Make a mistake on a first-round draft choice at any position and there is a price to pay. Make a bad call on a first-round quarterback, however, and the financial implications are sometimes doubled, because it costs a lot of money to rectify the error.
That painful reality was again demonstrated Wednesday afternoon, when the Baltimore Ravens essentially acknowledged after three years that 2003 first-round draft pick Kyle Boller is not the answer at the game's most critical position, and agreed to acquire Steve McNair from the Tennessee Titans, pending a physical.
In Boller's three seasons in the league, the Ravens have invested $6.68 million in the 19th overall selection from the 2003 draft, counting bonuses and base salaries. Boller received an initial signing bonus of $2.2 million in 2003 and a second-tier option bonus of $2.05 million in the spring of 2004. His base salaries for three seasons were $655,000 (for 2003), $306,200 (2004) and $1.47 million (2005).
Not a complete financial fiasco for the Ravens, but still a considerable cost, given that Boller was only two games over .500 in his 34 regular-season starts (18-16) and played in all 16 games just once in three years. And that Baltimore must now spend more money to pay for its mistake in judgment.
To replace Boller as the starter -- which is what McNair will do, despite the lip service to the possibility of realistic competition between the two veterans in training camp -- the Ravens will pay McNair $12 million in 2006. And they aren't spending that kind of money, nearly twice what Boller earned in compensation over three seasons, for McNair to be a backup.
League sources confirmed that McNair will receive a signing bonus of $11 million and a base salary of $1 million from the Ravens for the 2006 season. The five-year contract to which McNair agreed weeks ago will pay $20 million in its first three seasons. In 2006 alone, McNair will earn more than the Titans were willing to pay him over the next three years in the restructured contract they most recently proposed.
Tennessee will be on the hook for a significant amount of "dead money," cap space charged for players no longer on the roster, but some of the impact of McNair's departure can be deferred to the 2007 cap. As for the Ravens, well, they learned this tough lesson: A big mistake on a first-round quarterback usually means a big payday for the guy who has to come in and fix it.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.