The Bills have seen steady improvement from quarterback Josh Allen ever since they selected him No. 7 overall in the 2018 NFL draft. He came into the league as a wild but highly talented prospect because of his big arm and great athleticism for his 6-5, 237-pound frame.
There was reason to believe Allen could emerge like Cam Newton in his prime, given Buffalo’s braintrust of coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane’s history in Carolina. In his first two seasons, Allen leaned much on his running because of his inconsistency in passing downfield. That made 2020 a crossroads third year for Allen.
During the Bills’ 13-3 season, despite a few shaky performances, Allen put it all together as a pass-first QB, with field-stretching go-to wide receiver Stefon Diggs being the final piece. With his standout, MVP-like year, Allen has rewarded the Bills for making significant investments around him on the offensive line, receiving corps and backfield.
Now the Bills should feel a lot more comfortable about rewarding Allen with a lucrative second contract. Here’s a look back on Allen’s rookie deal and what that now means for how big of a raise he can expect to see:
Josh Allen contract details
Allen was slotted in for a fully guaranteed four-year deal of $21.183 million. In comparison, 2018 No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield got $32.682 million from the Browns and No. 32 pick Lamar Jackson got $9.471 million from the Ravens. The Bills also have a fifth-year option for 2022.
Allen earns an average annual salary of $5.295 million. For 2020, he’s making a total of $5.867 million when combining base salary, the even split of his signing bonus and roster bonus. In 2021, he’s set to make $6.91 million.
With No. 3 pick Sam Darnold and No. 10 pick Josh Rosen as non-factors and Mayfield turning into more of a caretaker in Cleveland, Allen figures to be at least the second-highest paid QB from the class after Jackson going forward. Jackson, with league MVP on his resume from Year 2, currently deserves that jump over Allen.
Josh Allen’s second contract projection
Assuming there’s no major third-year regression from Allen after his strong start, he should get locked up long-term in the summer of 2021, the way the Chiefs took care of Patrick Mahomes and the Texans extended Deshaun Watson right before the 2020 season.
Mahomes set a new bar with an average annual salary of $45 million over 10 years, along with $63 million guaranteed at signing as part of more than $141 million in total guarantees. Watson averages $39 million on his four-year deal that came with more guaranteed at signing, $73.7 million as part of more than $110.7 million in total guarantees in relation to his shorter contract duration.
When projecting Jackson’s contract with the Ravens, there’s good reason to match Watson in terms of length of contract, only with more guaranteed at signing and a higher percentage of total guarantees. In terms of average annual salary, look for Jackson to make between $40 and $43 million.
Should Jackson slot in between Mahomes and Watson, as expected, where does that leave Allen? Really, should Allen build on his elite early play to either succeed Jackson as the best QB in the 2018 class, or even better, succeed Mahomes as Super Bowl MVP, he could command the second-highest average annual salary at the league’s highest-paid position.
At this point, with Allen turning the corner in his career, he shouldn’t feel bad if his play in relation to Mahomes, Watson and Jackson gets him “only” into Russell Wilson’s four-year neighborhood of $35 million per season, $70 million guaranteed at signing and $107 in total guarantees.
Based on the rising market values for young, successful first-round QBs as they exceed expectations on their initial bargain contracts, Allen was well behind but is catching up fast. His next deal will come with a high Wilson-like floor, but it can’t be ruled out for him getting right under the Mahomes ceiling, depending on whether he can finish the season even stronger than he started it.