• Ed Wilkins

Alternative NFL Honors: Who 'Wins' Mr Caviar Fingers 2020?

Updated: Feb 15

It’s award season in the NFL and there is one trophy you really don’t want to get your grubby li’l mitts on – The Annual Mr Caviar Fingers trophy. There is also an NFL honor that you do want, Ol’ Dustyknees, presented to the blue-collar hero who cost his team the least with respect to his production.

Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, Gardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Drew Lock of the Denver Broncos

By Ed Wilkins from the Stiff Upper Lip Podcast.

Listen to the Stiff Upper Lip Podcast.


Listeners of the Stiff Upper Lip Podcast may be already aware of this most ignominious of awards, but for the uninitiated the formula is this. Every QB costs his team a certain amount, and, as all teams are restricted by the NFL salary cap, teams who spend more on their QB have less money to spend on other areas of the team.


The Caviar Index aims to establish a principle plotting value versus production. The index takes the total all-purpose yards generated by the QB and divides it over their total cap hit. This means that the players’ final score will be representative of their intrinsic value for each and every yard of their projected or achieved production.


A couple of caveats to discuss – firstly, the above would penalise players who miss time through injury, so this figure is subject to a factor of total games started versus total games eligible. For example, a player who played 8 games and was injured for 8 would receive a factor of 1 as they played all of their eligible opportunities, but a player who only played 12 games of a possible 16 would have their Caviar score inflated by 1.33 to represent the four games missed. Players like Taysom Hill and Jalen Hurts who saw snaps but not starts had their eligible games prorated to take this into account.


Second – eligibility. In order to be eligible for the Index players must take a significant number of snaps in at least four games, so apologies to players like Ryan Finley, who started fewer than four games, or Jacoby Brissett, who saw snaps in almost every game but never enough to qualify as significant. Which is deliberately vague and you’re going to have to just deal with it.

Finally – all science has an agenda. Much like the NFL MVP, Mr Caviar Fingers is ultimately a Narrative driven award. I have therefore installed a fourth piece in the Caviar Index Calculator this year – an override, to be used only in the event that the Caviar Index feels wrong, small, irrelevant, petty, daft, inaccurate, unrepresentative, egregious or otherwise unconstitutional, and I retain sole rights and responsibility of use.


Here comes Big Rog, wandering across the stage with a gold envelope in his sweaty palms:


1. Gardner Minshew III


The NFL’s working class hero gets a new title to add to the collection: Ol’ Dustyknees 2020. The mustachioed wonder, despite being held back by Jacksonville’s version of bigwigs, still threw for 2,259 yards in just 9 appearances, and counted just $700,000 against the cap. The jury might well still be out on whether he is the long term answer in Jacksonville, but the powers that be must realise that they have an opportunity to rebuild the roster whilst they can hang on to Minshew. At this point, Minshew’s floor seems to be that of fellow hirsute hero, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Let’s hope Jacksonville doesn’t ruin him.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,412

Games Played: 9

Games Eligible: 12

2020 Cap Hit: $722,904.00

Caviar Value: $398.62


2. Nick Mullens


The QB of the San Diego Second Chancers proves here that perhaps his value lies less in his drab on field production and more on his ability to keep the engine running at little cost to the team. $490.80 per yard of production in this league is not to be sniffed at. Like Minshew above, expect to see Mullens on a roster somewhere in 10 years. Just don’t expect the same fanfare.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,445

Games Played: 10

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $750,000.00

Caviar Value: $490.80


3. Cam Newton


The first of the true starting QBs, the 2015 MVP took an enormous hometown discount to sign with the Patriots, costing them just $1,000,000 against the cap. As good as it was to see Cam back in the league, his on-field play did not set the world alight, and he proved to be worth about as much as Billy B paid him after his jaunt dumpster diving. Still, as the Patriots seem to be reaping to sow afresh, not having to fork out a king’s ransom to pay the court jester a multi-year contract reeks of solid management.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,249

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $1,662,500.00

Caviar Value: $511.70


4. Drew Lock


Bargain Bin John Elway’s time might be over in Denver too. Despite putting up fairly decent numbers, Drew Lock couldn’t force the team to many wins despite having a strong supporting cast. Expect big changes at Mile High now that Regular John Elway has lost hiring and firing privileges; new GM George Paton will likely want to rebrand the team in his image and that will likely mean a changing of the guard. Lock has potential in spades, and while his cap hit is relatively low, expect rumblings in Denver about his transfer potential.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,093

