While everyone has been discussing potential extensions for the three marquee QBs from the class of 2018, here are the three players not named Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield that are most deserving of extensions:
T.J. Watt, EDGE, Steelers
Putting QBs aside, there is no player in the NFL more deserving of an extension than T.J. Watt. According to Pro Football Focus, he has been a top 2 EDGE for the last two seasons (No. 1 in 2019 and No. 2 in 2020, trailing only Khalil Mack). He led all EDGE rushers in ESPN Pass Rush Win Rate (29%), which measures how often a player beats his block in less than 2.5 seconds. With 54 career sacks in just four seasons, it’s clear that Watt is one of the very best pass rushers in football. EDGE rushers are extremely well compensated; as a position, EDGE trails only QB in terms of top 10 APY ($20.6 million). So, we know that Watt is excellent and we know that top EDGEs get paid. The question, then, is how much is Watt’s extension likely to be worth?
Given the Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett extensions ($25 and $27 million APY, respectively), it’s safe to predict: a 5-year extension, $28 million APY, $64 million fully guaranteed. Watt is better than both Bosa and Garrett. Even with the salary cap decrease this season and the ceiling set for 2022, you can expect him to reset the EDGE market. Don’t be surprised if he got $30 million APY, though $28 mm is a fair number.
After Watt, the next two players most deserving of an extension are wide receivers. After EDGE, WR is the next-most valuable position in terms of top 10 APY ($19.8 million). And while there are statistical reasons to think the market might be inefficient for certain positions, we’ll table this discussion for another time. For now, what’s important is that WRs generate significant value both on the field and on the market.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
Robinson is one of the best WRs in the league. You could even argue he is underrated, given his top-tier production with less-than-stellar QB play. According to Sports Info Solutions’ Total Points Earned metric, Robinson has 89 Total Points Earned over the past few seasons. This statistic uses an Expected Points Added (link) model, then divides credit for the players that impact a given play. In addition, Robinson ranked in the top 10 in both yards and receptions in 2020; his 1,250 yards ranked eighth and his 102 receptions ranked fourth.
With rookie QB Justin Fields looming, the Bears will certainly try to lock up their top receiving option. This would be a smart move considering Robinson should only improve with a better QB. The estimate for Robinson: a 4-year extension, $20 million APY, $40 million fully guaranteed. This prediction is based on historic comps along with the current WR market. The $20 million APY would match that of Cowboys WR Amari Cooper, putting Robinson between Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas.
Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
There are a lot of parallels between Robinson and Godwin—both are day 2 draft selections out of Penn State and both are currently playing under the franchise tag in 2021 ($15,983,000). Yet, despite their similarities, Godwin has lined up primarily out of the slot for the past two seasons (64.6% of snaps from the slot) and Robinson is an X (72.6% of snaps out wide). Focusing on Godwin, however, he was the most valuable WR in the NFL in 2019 per Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions. Plus, even though he was not fully healthy in 2020, he was pivotal in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run.
Playing devil’s advocate, one could argue that the Buccaneers have a surplus of receiving options, rendering Godwin’s extension more of a luxury than necessity. But Jason Licht has built one of the best receiving corps in the NFL, and it would be a mistake to let Godwin walk. Regardless of how much longer Tom Brady plays, Godwin—at merely 25 years of age—should be in Licht’s long-term plans.
The prediction: a 5-year extension, $18.5 million APY, $36 million fully guaranteed. This APY would be just ahead of Tyreek Hill’s team-friendly three-year extension. Perhaps Buccaneers VP of Football Administration Mike Greenberg is able to get a similarly team-friendly deal due to the allure of another ring for Godwin.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers: If it weren’t for the uncertainty regarding Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Adams would have been the second-most deserving extension behind Watt. But the reality is that Rodgers wants out, and that may entice Adams to demand the same. By most measures, Adams was the best WR in the NFL in 2020. He was PFF’s highest-graded WR and he was also the all-important fantasy WR1. While we are not sure where Adams will be playing in 2022—the Packers may even look to do a tag and trade if he wants out—Adams will get paid. He likely will not reset the WR market, as DeAndre Hopkins’ deal was massive. But we might see a 4-year deal, $25 million APY, $48 milion fully guaranteed.
Jamal Adams, S, Seahawks: Unlike Davante Adams, we know what jersey Jamal Adams will be wearing in 2022. The Seahawks didn’t trade two first-rounders (plus a third and Bradley McDougald) for Adams (and a fourth) to let him walk. Though many think the Seahawks clearly overpaid in the trade, Adams is incluced here because this extension is simply inevitable. Adams does merit a substantial extension, even with a down/injured 2020 campaign. He’s one of the best box safeties in the league, with versatility both in coverage and as a blitzer. Expect Adams to eclipse Justin Simmons’ $15.25 million APY and reset the safety market. The Seahawks might be committing the sunk cost fallacy by doing so, but our prediction is: a 5-year extension, $16.5 million APY, $34.5 million fully guaranteed.