As the offseason quiets down a bit, teams start putting more emphasis on contracts on the books. Whether it’s to work on an extension, look to unload a contract, ask a player to take a pay cut … or anything in between. NFL contracts are not as simple as other sports, and there are maneuvering and discussions happening all the time.
Let’s take a look at one player from each team we should be keeping an eye on:
Player Contracts to Watch in Offseason
Arizona Cardinals: S Budda Baker
Budda Baker requested a trade earlier this offseason after he informed the team he wanted a new deal to make him the highest-paid safety in the league. The two-time First Team All-Pro has two years left on his contract and is owed $13.1 million this season and $14.2 million in 2024 from a four-year, $59 million extension he signed in 2020 that made him the highest-paid safety at the time.
The Cardinals enter a new era with GM Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon. The belief is they don’t want to set a precedent of trading frustrated players. In his introductory press conference, Ossenfort told reporters that Baker “represents everything we want on our team.”
Chargers safety Derwin James is currently the highest-paid safety in the league at $19 million per year. Baker is only 27 and has become a leader in Arizona’s locker room. The question is whether this new regime will pour significant money into a non-premium position when the team is not considered competitive.
Atlanta Falcons: CB A.J. Terrell
The Atlanta Falcons have had an aggressive offseason, dishing out contracts to some of their own, including G Chris Lindstrom (five years, $105 million) and OT Kaleb McGary (three years, $34.5 million). Not to mention several outside free agents, including S Jessie Bates (four years, $64 million) and DT David Onyemata (three years, $35 million).
A.J. Terrell still has two years left on his contract after the team picked up his fifth-year option worth $12.3 million. He’s proven to be one of the best young corners in the game. Atlanta could wait another year, or they could get ahead of the market before Dallas’ potential deal with Trevon Diggs.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Devin Duvernay
In recent weeks, the Baltimore Ravens added Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers and will get Rashod Bateman back from injury. Devin Duvernay’s play (primarily as a special teamer) qualified him for a level three proven performance escalator. This NFL program boosts the pay in the final season of the rookie contracts of players drafted in the second through seventh rounds who have outperformed their original deals.
Duvernay earned a raise of more than $3 million for making the Pro Bowl, bringing his base salary to $4.3 million this season. However, none of the money from the program is guaranteed, and that’s where things get tricky. Does Baltimore want to keep Duvernay with a $4.5 million cap hit for 2023, or will the Ravens ask him to take a pay cut?
Giants receiver Darius Slayton was in the same spot last year and ultimately took a $1.6 million pay cut to the minimum to stick around. It’s an unfair situation for players, but teams have gone down this avenue before, knowing none of the money is guaranteed, and the likelihood the player gets more on the open market when rosters are mostly filled is unlikely.
Buffalo Bills: DT Ed Oliver
Ed Oliver has one year remaining on his rookie contract, and it doesn’t seem like the Buffalo Bills are aggressively looking to extend him.
Earlier in the offseason, he posted on Instagram: “Show me the money or (I don’t) wanna talk!” It looks like Buffalo will go down the same path it did with Tremaine Edmunds, where the Bills let the former first-round pick play out his deal and then become a free agent. A franchise tag will be available to them as well.
Carolina Panthers: Edge Brian Burns
Brian Burns enters the final year of his rookie contract, and the Carolina Panthers have made it abundantly clear he’s a big part of their future.
The Rams offered two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Burns before last year’s trade deadline, only for Carolina to decline. The Bears then wanted Burns in offers for the No. 1 overall pick, but Carolina made it clear he’s off-limits.
The former first-round pick out of Florida State led the Panthers in sacks last season with 12.5 and has totaled 38 sacks during the first four years of his career. The team has big plans for him as it transitions from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
An extension for Burns should surpass the five-year, $110 million deal Bradley Chubb signed after he was traded to Miami, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it hovers around Myles Garrett’s $25 million AAV.
Chicago Bears: TE Cole Kmet
Cole Kmet enters the final year of his rookie contract, and the Chicago Bears have discussed getting a long-term deal done with him. The former second-round pick has played all 34 games in the last two seasons and has totaled 110 receptions for 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s become a reliable target for Justin Fields.
The four-year, $52 million extension signed by Buffalo’s Dawson Knox last offseason seems to be the sweet spot for both sides if a deal were to get done.
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow has been everything the Cincinnati Bengals could’ve asked for when they selected him No. 1 overall in 2020. Now, it’s time to show him the money.
The two sides have had discussions, and Burrow told reporters last week he’s involved and even keeping his teammates in mind. It was interesting to hear Burrow include that in his answer.
