Buying or selling NFL’s largest contracts

By Rachel Wold

NFL player contracts are a matter of public record with every detail as far as financials out there for the world to view and occasionally criticize.

Just over the past several months alone, some players became the highest-paid at their respective positions. Meanwhile, a few contracts settled prior to the start of the 2016 campaign still keep some players ahead of the curve.

Here’s a list of eight of the highest-paid players in the NFL, solely taking into account average annual salary. Should we buy or sell each player based on his contract? That’s something we will help you figure out below.

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts ($24.594 million)

After signing an extension with just one year left on his rookie deal, the No. 1 pick from back in 2012 will bring home the highest annual salary of any other player in the NFL this season.

The nearly $25 million Luck will earn this year is the “shocking number” that Colts owner Jim Irsay indicated would be the result of his quarterback’s new mega-deal. Luck’s overall contract is worth $122.970 million and keeps him locked up with the team for the next five years.

We must wonder if Luck hadn’t been injured and struggled last year, would the Colts have offered him even more? After three consecutive seasons of personal growth and a playoff appearance each year, Luck put up the worst statistical performance of his career in 2015.

Under extreme pressure to solidify that he is worth every precious penny, Luck will need to rebound in a major way this season. If not, a lot Indy’s brass will be eating crow.

Adrian Peterson, running back, Minnesota Vikings ($14 million)

Prior to last season, Peterson’s future in Minnesota was questionable. Even following a near one-year long suspension, the future Hall of Fame running back held his ground, refusing to take a pay cut.

This led some to believe that the Vikings might simply part ways with him completely. 

Fortunately for the Vikings, Peterson reunited with his team in tip-top form, and at the age of 31, recorded a league-best 1,485 rushing yards in 2015.

“Father time” doesn’t yet appear to be catching up with Peterson who is entering the second year of a $42 million deal that will pay him through the 2017 campaign. If Peterson records another stellar season, it would appear he is well worth the elite money the Vikings are paying him.

Peterson’s average annual pay sets him in a class of his own compared to what his fellow running backs currently earn. In fact, Jamaal Charles ranks second on this list at just over $9 million annually.

A.J. Green, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals ($15 million)

A.J. Green

A slew of elite wide receivers cashed in on some hefty contracts in 2015. Though, Green remains the highest-paid player at his position based on average annual salary.

Not the first of last season’s receiver group to get a new deal done, Green patiently waited to come to terms with the Bengals.

Though, while he sat tight, Green did indicate that he wanted a deal larger than the five-year, $70 million contract that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant inked. The Bengals and Green finally came to terms with the pass catcher receiving the $15 million he was reportedly seeking.

Green has averaged 83 receptions, 1,234 receiving yards and nine touchdowns per season since being selected by the Bengals fourth overall in 2011.

If he keeps up this pace, he will eventually surpass the franchise-best 751 receptions, 10,783 receiving yards and 66 touchdowns that former wide receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson recorded.

Fortunately for the team, Green rebounded from a bumpy 2014 season. With Andy Dalton returning healthy, Green should be up for another productive campaign.

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Seattle Seahawks ($10 million)

Graham became the highest-paid tight end when he secured a four-year, $40 million contract with his former New Orleans Saints squad back in 2014.

Now, far-removed from the stellar production Saints fans enjoyed, Graham and his massive salary are the responsibility of the Seattle Seahawks.

Most would agree that prior to Graham’s season-ending knee injury last year, that his elite tight end pay didn’t exactly match the final product. As a result of being underutilized by the Seahawks in the passing game, Graham tallied only 48 catches for 605 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games.

Fast forward to July, and Graham is still mending from a ruptured patellar tendon — one of the most difficult injuries for an athlete to rehabilitate from.

Graham is projected to return by Week 1 of the regular season, but will his level of performance ever be the same?

Terron Armstead, offensive lineman, New Orleans Saints ($16.3 million)

Armstead’s average annual salary of $16.3 million makes him the highest-paid among the entire group of NFL offensive linemen.

After three years of protecting Drew Brees’ blindside, Armstead was signed to a lucrative $65 million deal that keeps him with the Saints through 2021.

Armstead was selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft and is one of the youngest left tackles in the league. He turns a mere 25 years old later this summer.

Over the past three years, his pass-protection has improved and he completed the 2015 season ranked as the third-best offensive linemen according to Pro Football Focus.

Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Miami Dolphins: $19.062 million

Since signing on with the Dolphins in 2015, Suh has not exactly produced as the league’s best defensive lineman.

The Dolphins signed Suh to a gigantic six-year, $114.4 million deal with the hope that the team’s defensive standing would improve. Though, the Dolphins defense ranked in the bottom 10 in both sacks and takeaways last year — Suh’s first with the team.

The Pro Bowler’s individual level of production also took a hit in his first season with Miami. He recorded just six sacks compared to the 8.5 the defensive tackle tallied with the Detroit Lions back in 2014.

As a result of an overall dismal season, new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph suggests Suh will have a bounce-back year in 2016.

“Our scheme is going to be an attacking scheme,” Joseph said per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “With his size and quickness, there shouldn’t be any reason why he shouldn’t be successful inside.”

We shall see soon enough if Suh finds the Dolphins new defensive scheme a better fit to his skill set, deeming him worthy of the big bucks the team forked over to him last year.

Von Miller, linebacker, Denver Broncos: $19.083 million

Due to the recent storm of events leading up to the franchise tag deadline, it is not much of a surprise to find Miller headlining as the list of highest-paid linebackers.

After all, Miller earned Super Bowl MVP honors after many credited him solely for the victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Perhaps more pertinent to Miller securing a mega-deal was his overall postseason production. During the course of three games against quite formidable opponents, Miller managed one interception, two forced fumbles, five sacks and 13 combined tackles.

Further solidifying Miller’s status among the NFL’s elite, he has consistently produced over his five years with the Broncos. To date, Miller has recorded 17 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, 60 sacks and 267 tackles.

Not wanting to chance losing Miller to another team, or seeing him sit out, the Broncos finally gave in and offered him a six-year, $114.5 million deal, including $70 million guaranteed.

Josh Norman, cornerback, Washington Redskins: $15 million

Josh Norman

The Carolina Panthers were not willing to make Norman the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL. However, Washington had no problem signing him to a five-year, $75 million contract after the defending NFC champs rescinded the franchise tag offer they had put on him.

Perhaps not a coincidence, Norman signed a deal that paid him just barely more than both Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson, both of whom earn slightly over $14 million per season.

It’s safe to assume Norman’s 2015 performance played a huge role in this. He recorded a career-high four interceptions while forcing three fumbles and recovering another two.

More than this, the All Pro performer allowed a sub 60.0 quarterback rating when targeted.

Norman will be under pressure to live up to the hype train that Washington bought into. Meanwhile, the Panthers are probably hoping they did the right thing by showing their star corner the door during.