Games Played: 13

Games Eligible: 14

2020 Cap Hit: $1,593,368.00

Caviar Value: $556.37


5. Lamar Jackson


The first true Blue Chip player in the 2020 Caviar standings, the 2019 MVP became the first QB to rush for 1,000 yards in back to back seasons, and cost Baltimore just $686 per yard. His passing production was one of the lowest in the NFL among established starters thanks to his early season struggles, otherwise we could’ve expected him to be even higher on this list. Baltimore have hit this one out of the park, and I’m not even sure it has come down yet.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,762

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $2,583,178.00

Caviar Value: $913.24


6. Brandon Allen


Brandy Rayana Norwood (born February 11, 1979), better known by her mononym Brandy, is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, and businesswoman. As of August 2020, she has sold over 40 million records worldwide, with approximately 8.62 million albums sold in the United States alone. Oh no, wait, sorry; you wanted information on the OTHER Brandy? $917 per yard in 2020. With the lowest cap hit of any qualifying QB, Cincy would be wise to keep him waiting in the wings.


Total All Purpose Yards: 952

Games Played: 5

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $291,176.00

Caviar Value: $917.57


7. Justin Herbert


Herbert lit it up after benefitting from Tyrod Taylor’s punctured lung, and never looked back. Despite finishing the season slightly shakily (no doubt attributed to the existential crisis that he might be wedded to the Chargers for life) he set a new NFL Rookie Passing record – 4,336 to be exact – and cost them five cents on the dollar to do it, pennies compared to some of the numbers we will see. As the most financially sound investment of the 2020 QB draft class, expect to hear the name Herbert still relevant in a decade or two.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,570

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $4,832,501.00

Caviar Value: $1,131.46


8. Patrick Mahomes


Ah Patrick, Patrick. You put ketchup on your steak like a common fool, but other than that you can do no wrong in my eyes. Over 5,000 yards of total production, costing the Chiefs just $1,133 per yard, and just over $5,000,000 against the cap in 2020. That will leap up over the next few seasons but, with production like that and other franchise QBs commanding a Caviar score of more than twelve times that, Chiefs fans must be laughing all the way to the bank. They’ve already capitalised on their Superbowl window once, and a wise man wouldn’t bet against them to do it again.


Total All Purpose Yards: 5,048

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $5,346,538.00

Caviar Value: $1,133.28


9. Josh Allen


Joshua ‘The thinking man’s Jameis’ Allen is up next. The truth is he has enjoyed a spectacular leap, moving into the elite tier of NFL QBs. The future is bright for the Bills with him at the helm, and considering he only cost them $1,181 for each of his 4,965 total yards, the Bills would be wise to continue stocking up around him. Theirs is another Superbowl window well and truly wide open, and if we can expect the same production from Allen going forwards, it won’t need to be closed for a while.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,965

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $5,867,191.00

Caviar Value: $1,686.97


10. Kyler Murray


You are entering Kyler Murray Territory – the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the year continued to build on an impressive start, riding both his arm and legs for 3,971 and 819 yards respectively. Texas Tech cough, I mean The Cardinals didn’t make it this year, but if they can strike while the iron is hot and continue to provide Murray with weapons, they can go as far as his little legs can carry them.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,790

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $8,080,601.00

Caviar Value: $1,686.97


11. Daniel Jones


A narrative is beginning to emerge. It’s no secret that decent rookies on decent deals are good investments for teams and the Giants are no exception. While Danny ‘Duck-Footed’ Dimes hasn’t quite lived up to his #6 overall pick billing, he still has plenty of time to grow into both the role and his oversized shoulderpads, and he cost the G-Men fewer than $1,800 per yard in 2020. With the NFC east a primordial swamp of mediocrity, and the other three teams with varying degrees of cap horror, watch out for Danny and the Gang to bubble slowly to the top over the next couple of years.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,366

Games Played: 14

Games Eligible: 14

2020 Cap Hit: $5,922,740.00

Caviar Value: $1,759.58


12. Jalen Hurts


Speaking of the NFC East’s footballing shit-show, here is the latest poor unfortunate to work his way there. Jalen Hurts’ future is cloudy as the Eagles will be operating under new management, but he showed promise when he was given the keys. Expect a cap crunch in Philly over the next year or two with veterans and free agents likely moving on – fun fact: the Eagles have only drafted one Pro Bowl player since 2016. If Hurts does indeed ascend to the starting role, the lack of weapons around him will likely leave them hamstrung again for years to come – Philly have now consistently failed to prove that they can draft well under the Roseman Administration.