Cincinnati has several other players due for big-money deals, including WR Tee Higgins, LB Logan Wilson and DT D.J. Reader. Plus, Ja’Marr Chase is eligible next year.
People around the league have wondered what Burrow meant by that. Would he take less? Is he doing a Patrick Mahomes-type deal? Would the Bengals give him a set percentage of the cap and make Burrow the first player to get such a structure? The intrigue with this one skyrocketed after Burrow spoke.
>> READ: Bengals, Burrow Talking Extension
Cleveland Browns: QB Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson signed a historic contract last offseason, getting a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal. I put him on here because a lot is riding on Watson to return to form this season and make the contract not look like a complete debacle. The Cleveland Browns restructured Watson’s deal this offseason to lower his 2023 cap number to $19 million.
By doing that, take a look at the remaining cap numbers for Watson:
There is no getting out of that contract if this flops. If this doesn’t pan out, we’re talking jobs on the line in both the front office and the coaching staff. Cleveland brought several big names this offseason to maximize their chances, adding Elijah Moore, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Juan Thornhill and Ogbo Okoronkwo. They need Watson to play the way they were anticipating when they went all-in on him last year.
Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott
CeeDee Lamb, Tony Pollard and Trevon Diggs are all eligible for new deals, and Micah Parsons becomes eligible a year from now. But Dak Prescott is the most fascinating situation in Dallas, and it’s not talked about enough.
Prescott still has two years left on his contract. However, because his last deal was so strong, the Cowboys might be forced to do something sooner than later. Prescott was franchise-tagged twice the last time he negotiated, meaning a third tag would be way too expensive, so Prescott knows he has an open path to free agency in 2025.
Due to multiple restructures, his current cap number for next year is a whopping $59.455 million. So Dallas is staring at having Prescott on a large cap number next year, or they will have to do another extension knowing Prescott has all the leverage. Their hands are tied, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Dallas at least tries to do something in the coming months.
Denver Broncos: WR situation
The Denver Broncos took calls this offseason on their receivers (Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler), and nothing came to fruition. They are saying they won’t trade any of them, but the room is getting a bit crowded.
Tim Patrick is coming off an ACL injury, and they traded up to select Marvin Mims in the second round. Denver doesn’t have to trade any of its receivers, but if there’s an injury somewhere in training camp, it wouldn’t be surprising for teams to call the Broncos and check-in.
Denver paid Sutton (four years, $60.8 million) and Patrick (three years, $34.5 million) last year. The Broncos got those deals done before the receiver market went haywire with massive contracts. After they picked up his fifth-year option, Jeudy has two years remaining on his deal.
Detroit Lions: QB Jared Goff
Jared Goff had a resurgent season in 2022, and the Detroit Lions’ front office and coaching staff seem to be all-in with him as the franchise guy. The former No.1 overall pick threw 29 touchdowns, his most since 2018, and he finished the season with nine consecutive games without an interception.
Goff has two years remaining on his contract, but none of the money in 2024 is guaranteed. GM Brad Holmes recently said they’d had internal discussions on doing an extension and have had some dialogue with Goff’s agent.
Green Bay Packers: OLB Rashan Gary
Rashan Gary had a slower start to his career as he transitioned from a defensive end at Michigan to a stand-up outside linebacker with the Green Bay Packers. He started to put it all together during the last two seasons and had 38 pressures and six sacks through eight games last season before suffering a torn ACL in Week 9. The Packers’ pass rush struggled immensely without him.
He’s now entering the final year of his contract, and the Packers have done deals in the past with players coming off injury. Just last year, they extended Elgton Jenkins a few months after returning from his ACL surgery. Gary represents himself in negotiations.
Houston Texans: OT Tytus Howard
The Houston Texans already extended OT Laremy Tunsil and OG Shaq Mason this offseason. Tytus Howard is entering the final year of his contract and told reporters in January he would like to stay in Houston long-term. He’s the only starting offensive lineman not under contract through 2026.
Howard and Tunsil allowed the NFL’s second-fewest sacks as a tackle duo (12) last year. Howard has been used at tackle and left guard.
Indianapolis Colts: WR Michael Pittman, RB Jonathan Taylor
The Indianapolis Colts selected Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, and both are entering the final year of their contracts.
Taylor had an injury-plagued year in 2022 after putting up 3,639 total yards and 32 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Pittman has established himself as a borderline No. 1 receiver, catching 227 passes for 2,510 and 11 touchdowns in three years.
