Cardinals general manger Steve Keim revealed last week in a radio interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that he wanted to address wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ contract. Keim wouldn’t confirm whether negotiations were ongoing with Hopkins, who has three years left on the five-year, $81 million contract extension he received from the Texans in 2017. The perennial All-Pro wanting a raise because of unhappiness with his contract reportedly played a part in why the Texans traded him to the Cardinals in March.

Most teams wait until a player is entering his contract year before negotiating a new deal. Below are six players with multiple years left on a veteran contract, similar to Hopkins, who also have a right to be unhappy about their deals. The year in which the player is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent is in parentheses.

Extremely long deals are almost never good for a Pro Bowl-caliber player. This is certainly the case with Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith, who signed an eight-year, $97.6 million extension (included $40 million in guarantees) in 2014 with two years left on his rookie contract. The deal made Smith the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman at $12.2 million per year.

In the six years since Smith signed, the top of the tackle market has growth slightly more than 80 percent. Laremy Tunsil dramatically reset this market in April with the three-year extension he received from the Texans averaging $22 million per year.

Smith probably shouldn’t have committed to more than five new years. That’s what Trent Williams, who replaced Smith as the league’s highest-paid offensive lineman in 2015, did. Had Smith taken this approach, he would currently be in his contract year. The Cowboys would have had pressure to get a new deal done with Smith, who has been named to seven straight Pro Bowls, in order to preserve use of the franchise tag for quarterback Dak Prescott in 2021. If Tunsil’s deal was already in existence, it’s conceivable that a Smith extension in 2020 would made him the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman for a second time.

Tunsil didn’t enter the NFL until 2016, which is five years after Smith. Remarkably, their second contracts are set to expire at the same time.

Hunter did himself a big disservice in June 2018 by signing a five-year, $72 million extension with $40.007 million of guarantees. It was well known that the $20 million per year non-quarterback deal was on the horizon since interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald and edge rusher Khalil Mack were in contract years. Donald and Mack signed for $22.5 million per year and $23.5 million per year with the Rams and Bears, respectively, a little more than two months after Hunter got his extension.

Hunter would have been facing a 2019 franchise tag for $17.128 million by merely duplicating his 2017 performance, which he easily exceeded in 2018 when he tied for fourth in the NFL with 14.5 sacks. With a career year while playing out his rookie contract, Hunter would have been in a position to join the $20 million per year non-quarterback club. Frank Clark and DeMarcus Lawrence signed contracts in excess of $20 million per year in 2019 with the Chiefs and Cowboys, respectively, after being designated as franchise players last year.

Hunter’s deal contains $1 million in annual base salary escalators for sacks. His 2019 and 2020 base salaries have each increased by $500,000 thanks to the escalators. Consistently earning the escalators isn’t going to be enough for Hunter to keep pace with changing market conditions.

The market for pass rushers has taken a significant jump recently. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett became the NFL’s first $25 million per year non-quarterback in mid-July. Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa surpassed Garrett about two weeks later, signing a five-year, $135 million extension averaging $27 million per year. The deal has $102 million in overall guarantees where $78 million was fully guaranteed at signing, which are both the most ever in an NFL contract for a non-quarterback.

Hunter’s saving grace may be the Vikings addressing the gross inequity of wide receiver Adam Thielen’s contract last year. Thielen, having clearly outperformed the four-year deal he signed in 2017 as a restricted free agent, got a new contract with two years remaining, which would be 2022 for Hunter.

Woods was coming off a 2016 season where he caught 51 passes for 613 yards and scored one touchdown playing for the Bills when he took a five-year, $34 million contract (worth up to $41 million through salary escalators and incentives) from the Rams in 2017 free agency. Nobody could have foreseen that Woods would become one of the NFL’s most productive wide receivers.

Over the last two seasons, Woods ranks ninth in the NFL with 176 receptions; his 2,353 receiving yards are also ninth during this span. In fact, Woods is one of seven players with at least 175 receptions and 2,350 receiving yards since the start of the 2018 regular season, putting him in select company with Davante Adams (Packers), Keenan Allen (Chargers), Hopkins, Julio Jones (Falcons), Travis Kelce (Chiefs) and Michael Thomas (Saints).

Woods told the media early last month during a conference call he would like to finish his career with the Rams but isn’t pushing for a new contract. His receiving counterpart, Cooper Kupp, is a higher priority for the Rams since he is in the final year of his rookie contract.

Woods would be more than justified in seeking a contract averaging $16 million per year based on his production over the last two years. The contracts of the 20 highest-paid wide receivers average nearly $16 million per year with just over $42.25 million in guarantees where a little less than $27.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing. The average contract length is approximately four new years.

The Patriots made a rare high-priced free agent signing in 2017 with Gilmore. After a rocky first month in New England, Gilmore has more than lived up to his five-year, $65 million contract containing $40 million in guarantees.

Gilmore took his game to another level last season. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year after tying for the league lead with six interceptions and having the NFL’s most pass breakups with 20.

A stagnant cornerback market finally has had some significant movement with the five-year, $82.5 million contract Byron Jones received from the Dolphins in free agency. More importantly, Jones has cornerback records of $54.375 million in guarantees and $46 million fully guaranteed at signing. His reign as highest-paid cornerback was short lived; the three-year extension Darius Slay signed with the Eagles when he was acquired from the Lions via trade averages $16,683,333 per year.

Jalen Ramsey, who is playing under a $13.703 million fifth-year option, is expected to take the cornerback market to new heights when he signs his next contract. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ramsey became the NFL’s first $20 million per year defensive back at some point this year.

George Kittle and Kelce receiving $15 million per and $14,312,500 per year extensions from the 49ers and Chiefs, respectively, a couple of weeks ago prompted speculation whether Ertz would be the next tight end to get a big payday. Ertz has two years remaining on the five-year, $42.5 million extension he signed with the Eagles in 2016 worth a maximum of $45.8 million through incentives and salary escalators.

The Eagles attempted to extend Ertz’s contract last season around the same time Philadelphia signed Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks and Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson to new deals last November. Although Philadelphia’s offer was in the $12 million per year neighborhood, one of the sticking points for Ertz was a contract structure deemed too team-friendly for his liking.

The Eagles have reopened contract talks with Ertz and as expected have an affinity for Kelce’s extremely team-friendly structure, which is problematic for Ertz.

Jones didn’t waste any time in signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal after the Cardinals designated him as a franchise player in late February 2017. Many of 2017’s top free agents hadn’t signed by the time Jones completed his deal that March. Curiously, Jones signed for $500,000 per year less than Olivier Vernon did with the Giants in 2016.

Jones’ 72.5 sacks over the last five seasons (2015 through 2019) are easily the most in the NFL; Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is second with 63. Jones had a career high 19 sacks last season and was one-half sack short of winning another sack title to go with the one he got in 2017. If the Cardinals address Hopkins’ contract in a meaningful way, Jones could make a case that he deserves to be NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback over Bosa ($27 million per year) sooner rather than later given his sack totals.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here