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2024 NFL Free Agency: 4 Players Losing Money This Season

In the ever-evolving NFL landscape, players often find themselves at critical career junctures, where on-field performance can significantly affect their future contracts and financial prospects. Below, we’ll shine a light on four such NFL players facing a unique set of challenges and uncertainties as they navigate pivotal seasons.

As these players seek to secure their financial futures in a highly competitive league, their stories offer a fascinating glimpse into the challenges and uncertainties that define NFL careers.

Four Players Losing Money This Season

Adoree Jackson

1. Adoree’ Jackson

Adoree’ Jackson, a former first-round pick out of USC, is in the final year of his three-year, $39 million contract with the New York Giants. Last season, he was one of the NFL’s best perimeter cornerbacks. Jackson allowed the third-fewest yards (339) among all corners with at least 300 coverage snaps and allowed six yards per coverage target (17th). He also forced incompletions at the same rate as Stephon Gilmore and Charvarius Ward. Jackson did not register an interception last season, but he established himself as an effective CB1.

This season, Jackson has taken a step back.

He is one of three players to allow over 300 yards on fewer than 200 coverage snaps this season. (C.J. Henderson and first-round rookie Emmanuel Forbes are the other two.) Jackson has already allowed six more yards in coverage this season (345) than he did last season in four fewer games. As a result, he is allowing almost double the yards per coverage snap this season compared with last season (0.98 to 1.86).

He’s also tied for the fifth-most open targets in coverage this season (20). Suffice it to say, Jackson is slipping in his contract year, and depending on how he performs for the rest of the season, his prospects are not as bright as they were on opening day.

It will be interesting to see how the market favors (or disfavors) Jackson after this season. The only cornerback to sign in 2023 and make $4 million or more per year on their contract after allowing more than one yard per coverage snap last season was Green Bay Packers CB Keisean Nixon (1.41) with exactly $4 million per year. And it doesn’t help Jackson’s case that he’s missed 24 games over the last three and a half years.

Jackson will have to improve greatly before the season’s end if he expects even an identical contract to his existing deal with the Giants.

2. Devin White

After trade speculation in August, Devin White is still firmly on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense after Week 6. However, White is not providing the kind of performances we’ve come to expect from him. From 2019-22, White led all off-ball linebackers in sacks (17.0) and pressures (109). This season, he has not reached home for a sack and is outside the top 15 off-ball linebackers in total pressures (he has five). White is posting a career-low missed tackle percentage (5.9 percent) but has still failed to stop a ball carrier for a loss or no gain.

White undoubtedly has earned a measure of goodwill since he entered the league in 2019. But after the Buccaneers refused to deal him before the season, this was White’s opportunity to silence the naysayers. This year was a prove-it year.

So far, White is not proving it.

In coverage, White’s opponent is open for 83.3 percent of his targets — the seventh-highest rate in the NFL among off-ball linebackers with at least 150 coverage snaps. White is having a down year, and it could not have happened at a more inopportune time.

If White continues at this pace, expecting a contract similar to Demario Davis, Bobby Okereke or De’Vondre Campbell is realistic. Those players are the next three highest-paid off-ball linebackers behind first-team All-Pro Matt Milano and his extension this year. White’s pass-rushing production is more impressive than each of theirs, but he lacks in coverage and run defense by comparison. White compares favorably to Jerome Baker, but he signed his deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2021, making that contract somewhat outdated. Since 2019, White and Baker have led the NFL in pass-rush metrics among off-ball linebackers.

Nonetheless, the market has disfavored off-ball linebackers since, culminating in Milano’s seventh-ranked contract in terms of average annual compensation ($14.3 million) this offseason — despite his All-Pro selection. In any event, the compensation of off-ball linebackers is highly dependent on the team they are dealing with and how that team intends to use them. For example, Chicago Bears LB Tremaine Edmunds received a more lucrative contract than Milano, although Milano is viewed as a superior player.

Mike Onwenu

3. Mike Onwenu

Mike Onwenu has been a solid contributor to the New England Patriots offense line since they selected him in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Many would agree that “solid” is not an insult in the context of offensive linemen; in fact, “solid contributors” are coveted. From 2020-22, Onwenu tied with Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin with a 2.9 pressure percentage.

Last year, Onwenu allowed just one sack and 14 total pressures on 634 pass-blocking snaps. Through just 108 pass-blocking snaps this year, Onwenu has allowed four pressures. That puts him on pace for 24 pressures if he plays as many pass-blocking snaps as last year. New England’s offense is struggling this season, and Onwenu has been dealing with injuries, but that is rarely an excuse in contract talks.

Before this season, it seemed Onwenu was well on his way to a Chris Lindstrom–esque extension (five years, $102.5 million) with the Patriots. After all, Onwenu allowed one fewer sack than Lindstrom last year, although Lindstrom allowed pressure on just 1.7 percent of pass-block snaps (first in the NFL), whereas Onwenu ranked fourth in the NFL with a rate of 2.9 percent. Still, Onwenu was one of the most impressive guards in the NFL last season.

This season? Not so much.

Expect a contract near Ben Powers’ offseason deal with the Denver Broncos (four years, $52 million). Powers’ numbers last season were superior to Onwenu’s, but it seems like the likely market price for Onwenu.

4. Tee Higgins

The Cincinnati Bengals announced Tee Higgins will begin 2024 as a free agent. Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase have formed one of, if not the, most formidable receiving duos in the NFL over the last two and a half years, yet the Bengals are off to a slow start, and Higgins has missed time with a rib injury.

Other than Higgins’ 89-yard, two-touchdown performance vs. the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, Higgins has not gained more than 21 yards or scored in any other contest this season. As it stands, he ranks 99th among all offensive players in receiving yards per game (29.8) — seven running backs average more. It is not the start to the season that he and many others envisioned.

Higgins, to date, has not surpassed 1,100 receiving yards or eight touchdowns in a single season. That lowers the bar quite slightly compared with contemporaries and potential compensation. The only other receiver to earn top-end compensation without achieving either milestone before his extension? Christian Kirk.

Higgins is incredibly talented, but the production has not been there, and it does not appear that will change by the season’s end. It is realistic to expect Higgins to earn a contract in the high teens in regards to average annual value, similar to Kirk ($18 million annually).

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