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The Highest-Paid Player in the NFL Has Started Only Seven Games

But he’s won all of them. Jimmy Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal and is now locked in as the 49ers’ quarterback of the future.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams

Jimmy Garoppolo remains undefeated.

After going 2-0 filling in for Tom Brady in New England in 2016 and then leading the 49ers to a 5-0 record to close out this season, Garoppolo now has the most impressive W of his career: a five-year, $137.5 million deal, $74 million of which is guaranteed. NBC’s Raj Mathai first reported the deal, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo first reported the annual figure, and NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco followed up with the guaranteed money. The deal is still unofficial.

This windfall technically makes Garoppolo the highest-paid player ever on a per-year basis, though the total value of the contract is misleading, because unlike in the MLB and NBA, NFL contracts are not guaranteed. Colin Kaepernick signed a six-year, $114 million deal with the 49ers in 2014 and was released just two years later after pocketing roughly a third of that total money. Garoppolo’s $74 million at signing is comparable to the $71 million guaranteed Alex Smith agreed to with Washington, and more than the $60.5 million guaranteed at signing Matthew Stafford got on his megadeal in August.

Still, securing the largest annual figure in NFL history after seven career starts and 183 career completions (more than $750,000 per completion!) is a coup for Jimmy GQ and his agent, Don Yee. And as much as it may seem like the 49ers are making it rain, these are merely the first drops of the impending storm.

With the rising salary cap changing the economics of the league––the cap has risen by at least $10 million per year for each of the past four years––the title of “highest-paid NFL player” has been passed around more haphazardly than Nathan Peterman throws. Last offseason, Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million deal, to claim the highest-paid player belt. Two months later, Stafford one-upped that deal with a five-year, $135 million contract. Now Garoppolo takes the title, but he won’t even hold it for the rest of the winter. When free agency begins on March 14, Kirk Cousins will be an unrestricted free agent at 29 years young––the first premium-ish quarterback to hit the open market at such a young age since free agency began in 1993.

Unlike Carr, Stafford, and Garoppolo, who were negotiating with a single team and had the shadow of the franchise tag hanging over any deal, Cousins will draw a true market value as he’s chased by the Browns, Broncos, Jets, Cardinals, and Vikings, and any other NFL team that wants to contend for his services. There’s little precedent to predict the number Cousins could get, but he’s in position to reset the quarterback market and perhaps become the NFL’s first $30 million-a-year player. And even then, whatever number he agrees to could quickly be surpassed by Matt Ryan or Aaron Rodgers, who are both in line for new contracts this offseason.

These numbers may seem massive, but in the context of professional sports, they’re practically peanuts. Garoppolo may have the richest annual deal in NFL history, but he’s still not getting paid as much as Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, the 17th-highest-paid NBA player by average annual salary. $137.5 million may seem like a lot of money for a quarterback who has started seven games, but it’s the new reality as the NFL’s cap continues to balloon.