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 always 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.
Every starter needs an insurance policy. The Baltimore Ravens have Robert Griffin III to tutor Lamar Jackson. The Atlanta Falcons signed Matt Schaub to protect Matt Ryan. Even the Oakland Raiders have Mike Glennon on retainer just in case Derek Carr goes down.
NFL backups, despite being the side-chick of their team, get paid big bucks to ride the bench.
All these figures are the total cash values that each player is owed for the 2019 season as the “other guy” on their NFL team.
T-7. A.J. McCarron, Houston Texans
The 2013 First-Team All-American is a long way from his days as a two-time national champion with the Alabama Crimson Tide, but he’s still made a handsome living as a career backup. After four seasons behind Andy Dalton with the Cincinnati Bengals, a stint that produced only three regular season starts, McCarron moves to Texas where he’ll act as insurance for Deshaun Watson.
Knowing how porous Houston’s offensive line has been recently — 116 sacks in the last two seasons, most in the NFL — McCarron is one injury away from finally becoming “the guy.”
T-7. Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
The former Michigan State starter proved that he’s one of the league’s most valuable backups ever since he started 13 games for the Cleveland Browns back in 2014. Stints with the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers led him back to New England, the team that first signed him as an undrafted free agent out of college.
6. Nate Sudfeld, Philadelphia Eagles
The 187th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has appeared in three regular season games in two years, completing 20 of 25 passes fo 156 yards. The Indiana Hoosiers’ all-time leader in passing yards (7,879) and passing touchdowns (61) might not have the resume of a starter just yet, but he’s certainly trending that way in limited action.
Sudfeld will get nice and cozy behind a healthy Carson Wentz, who figures to contend for the league’s MVP award during the 2019 season.
5. Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins
The Redskins won’t have Alex Smith active for the entire 2019 season after a gruesome injury ended his 2018 campaign. As a result, it’s very likely that before the end of this year, 15th overall pick Dwayne Haskins — who’s due to make almost $9.0 million this season — will become the team’s starting quarterback at some point. That means it’s backup duty for McCoy once again.
The Texas Longhorns’ all-time leading passer (13,253) enters season six in Washington, but he’s got plenty of highly-paid company joining him this season in the quarterback room.
4. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
College football’s all-time passing leader (19,217 yards) flashed brilliance the last two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos. He’s started 20 games in two years, and likely will start the 2019 season for Washington. But in all likelyhood, he’ll be relegated to backup duty once again while Haskins takes the reigns.
Few quarterbacks deserve a chance to solidify themselves as starters in the league, but I’d lump Keenum into that category for what he’s done. At 31 years old, he’s shed the label as a “system QB” and become a professional player. Still, NFL fans want new and exciting, and that’s Haskins.
T-2. Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears
Chase Daniel is an enigma. He was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist at Missouri, has played for five teams entering his ninth year, yet he’s only started four career games in the regular season. Despite all that, his career completion percentage is 67.5 percent, and he led the Bears to a come-from-behind win over Detroit last year during his first start since 2014 when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Already 32 years old, Daniel may never get the chance to become a full-time starter in the NFL playing behind Mitch Trubisky. But hey, he’s taken home $28.3 million for 10 seasons of part-time work. I’d take any day.
T-2. Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers
Taylor is one of my favorite NFL quarterbacks to watch, but he got a raw deal when the Buffalo Bills traded him to Cleveland after the 2017 season. The sixth-round pick back in 2011 carried the bumbling franchise to a 22-20 record as the Bills’ starter and even made the 2015 Pro Bowl. Still, he’s been relegated to backup duty and might never see that success again.
Taylor’s dangerous with his legs, but as he turns 30, that elusiveness will begin to fade. As backup to Philip Rivers in the AFC West, he’ll have a chance to polish himself as a pocket passer and enter offseason free agency as a potential starter before his career is over.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints
Described as a “perfect match” for the Saints offense, the 2014 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year and 2015 Pro Bowl selection is on the verge of something special. It feels like Bridgewater’s been in the league a lot longer than five years, but at only 26 years old, he’s staring at a golden opportunity in Louisiana.
Sure, he won’t sniff the field with first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees is around, but the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is poised to takeover whenever Brees hangs it up. This season, he’s an insurance policy, but truthfully, you won’t find a better one anywhere in the National Football League.
Look what happened when the Green Bay Packers lost Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone back in 2017; All they had was Brett Hundley, who led the team to a 3-6 record as the starter. When the Colts were with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett led a potential playoff team to a 4-12 record.
Over the years, teams like the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins rely on career backups to carry the load without a franchise QB on the roster. These guys might sit for several seasons before getting their chance, but that doesn’t mean they’re relinquished to a backup role forever (See: Kirk Cousins).
Riding the bench might not be fun, but it sure pays. Check out some of the highest paid backups who weren’t used in long-term regular season action over the last few seasons.
Highest Paid Backup QB – 2018
1. Nick Foles (Eagles) – $9.0 million
2. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints) – $6.0 million
3. Mike Glennon (Cardinals) – $5.0 million
4. Chad Henne (Chiefs) – $4.15 million
5. Chase Daniel (Bears) – $4.0 million
Highest Paid Backup QB – 2017
1. Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) – $10.6 million
2. Matt Schaub (Falcons) – $4.6 million
3. Nick Foles (Eagles) – $4.0 million
4. Chad Henne (Jaguars) – $3.3 million
5. Colt McCoy (Redskins) – $3.0 million
Highest Paid Backup QB – 2016
1. Chase Daniel (Eagles) – $7.0 million
2. Paxton Lynch (Broncos) – $5.5 million
3. Chad Henne (Jaguars) – $5.0 million
4. Drew Stanton (Cardinals) – $3.5 million
5. Shaun Hill (Vikings) – $3.3 million