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 "Varsity Blues" icon 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.
Every starter needs an insurance policy. The Kansas City Chiefs have Chad Henne behind Patrick Mahomes. The Baltimore Ravens have Tyler Huntley behind Lamar Jackson. Even the San Francisco 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo on retainer in case exciting youngster Trey Lance fails.
NFL backups, despite being the side chick of their team, get paid big bucks to ride the bench.
All these figures are from Spotrac and show what each player is owed for the 2022 season as the "other guy" on their NFL team. You'll notice this year's list is quite different from last year's list, because Saints' Taysom Hill is now a tight end and Marcus Mariota is now starting in Atlanta. Anyway, on the second-stringers.
10. Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders
The 29-year-old will take a backseat to Carson Wentz this season after starting 15 of the team's games in 2021. He went 7-8 and proved himself as a formidable passer. He signed a two-year extension last February and will take home $3,125,000 in 2022 considering a roster bonus of $750,000 and an incentive bonus of $875,000.
9. Chad Henne, Kansas City Chiefs
The 37-year-old Henne has one of football's coziest jobs, because he's started just one game in the last five seasons. He wasn't even all that spectacular back when he was a starter for the Dolphins and Jaguars, as his 18-36 career record and 60-63 touchdown-to-interception ratio indicates. Still, he's the guy the Chiefs have placed their faith in to back up Patrick Mahomes.
8. Case Keenum, Buffalo Bills
I've always been a fan of Case Keenum, but no team ever goes all-in on college football's all-time leading passer. Keenum's career record starting on subpar teams is 29-35, but his 78 touchdowns against 48 interceptions is among the better ratios on this list.
Playing behind Josh Allen doesn't offer many opportunities, but Buffalo is in good hands should their star QB go down.
7. Joe Flacco, New York Jets
Joe Flacco is a long way removed from his Super Bowl victory with the Baltimore Ravens, but he's still a better option as a backup than most guys. The Eagles traded him to the New York Jets in October 2021, and he signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million -- including a $1,730,000 signing bonus and $2,850,000 guaranteed -- to ride the bench in 2022.
6. Colt McCoy, Arizona Cardinals
It's hard to believe McCoy is already 35, but his career as a backup certainly has paid off. He's started just 12 games over the last nine seasons -- with five different teams -- but has earned more than $24 million during his career. He's now the Cardinals' insurance if anything happens to Kyler Murray.
5. Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns
The Browns went and got Jacoby Brissett to back up Deshaun Watson before any suspension was announced. Given Watson's lengthy suspension, it's a good thing they have an experienced signal caller like Brissett. He signed a one-year deal with the team in March 2022.
4. Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mason Rudolph might be a bit of a shocker on this list. However, he went 5-3 when Ben Roethlisberger was out with an injury in 2019. With Ben retired, Rudolph will still serve as a backup, just to Mitch Trubisky. Considering the Steelers also have Kenny Pickett, it's a very crowded and competitive quarterback room.
3. Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants
It might not be long before Daniel Jones gets the axe, and if he does, Tyrod Taylor will be ready to suit up. The 33-year-old has started 53 games in his career and owns a solid 59-25 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal in March.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Miami Dolphins
Maybe the Dolphins signing Teddy Bridgewater will be the fire under Tua Tagovailoa's butt this season. And maybe not. Regardless, the Dolphins have two solid quarterbacks in Miami. The 29-year-old Bridgewater went 7-7 for the Denver Broncos last season and has plenty of experience.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Are you surprised at all by Jimmy G topping this list? The 49ers made it clear they wanted to move on from Garoppolo when they drafted Trey Lance, but the team has had a hard time finding a trade partner. Thus, they're keeping Garoppolo as a backup. Of course, rostering a passer who took the team to a Super Bowl and went to the NFC Championship Game last season ain't cheap. His contract is incredibly complex because there are so many different incentives embedded into his deal, but he'll make at least $7 million in 2022.
The 2021 Highest-Paid Backup: Taysom Hill
Highest-Paid Backups Last 5 Seasons
Highest-Paid Backup QB - 2021
1. Taysom Hill - $12.159 million
2. Andy Dalton - $10 million
3. Case Keenum - $6 million
4. Tyrod Taylor - $5.323529 million
5. Jacoby Brissett - $5 million
Highest-Paid Backup QB - 2020
1. Alex Smith - $16.0 million
2. Marcus Mariota - $9.130549 million
3. Taysom Hill - $8.841 million
4. Case Keenum - $5.5 million
5. Mitch Trubisky - $4.513 million
Highest-Paid Backup QB - 2019
1. Eli Manning - $17.0 million
2. Teddy Bridgewater - $7.25 million
T-3. Tyrod Taylor - $6.0 million
T-3. Chase Daniel - $6.0 million
5. Brian Hoyer - $5.0 million
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
This post was originally published on November 22, 2020. It has been updated prior to the 2022 season.
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