We saw an absolutely huge number of lucrative contracts signed around the NFL leading up to the start of the preseason.
Five of the eight highest-paid players in the NFL on a per-year basis signed new contracts this past offseason. That included Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers inking a record three-year, $150.8 million extension with the team following a plethora of trade rumors.
All said, 21 players inked deals worth at least $20 million annually since NFL free agency opened back in March. That culminated in Deebo Samuel’s eye-opening deal with the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game this week.
Who is the next NFL player in line for a mega deal? Will it come in the form of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson? Perhaps, the 49ers double down by giving EDGE rusher Nick Bosa what would be a record contract. Below, we check on those who are set for big-money deals and where they stand heading into the 2022 NFL season.
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Indianapolis Colts star Quenton Nelson deserves to get paid
Since Indianapolis made Nelson a top-six pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, this former Notre Dame standout has proven himself to be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. He earned All-Pro honors in each of his first three seasons and is a four-time Pro Bowl performer.
Just how dominant has the 26-year-old Nelson been during his short career? According to Pro Football Focus, he’s allowed all of four sacks in 2,365 pass-blocking snaps. Despite this, Indianapolis has failed to sign Nelson to an extension with the guard set to hit free agency in March of 2023.
Presumably, something will get done here ahead of Week 1. Given his excellence, Nelson will surpass the $16.5 million fellow guard Brandon Scherff is earning on his new deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if he got paid top-end right tackle money. That would include upwards of $20 million annually.
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Derwin James not happy with contract, could force Chargers’ hands
Also set to enter the final year of his rookie contract, James will earn $9.05 million this coming season. That’s far below market value for a safety who is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance while finishing third in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year race. Simply put, James was brilliant for the Chargers in 2021.
- Derwin James stats (2021): 118 tackles, 7 for loss, 7 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, 2 INT, 63.7 QB rating allowed
James, 26, is what we call a hold-in for Chargers training camp. While he did show up to avoid a fine, he’s not practicing with the rest of his team in Southern California. This is a clear indication that the former Florida State standout is not happy with his contract. This makes things somewhat pressing for Los Angeles heading into Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Pittsburgh Steelers star Minkah Fitzpatrick set the market for safeties earlier in the offseason, signing a four-year, $73.61 million contract. That has to be in the ballpark of what James and his agent over at Athletes First, David Mulugheta, is looking at here.
Roquan Smith threatened holdout with the Chicago Bears
The Bears have a new brass in head coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles, complicating things when it comes to a potential contract extension ahead of Week 1. This led to reports that the former top-10 pick from Georgia might hold out.
That didn’t come to fruition. Rather, he opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Chicago has not clarified this situation too much since camp opened.
What we do know is that the 25-year-old Smith has proven to be among the best young linebackers in the NFL since entering the league back in 2018. He earned All-Pro honors for the second consecutive time in 2021, recording 163 tackles while yielding a mere 76.8 QB rating when targeted.
Smith should get a deal a bit below the five-year, $98.5 million contract Darius Leonard is playing under with the Indianapolis Colts.
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Lamar Jackson expects to sign contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens
“I think so. I think so. I think so. We’ll have to see. There will probably be a cutoff at some point. So, hopefully,” Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson on whether he expected an extension.
These were the words from the former NFL MVP at the start of training camp. To say that they were surprising would be an understatement. For pretty much the entire offseason, reports surfaced that Jackson’s side wasn’t necessarily engaged in extension talks. Rather, he wanted to play this year-by-year. Perhaps, the Kyler Murray extension changed Jackson’s thought process.
Jackson, 25, has a tremendous track record of success. Said history outpaces what we’ve seen from Murray in three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Regardless of whether Jackson matches Murray’s $46.1 million average salary, he should surpass his counterpart’s $160 million in total guarantees.
Nick Bosa will likely have to wait until 2023 NFL offseason
Coming off a torn ACL he suffered early in his sophomore season, Bosa more than lived up to the billing as one of the best overall defenders in the NFL in 2021. The former No. 2 pick from Ohio State was absolutely dominating in every possible way.
- Nick Bosa stats (2021): 40 tackles, 21 for loss (NFL high), 32 QB hits, 15.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
An NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate heading into the season, some might think that this performance warrants a big-money extension. Heck, it likely does. But we’re not expecting anything on this front until 2023 after San Francisco extended Deebo Samuel. It’s just how the team operates.
Once Bosa does sign his extension with San Francisco (he will), it will make him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. We’re likely looking at north of $32 million annually, surpassing Aaron Donald’s curent deal with the Los Angeles Rams.
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Russell Wilson just enjoying his new Denver Broncos gig
After how the quarterback market has reset itself since Wilson signed a four-year contract with his former Seattle Seahawks squad back in 2019, it’s a surprise that he’s not banging down the door of general manager George Paton.
Acquired from Seattle after a decade with the Seahawks, Wilson remains one of the best quarterbacks in modern NFL history. His time for a record-breaking deal is certainly coming sooner rather than later.
- Russell Wilson contract: 4 years, $140 million with $107 million in total guarantees
This deal makes Wilson the ninth highest-paid quarterback in the NFL on a per-year basis. He also ranks 10th in total guarantees, behind Carson Wentz. Once a new deal is signed, likely before Week 1, Wilson will join Aaron Rodgers as the second $50 million player in NFL history.