The Chicago Bears surprised many in the football world earlier this month when they announced they were resigning Jay Cutler to a seven-year, $126 million deal.

The quarterback has been sidelined for significant stretches in two of the last three seasons, and has only been selected to play in the Pro Bowl once—and that was over five years ago while we was playing for the Denver Broncos. But his deal—the richest in total dollars  among all NFL quarterbacks—makes it seem as though he's the cream of the crop.

Cutler

Source: Mike Morbeck, via Wikimedia Commons 

Being both a native Wisconsinite and a Packer shareholder,  I think my opinion is more than just slightly biased. So to convince you that this contract was simply a terrible decision, I decided to go right to the numbers.

Breaking it all down
There's no arguing that the average NFL player earns far, far more than is necessary—we won't be dealing with that here. Instead, let's take a look at the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks, and see what they are raking in, on average, for every year of their contract.

Player

Team

Average Yearly Pay

Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers

 $22,000,000

Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons

 $20,750,000

Joe Flacco

Baltimore Ravens

 $20,100,000

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints

 $20,000,000

Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos

 $19,200,000

Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears

 $18,100,000

Tony Romo

Dallas Cowboys

 $18,000,000

Matt Stafford

Detroit Lions

 $17,666,667

Eli Manning

New York Giants

 $16,250,000

Matt Schaub

Houston Texans

 $15,500,000

Source: Overthecap.com 

It would be easy to simply see how these quarterbacks are doing now, and compare their statistics to their salaries. But that doesn't really help us know whether or not the contracts were a good decision by each team.

Instead, it makes more sense to see how these quarterbacks performed in the two full seasons before signing their current contracts. That gives us a better idea for what each team's management expected to get in return for their contracts when they were signed.

Obviously, this is an imperfect analysis. As the disclaimer goes, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Additionally, franchises pay their quarterbacks not just for their arms — this doesn't account for their rushing skills, their leadership of their teams, their face-of-the-franchise charisma, and the durability of their collarbones, for example. But by looking at the prior two years, we can get a general read on what teams think they're buying.

If you consider how much each of these quarterbacks were paid per expected yard thrown, touchdown, win, and QB rating point—based on their performance immediately preceding their current contracts—here's what the numbers look like.

For each category, the two best deals are coded green, and the two worst are coded red.

Football Chart

Source: NFL.com

As you can see, there's a lot of variation. For example, whereas some quarterbacks are paid a half-million per expected touchdown pass, others earn nearly twice that amount.

Again, there's no perfect way to measure how much a quarterback is worth. In the end it's the opinion of management that matters the most. But by taking all four of these variables into consideration, we get one way of looking at which quarterbacks represent the best deals for their teams.

So who's worth the money and who isn't?  I assigned 10 points for the best deal in each category, 9 points for the second-best deal, and so on. Below the quarterbacks are ranked from best-bet-for-your-money (most points) to worst (least points).

Ranking

Player

 

1st

Drew Brees

Worth the Money!

2nd

Aaron Rodgers

3rd

Peyton Manning

4th

Tony Romo

5th

Matt Stafford

Middle of the Road

6th

Matt Schaub

7th

Eli Manning

8th

Matt Ryan

9th

Joe Flacco

You're kidding, right?

10th

Jay Cutler


From this perspective, the verdict is clear: Jay Cutler is simply not worth this kind of money. Beyond overpaying for a mediocre player, such a move also affects what the Bears will be able to do in keeping other talent on the team. There's a hard salary cap for the NFL, and every dollar given to Cutler is one that can't be given to another player.

Of course, this isn't to say Cutler won't prove his worth later on. Maybe the Bears see something that most of us don't, and he'll lead them to their first Super Bowl win in almost 30 years. I'm pretty sure you know how I hope this turns out, but we'll just have to sit back, wait, and see.

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Fool contributor Brian Stoffel owns a share of the Green Bay Packers. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.