Teams are willing to pay top dollar for them
When it comes to Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith, the majority is going to agree that neither of these quarterbacks should be classified as elite. At the same time, most aren’t going to say these two are just average passers either.
Most would probably agree that Cousins and Smith both deserve to be considered somewhere in between elite and average.
So despite neither quarterback being viewed as top-five material by the majority, this hasn’t prevented teams in desperate need of a signal-caller from handing them contracts worthy of a top-five passer.
Most Vikings fans are aware of the three-year, fully-guaranteed $84 million deal Cousins signed with the team in 2018 and the two-year, $66 million extension Minnesota gave him after the 2019 season. So we know that Cousins has made a good chunk of change during his time with the Vikings.
But Smith also made a pretty penny during his career as well. During his time in the NFL from 2005 to 2020, Smith made a grand total of $210 million, some of which came from a four-year, $94 million contract he signed with Washington in 2018.
The goal for pretty much every team around the league is to draft a quarterback and develop them into someone the franchise can rely on for at least a decade.
For the teams that end up being unsuccessful at this goal, they have to fight with other teams for whatever quarterbacks are available on the trade market and in free agency. Which is how guys like Cousins and Smith, who aren’t considered top-five passers by most, end up getting contracts that pay them more than what they’re probably worth.