Booming QB market sets up nicely for Ben Roethlisberger

If Kirk Cousins gets $28 million a year, what is Ben Roethlisberger worth? Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH -- When Ben Roethlisberger signed his contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, most top-shelf quarterbacks were getting around $20 million per year.

That market will have increased by at least 30 percent when Roethlisberger does a new deal this offseason or next.

The Steelers must restructure contracts and release veterans this week with more than Le'Veon Bell or this spring's free agency in mind. They must consider their just-turned-36-year-old quarterback who's playing at a high level and keeps seeing his price go up with each signing of a starting quarterback.

Roethlisberger is at least two tiers above Kirk Cousins, who is expected to get around $28 million per year on a fully guaranteed three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Once that's completed, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will come over the top the way Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford did this summer after the Oakland Raiders gave Derek Carr his extension.

Then, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is on deck. If Roethlisberger bats cleanup, he will wield considerable power in the quarterback pantheon.

Roethlisberger told me from the Pro Bowl that he's only concerned with the 2018 season, not a new contract. He has two years left on his current one, and the Steelers will likely wait at least a little while before approaching Big Ben with one last deal. Bell's franchise tag is a pressing situation that will require much work this summer.

But when the time's right, Roethlisberger can maximize the luxuries afforded modern quarterbacks like never before. The fully guaranteed years might not matter as much to the top quarterbacks, so perhaps Roethlisberger doesn't need to fight for that. Roethlisberger's relationship with the Steelers has remained strong, and as Drew Brees showed with his two-year, $50 million extension at age 39, fit is often more important than squeezing out a few million elsewhere.

But what's clear is Roethlisberger can dictate terms from a position of authority, and if he wants to set a new trend for top quarterbacks -- heck, he could go year-to-year if he wanted -- he can take advantage of his clout.

Roethlisberger has told teammates he wants to play three more seasons, which requires one more contract. It will be short in years but high in impact.