Total All Purpose Yards: 1,415

Games Played: 7 (PRO-RATED)

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $1,095,486.00

Caviar Value: $1,772.91


13. Andy Dalton


Andy “Confucius” Dalton lives by a mantra, and it’s one that we could all do with adopting in our busy lives – before every game as his mum smears on his eye paint he whispers to himself ‘a journey of 1,000 passing yards begins with a single incompletion’. Despite playing more than double the games Dak Prescott played, Dalton managed fewer than 400 yards more. His saving grace? His team-friendly contract means that he only cost old Sheev Jones $1,787 per yard against the cap.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,283

Games Played: 11

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $3,000,000.00

Caviar Value: $1,787.12


14. Deshaun Watson


One day in Houston they’ll be singing the ‘Ballad of Deshaun Watson’. The third generational talent that the Texans are rumoured to be shopping played out of his darn-tootin’ mind in 2020 and lead the league in total yards, all while costing the Texans fewer than $2,000 per yard. Handy, as despite trading away their talents left right and centre, the Texans are in the deepest cap hole of any team in the AFC, have no first or second round picks until 2023, and have a defense that got scored upon more times than your Mum. Get out, Deshaun, get out while you can.


Total All Purpose Yards: 5,267

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $9,808,244.00

Caviar Value: $1,862.21


15. Joe Burrow


We’ve broken the $2,000 barrier, everyone. Joey B was off to a great start before Cincy broke him. The good news? He’ll likely be fine. The better news? He’ll likely cost them less next year. The sobering news? This is Cincy, and they have a pretty dour record of protecting their Blue Chip talents. Still, with Burrow’s team-friendly contract in place for at least another three seasons, we could see an upturn in their fortunes and there might finally be a little less bungle in the jungle.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,830

Games Played: 10

Games Eligible: 10

2020 Cap Hit: $6,580,025.00

Caviar Value: $2,325.10


16. Kyle Allen


Allen is another player who could go on to have a very successful career as a backup. He hasn’t pulled up any trees recently, but will continue to be a low-risk, low-reward player for years and years to come. There is precious little else to say about Kyle Allen, honestly. There just isn’t.

Total All Purpose Yards: 636

Games Played: 4

Games Eligible: 9

2020 Cap Hit: $675,000.00

Caviar Value: $2,387.97


17. Mike Glennon


The problem for Glennon appears to be that he’s required to play. Honestly, Jacksonville hit rock bottom this year, and with Trev Lawrence all but anointed, it wouldn’t be surprising if Glennon was once again packing everything he owns up in a single bin bag and moving on. Just under $2,500 per season? That’s fine. Much like his on-field play, totally unremarkable.


Total All Purpose Yards: 1,089

Games Played: 5

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $840,625.00

Caviar Value: $2,470.16


18. Baker Mayfield


Mayfield is still a couple of years away from making his mad stacks, but his 2020 campaign (which at time of writing is still alive) was an enormous uptick over 2019 and put to bed any comparisons with Money Manziel once and for all. As the last guy under $2,500 – truly the last man in the ‘cheap’ tier – the Browns can continue their upsurge with him at the helm for a while yet. Look for his production to improve even further in 2021, and fellow SULP contributor Tom Chappell might be swearing into his discount lager for years to come.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,628

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $9,003,540.00

Caviar Value: $2,481.68


19. Sam Darnold


Darnold is looking like the latest in a line of draft day whiffs from the Jets. His contract is relatively team friendly but with just 2,425 yards of production across 12 games, Darnold’s statistical footprint is quite the outlier. Darnold needs a change of scenery, and can potentially resurrect his career elsewhere, but the fear is that the damage has already been done.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,425