The Colts would likely prioritize Pittman considering the position he plays. They’ll likely discuss a deal with Taylor, but running back deals are not simple, especially with the franchise tag always available.
>>READ: Why RBs Have Been Devalued
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley is back in the NFL after missing all last season for violating the league’s gambling policy. He’s entering the final year of his contract, but it’d be a surprise if Jacksonville does something before seeing him on the field.
Keep this in mind for Ridley: As part of the trade agreement with Atlanta, the Jacksonville Jaguars would give up a 2024 second-round pick if Ridley signs an extension in Jacksonville.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
The reigning Super Bowl MVP is currently seventh in AAV (average annual value) among quarterbacks at $45 million per year, and he will soon be ninth once Justin Herbert and Burrow get paid. He still has nine years left on his contract and hasn’t said anything negative publicly, so the Kansas City Chiefs don’t have to do anything.
But the reality is the deal he signed is outdated, and it’s far and away the most team-friendly contract in NFL history when looking at all the details, including the cash flow. In the three years he has played since signing the deal, Mahomes has made $63 million in cash. Lamar Jackson will make $80 million in just the first year of his deal.
Mahomes is behind in every metric. Maybe he doesn’t mind and thinks it’s good for the team, and he’ll make a boatload of money off the field. That could be the case.
Owner Clark Hunt and GM Brett Veach indicated they’d look at adjusting the contract once the market settles down. The chances of the Chiefs ripping up the deal and doing a new one are doubtful. Adding more money on the backend or elsewhere to increase the AAV could be an option the two sides explore.
>> READ: How Mahomes Can Be Highest-Paid QB Again
Las Vegas Raiders: RB Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs had a league-leading 1,653 rushing yards and 2,053 yards from scrimmage in his first season with coach Josh McDaniels last year.
The Las Vegas Raiders used the franchise tag on him — worth $10.1 million — but Jacobs has yet to sign the tender. It’s unclear how long-term negotiations have gone so far. Remember Raiders GM Dave Ziegler came from the New England Patriots, where they seldom put significant money into running backs.
Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert
With Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson’s contracts done, Herbert will likely be the next quarterback to reset the market with a lucrative deal. The Los Angeles Chargers have had ongoing discussions, and both sides have remained optimistic an agreement will be reached.
Since Herbert has two years left on his contract, the number of years he signs in his extension will be one to watch. Players (especially agents) prefer to keep the years low, so they can get back to the negotiating table sooner as the cap and the quarterback market continue to skyrocket.
Los Angeles Rams: TE Tyler Higbee
The Los Angeles Rams unloaded several veteran contracts this offseason (Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, Allen Robinson), and there was talk Tyler Higbee could be included in that group.
He has one year remaining on his contract, and his cap number for this season is $9.12 million. The Rams acquired Hunter Long in the Ramsey trade and drafted Clemson TE Davis Allen in the fifth round.
Miami Dolphins: WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The Miami Dolphins signed Cedrick Wilson Jr. to a three-year, $22 million deal a year ago, but they did that contract before knowing Tyreek Hill was available for trade. Once Hill entered the picture, Wilson had no fit on the roster. He had just 12 receptions for 136 yards on the season, and the Dolphins would be open to making a move if they could find a trade partner.
The issue is Wilson has $5 million in guaranteed salary this season, making a potential trade far more difficult. Miami could eat some of the money to facilitate a deal. Before signing with the Dolphins, Wilson had 602 yards and six touchdowns in 2021 with Dallas.
Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson
The wide receiver market flew to new heights after the 2021 season, with Hill, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown and several others receiving monster contracts. Jefferson, who is eligible for a contract extension, will likely take the market to another level.
Hill’s deal with the Dolphins was described as $30 million per year. In reality, it’s $25 million per year when taking out the dummy year on the back, which is there to make the average higher (Hill is unlikely to see that year of his contract). Expect Jefferson to aim for a true $30 million-plus AAV deal in negotiations with the Minnesota Vikings.
New England Patriots: K Nick Folk
The Patriots used a fourth-round pick on Maryland kicker Chad Ryland, leaving Nick Folk in a tough spot. Folk was 32 of 37 on field goal attempts (86.5%) and 32 of 35 on extra points (91.4%) last season. His cap number is $2.78 million. If it moves on, New England would clear $2.2 million.
New Orleans Saints: DE Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan has already made a name for himself as one of the greatest players in New Orleans Saints franchise history. The eight-time Pro Bowler is entering the final year of his contract with a salary cap hit of $15 million — the highest on the team.
If the Saints don’t extend him, and he leaves after this season, he’d leave behind $23.3 million in dead money due to previous restructures, making it wise for both sides to keep the relationship going.
