the fat deal they denied Kirk Cousins for years, but McCoy sneaks in with a sweet salary to watch the drama unfold from the sideline.
5. Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears: $4.0 million
This is the biggest head-scratcher of the entire list. Chase Daniel, a University of Missouri legend, has attempted 78 passes in the regular season across eight NFL seasons. His one touchdown and one interception and two career starts gets him FOUR MILLION? It’s incredible what an NFL team will do. The Bears, who have their stock in Mitchell Trubisky, might not be very confident when their backup makes money like this.
4. Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs: $4.15 million
Henne’s first season in Kansas City comes on the heels of Patrick Mahomes’ rise to the starting role. It’s been reported that Mahomes is struggling early in training camp, so Henne’s $4.15 million pay out might be needed should he be called upon. Henne has started 53 NFL games with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, but has a 58:63 career touchdown to interception ratio. There’s a chance the 33-year-old Henne might see the field as a starter before his time is up.
3. Mike Glennon, Arizona Cardinals: $5.0 million
Glennon was the third quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, and watched a budding career be taken from him at every turn. His rookie year was his best despite leading a pitiful Buccaneers roster to 4-9 record as their starter. He was supplanted by Josh McCown the next year, and Jameis Winston the year after, which ended his chance to ever start in Tampa Bay. After a second chance to start with the Bears last year, Glennon’s 1-3 start became Mitchell Trubisky’s cue to take over. Now, the third-string quarterback in Arizona probably won’t see the field, but he sure does make a lot of money for almost nothing.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints: $6.0 million
“Josh is 1, Teddy is 2. Sam is 3,” Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. “The competition has been underway. It didn’t start today. It started Thursday when we reported for camp. He’s got some work to catch up and do.”
Well, Teddy might be No. 3 before the season even begins. Now that Sam Darnold is in camp, and Josh McCown is the starter for the time being, Bridgewater’s rise back from a terrible knee injury seems to be on hold. His return to Minnesota Vikings last year was applauded, but now he’s battling for a backup job with the No. 3 overall pick. Good luck, Teddy. At least you make six million dollars.
UPDATE: Since Bridgewater’s trade to New Orleans, his contract was restructured to include a $4 million signing bonus in 2018 and free up cap space for the Saints. And yes, that’s still a lot of money.
1. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: $9.0 million
This isn’t a surprise, but it just goes to show what being ready as the backup is all about. Foles was nearly out of football before giving it one last chance, and now he will forever be Philadelphia’s special legend. It is Carson Wentz’s team in eastern Pennsylvania, but it’s Foles’ town. He delivered the Eagles their first Super Bowl title, and he’s deserving of every dollar the Eagles give him. He could start for numerous NFL teams, but I guess being a Super Bowl-winning backup isn’t so bad either.