Games Played: 12

Games Eligible: 12

2020 Cap Hit: $8,339,371.00

Caviar Value: $3,438.92


20. Teddy Bridgewater


Teddy’s time is likely up in Carolina too, as Phase II of the Rhule Doctrine will be mobilised this offseason. He probably did enough to end up the starter for another QB needy team, although he may not be paid so handsomely again. His numbers, his contract, his Caviar ranking – bang average. As a Vikings fan, I have a great deal of affection for Teddy B, but I am afraid time isn’t on his side.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,012

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $14,000,000

Caviar Value: $3,489.53


21. Matt Ryan


Matty Ice is as consistent as time. You get up in the morning, Matt Ryan is there, throwing for 4,000 yards. You go to bed, Matt Ryan is there, throwing for 4,000 yards. He has only thrown for less once in his career, and that in an injury-shortened season where, were his yards extrapolated over the full year he would have thrown – you guessed it – 4,000 yards. His Caviar Value against the cap? $4,000 dollars for every one of his 4,000 yards. Funny that.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,673

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $18,962,500.00

Caviar Value: $4,057.89


22. Tua Tagovailoa


The future is bright in Miami, and that’s not just the radioactive fog sweeping in from the Atlantic, but rather the new era of prosperity the Dolphins are enjoying under Brian Flores. They missed the Playoffs this time, but if they can retool and reload with their draft capital they will have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. The problem is that in large swathes of the season, Tua didn’t look all that good. It’s not often a team will bench the #5 pick. Time is on his side, though, and his Caviar Value should continue to stay low.


Total All Purpose Yards: 1,923

Games Played: 10

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $5,504,625.00

Caviar Value: $4,294.78


23. Kirk Cousins


I like Kirk Cousins. I like his ‘one small scoop of Vanilla’ persona. It’s a rarity to see him this low, as he is as handsomely compensated for his talents as any other Franchise QB in this league. His current deal will deal bigger and bigger cap hits over the next couple of years, so it’s unlikely we will see him this low again for a while. One inarguable thing about Cousins, though… His production.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,421

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $21,000,000.00

Caviar Value: $4,750.06


24. Aaron Rodgers


Mr Caviar Fingers 2019 has taken a tumble down the rankings this year, and rightfully so. His production has been prodigious in 2020, and at age 37 the MVP elect is experiencing a renaissance. This year, Rodgers has a fairly low cap hit relative to his peers but, like Kirk, don’t expect to see him down here anywhere in the near future.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,448

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $21,642,000.00

Caviar Value: $4,865.56


25. Joe Flacco


As the last player to scrape under $5,000, Joe Flacco does so largely with a whimper. Despite a cap hit of just $1,580,000.00 Flacco comes this high after amassing just 886 yards of offense across 5 games as Sam Darnold’s backup. His time in the NFL is likely over, and his trophy cabinet includes one Superbowl title, one MVP, the 2017 NFL’s most attractive man award, and zero pro bowls. Rumour has it he is going to pursue a career on Broadway.


Total All Purpose Yards: 886

Games Played: 5

Games Eligible: 14

2020 Cap Hit: $1,562,500.00

Caviar Value: $4,937.92


26. Derek Carr


Watch the numbers begin to rise pretty rapidly now, first through moderately expensive and then through extortionate. Derek Carr’s Caviar value indicates everything that is wrong with Vegas. His tenure was originally exciting but has now decayed to the point of pure mediocrity. Truth is, Carr’s hit at $5,000 per yard is slightly too high, and by investing in a player with such an obvious ceiling the Raiders are unable to truly compete. Burn it down, Jon.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,243

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $21,500,00.00

Caviar Value: $5,067.17


27. Matthew Stafford


Stafford is really really really good. It’s a shame, in other words, that he has become the albatross around the neck of the Lions. The Lions need cap flexibility as they try to recorrect the ship after pumping money into aging veterans looking to suckle at the teat of the discount Patriots way. Put it another way – it is the bleakest irony of all that the only thing that Matt Stafford needs to succeed in Detroit is to elevate the supporting cast around them, and the only way to do that is to reduce their cap hit. By getting rid of Stafford.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,196

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $21,300,000.00

Caviar Value: $5,076.26


28. Tom Brady


TB12 has rejuvenated Tampa and has a star studded cast around him. This has been his best season in a long long while, and he seems to have recaptured the Bradyness of it all. That said, though, this Tampa side is a ticking time bomb, and if they do not win before their Superbowl window slams shut it will all be for naught. His 2021 Caviar Value will absolutely skyrocket, if he doesn’t retire after this season.