New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley
The New York Giants placed the franchise tag on Saquon Barkley after signing QB Daniel Jones to a long-term deal in March.
Behind the scenes, Barkley wasn’t happy with the tag but was hopeful the two sides would figure something out. That hasn’t been the case, as negotiations have been on-and-off.
The critical part for Barkley is getting a fair structure with solid guarantees that give him security, especially since he’s a running back. Barkley does not believe he’s gotten that in any of the offers submitted. On the other hand, the Giants know they have Barkley for $10.1 million this season; worst case scenario, they could tag him again next offseason for about $13 million.
The running back market has not seen much movement, as the top-4 contracts were all signed in 2020. The team and player are not seeing eye-to-eye. Deadlines spur action in the NFL, and both sides have until July 17th to find some common ground.
New York Jets: DT Quinnen Williams
Quinnen Williams, coming off an All-Pro season, told reporters in January he wouldn’t report to voluntary workouts without a new contract. He stuck to his word by not reporting, and he even took things to another level when he scrubbed the New York Jets out of his Twitter bio last week.
Javon Hargrave, Daron Payne, Jeffery Simmons and Dexter Lawrence signed mega deals this offseason, so the blueprint for a long-term deal is there for both sides. Until something gets done, Williams could continue to turn up the heat and make things uncomfortable for an organization with a ton of positive momentum.
Philadelphia Eagles: WR Quez Watkins
After a solid 2021 season in his first year with Nick Sirianni (43 catches, 647 yards), Quez Watkins saw his numbers dip last season to 33 catches for 354 yards.
The Philadelphia Eagles recently added Olamide Zaccheaus, who is coming off of a career season, posting 40 receptions for 533 yards and three touchdowns in Atlanta. Philadelphia would save $2.7 million if they traded Watkins.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Alex Highsmith
Alex Highsmith had a breakout season last year, finishing with 14.5 sacks and a league-high five forced fumbles. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, and GM Omar Khan has reiterated he’s hopeful Highsmith will be a Steeler for a long time.
The Pittsburgh Steelers already have T.J. Watt on a mega-deal, so paying big money to another player at a similar position sometimes gets tricky.
San Francisco 49ers: DE Nick Bosa
The San Francisco 49ers have been budgeting for this extension for the past couple of years, knowing it will be expensive. The former No. 2 overall pick had a league-leading 18.5 sacks this season, adding 49 quarterback hits, 19 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He also won Defensive Player of the Year.
It’s safe to assume Nick Bosa will aim to become the second defensive player to enter the $30 million per year club, joining Aaron Donald.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Geno Smith
You’re probably wondering what Geno Smith, who signed a reported three-year, $105 million contract this offseason, is doing on this list. The answer is it’s not actually a three-year commitment. The Seattle Seahawks can get out of the contract after just one season, paying him $28 million and nothing more.
Everyone in that building loves Smith, from the front office to the locker room, and they all want to keep it going for many years. But Smith will have to keep playing at the same high level he played last year, or Seattle will have a way out of the deal.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Tristan Wirfs
Tristan Wirfs has played at an All-Pro level at right tackle since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s now eligible for an extension, and what makes his case interesting is Tampa Bay has discussed moving him to left tackle.
The difference between the two positions from a financial standpoint is significant. Lane Johnson is the highest-paid right tackle at $20.1 million per year, while the highest-paid left tackle, Tunsil, is at $25 million per year.
Tampa Bay could explore doing what the Saints did with Ryan Ramczyk a few years ago. Ramczyk signed a deal that made him the highest-paid right tackle at the time, but he added incentives into the deal that would pay him more if he played left tackle.
Tennessee Titans: RB Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry has been in some trade rumors this offseason, most of which were false. He’s entering the final year of his contract and is due to make $10.5 million. None of the money is guaranteed, and the salary is lower than what it’s supposed to be because the Tennessee Titans moved $2 million of Henry’s 2023 salary to 2022 after he wanted his deal to be tweaked last year.
Considering how the Titans use Henry and how crucial he is for the offense, it’s worth monitoring if he’ll want something done to the deal before becoming a free agent next offseason.
Washington Commanders: DE Chase Young / DE Montez Sweat
The Washington Commanders declined Chase Young’s fifth-year option earlier this month, meaning he’ll be playing on the final year of his contract this season. That aligns with Montez Sweat, who is also in the final year of his contract.
Washington could be looking at a situation where it lets both guys play it out, and whichever has the better season ends with the long-term contract next offseason.
>> READ: Young Could Make Commanders Pay