Josh Allen has led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs for the second straight year. The third-year quarterback has made a huge leap in 2020, winning 12 games for Buffalo while establishing himself as an MVP candidate and throwing for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions. Most importantly, Allen has dramatically improved his accuracy, posting a 69.2 percent completion percentage compared to a 58.8 percent mark in 2019.
Regardless of what happens to the three-seed Bills during the postseason, Allen has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is the franchise's future. To whit, Ian Rapoport reported this morning that Buffalo will approach Allen about a big contract extension this offseason. Allen still has two years remaining on his rookie deal, and Rap suggests Allen could become the highest-paid QB in the NFL.
Rapoport presumably meant that Allen could be the highest-paid QB by yearly salary, since nobody will be coming close to the total value of Patrick Mahomes' 10-year deal with the Chiefs at $450 million. Mahomes also currently makes the most out of any NFL quarterback on a yearly basis, with a $45 million annual salary.
Could Allen make more than that? It is certainly possible. Mahomes' yearly value feels like it's actually on the lower end, considering he chose long-term security and to stay in Kansas City for a decade rather than signing a four-year deal for the max amount of money possible. The Bills love Allen, but only a playoff run of epic proportions would get them to even think about signing him to a deal longer than five years.
With that in mind, the most recent quarterback to sign a big ol' extension was Deshaun Watson, currently embroiled in his own controversies in Houston. Over this past offseason Watson signed a four-year deal worth $156 million with $74 million fully guaranteed at a $39 million annual salary. That will be the baseline Allen's agents use to negotiate. Watson might be a better quarterback than Allen in a vacuum, but Allen has won more games and proved he was, at the very least, on Watson's level with his huge 2020 season.
Allen should easily eclipse Watson's $39 million annual salary. It's not a stretch to think he could even surpass Mahomes in that department. Each young, talented quarterback is paid more than the last. A four-year, $200 million contract with somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million fully guaranteed is probably the ceiling for any new deal. With new TV deals coming up, the NFL will be more flush with money than ever.
There is, of course, the small matter of how the salary cap is going to look, as Rapoport mentions. The cap usually jumps a good amount each year, but the league and each of its franchises lost a lot of money this year with no fans in the stands. At best, the cap will jump minimally, and realistically it'll be the same as this season. That puts a natural limitation on how much Allen could negotiate because the team, as much as they want to sign a deal, doesn't want to completely eliminate their financial flexibility in the process.
That could mean this will be a funky deal. We see front-loaded and back-loaded contracts all the time, but not for quarterbacks. Those are straightforward. If the Bills want to give Allen his due without destroying their cap sheet, they could give him a massively backloaded deal in terms of his salary to minimize the cap hit with a whole lot of money up front as a signing bonus. If both sides are willing to tango, they could get real creative with the structure of the extension.
All in all, Allen will be in line to make more than $40 million a year with the new extension. We know that for a fact. If it'll be more than Mahomes' $45 million probably depends on how Allen and his team perform in the playoffs this year. If they lose early in the playoffs, Allen will still make $40 million a year, but that might be it. If he makes a run, though? If Allen can lead the Bills to their first playoff win since 1995 or their first conference championship game since 1993? The sky will be the limit.