Total All Purpose Yards: 4,639

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $25,000,000.00

Caviar Value: $5,389.09


29. Ryan Tannehill


We’ve hit the franchise QB portion of the Caviar board, and Ryan Tannehill embodies that. He fits the Titans like an index finger in a jar of contraband Nutella. His numbers are slightly down this year, but that doesn’t matter. The Titans were chucked rather unceremoniously out of the Playoffs, but between Ryan, Derrick and a corps of high performing defenders they have a foundation to build on for years, and because of Tannehill’s relatively low future cap hits, the Titans have an enviable financial flexibility.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,085

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $22,500,000.00

Caviar Value: $5,507.96


30. Philip Rivers


Breaching the $6,000 per yard mark for the season is Phil Rivers, but let’s break this down. Say he divides the money equally between himself, his wife and his eight children. That’s a mere $600 per Rivers, per yard. Appalachian? Yes. Fun fact: Rivers ended the year with -8 yards rushing.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,161

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $25,000,000.00

Caviar Value: $6,008.17


31. Mitchell Trubisky


Uh, oh. That’s right, a Rookie contract, this high. That would be worrisome. Well, yes. Despite Trubisky’s late season legitimacy surge, the truth is that he was benched for Foles. With a relatively low cap hit of $9,237,593.00, Trubisky’s 2,250 all-purpose yards across 15 eligible games might be the reason for his fall. If anyone does pick him up this year with the abundance of draft-eligible QBs, it is likely he will command a very low value. He should get used to the towels at the Holiday Inn.


Total All Purpose Yards: 2,250

Games Played: 10

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $9,237,593.00

Caviar Value: $6,158.40


32. Ben Roethlisberger


Big Ben is cooked, like a fat slab of prime rib. His numbers flattered to deceive this year, as he managed just 3,814 yards across 15 eligible games, against a cap hit of $23,750,000.00 The best thing for the Steelers would be if he hung up his boots so they could move on, as they can expect less production for a whopping $41,250,000.00 against the cap in 2021.


Total All Purpose Yards: 3,814

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $23,750,000.00

Caviar Value: $6,227.06


33. Russell Wilson


The ‘Let Russ Cook’ truthers seem to have left as quickly and insidiously as they arrived. Now Russ is an A++ QB but these Seahawks seem to be a rudderless ship, without a first round pick or a great deal of cap flexibility. The sad fact for Russ is that the Seahawks seem to be fading out of their reputation as perennial contenders.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,725

Games Played: 16

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $31,000,000

Caviar Value: $6,560.85


34. Jared Goff


At $7,000 per yard, it feels as though Jared Goof (intentional) is the first true pretender to the Caviar Throne. Rocking the third highest cap hit of everyone outside Russ and Dak, Goff sputtered just 4,051 all-purpose yards. Fine numbers, but not considering what they are paying for him. And it’s only set to increase. The Rams are another team in severe financial dire straits.


Total All Purpose Yards: 4,051

Games Played: 15

Games Eligible: 15

2020 Cap Hit: $28,842,682.00

Caviar Value: $7,119.89


35. Taysom Hill


The trouble with the Saints’ model of having Taysom Hill as a utility QB is that he actually produces very little relative to his salary. After amassing just 1,385 all-purpose yards and more fumbles than passing touchdowns, even with a cap hit of just $4,841,000.00, it could be argued that Hill represents a greater threat to the Saints’ long term success than he does an exciting ‘win now’ option. Of course he may be taking the reigns entirely before too long, but as a 30-year-old QB with 5 professional starts, “the next Steve Young” might be more a plaster and less a bandage for the Saints as they undergo a period of cap-space bloodletting.


Total All Purpose Yards: 1,385

Games Played: 7 (PRO-RATED)

Games Eligible: 16

2020 Cap Hit: $3,841,000.00