Now that Josh Allen has signed his extension, here is a look at the next wave of players looking for new deals and how I think things might or should play out:
Lamar Jackson/Baker Mayfield
My question is still the same: Why are Jackson and Mayfield not more insistent on getting a deal done? The teams are more than happy to wait another year, as they should be. The players, on the other hand, are taking a risk with an amount of guaranteed money that football players have never seen until now. They both are likely to get $150 million guaranteed for injury, and $100 million fully guaranteed the minute they sign a contract, so I do not know why they are okay playing without getting a new deal. Instances of players suffering injuries and still getting paid — like Dak Prescott — have increased over the years, but the risks are still real and we are talking about a major amount of money. In the end, I expect both to be in the $40 million annual ballpark with a substantial guarantee, with Mayfield potentially coming in just under Jackson.
The Rams sent away their quarterback and two first-round picks to acquire Stafford, who only has two years left under contract making under $22 million annually. It is likely they get a deal done after this year, but if he plays at an MVP level, he has tremendous leverage. It’s the same thing that happened with the Jalen Ramsey deal and recently with Jamal Adams. You have a lot of leverage to get a deal done when you are trading for a player that wants out from where he is. They are hoping he is there for 4-5 years, if not more. I think they missed the window to get that extension done. I personally would have done that when they executed the trade.
Now, I have heard he looks great in practice, so I would not be totally shocked if they got something done before the year, but my best guess is that they see him play for a year and give him the contract he deserves. That becomes extremely risky if he plays like everyone expects him to.
He should become the new highest-paid receiver in the NFL soon. He is still under contract for three more seasons in Buffalo but is only due to make $39 million in that span, coming off a season in which he led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. I would think his deal is coming soon, but he showed up and is practicing, so he is already risking getting hurt. I would have thought it already would have happened, unless they were focused on getting the quarterback locked in and then turning their attention to everyone else. I think it is likely that whoever signs first between Diggs and Davante Adams is going to be the highest-paid receiver, with the other topping that deal by a drop when he eventually signs.
This is another example of a team not doing anything to extend a contract upon execution of a trade. Diggs could have tremendous leverage soon and could potentially pull a maneuver similar to DeAndre Hopkins when he got traded to Arizona. I know that is not how the team wants it to go, because the Bills have been doing smart deals at reasonable prices with structures that are favorable to both sides. Diggs could force that if he wanted to, but I do think they will be able to get him signed at a fair price relatively soon.
Like Buffalo, Green Bay is going to recognize that Adams should be among the highest-paid players at his position and is going to try to sign him. I would expect the Packers to approach him before the season about a new contract, since he is set to make under $13 million over his final season.
If he follows the sentiment that Aaron Rodgers has displayed this offseason about playing his last season for the Packers, it becomes a tough scenario. Theoretically, Green Bay could give him the franchise tag going into next season, but at that point, it will be likely Adams has played his final snaps for the Packers.
I think Ridley is one of the up and coming top-tier wide receivers in the NFL. If I was representing him, I would be very torn about waiting, because he is going to get a lot of balls this year. In his first two years in the league, Ridley was out-targeted by Julio Jones by 142 targets. In the seven games that Jones missed last season, Ridley averaged over 11 targets, 7 receptions and 109 yards with four total touchdowns.
He is still under contract for two more years. If I was advising him, I would encourage him to wait the year. He is a top-tier receiver with a quarterback that I think is still good, not great, on a team that is likely to be behind the sticks and trailing a good amount. That is a perfect setup for big numbers.
Despite his foot injury, which the Colts say they feel good about, all indications are they have started negotiations. My main question is, being such a dominant guard, do they get close to the tackle market? The left tackle market has moved into the low $20 million annual range, while the Saints’ Ryan Ramczyk received over $19 million as a right tackle this offseason. The top guards are still in the $16 million range. I think he is good enough to not just be locked into a positional analysis but instead kind of break the rules of what guard contracts have been.
The Colts also have to make a decision for the future: Do they want to move Nelson into a tackle role? They paid Braden Smith $17.5 million annually on the right side, but are left with very little current depth on the left side following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo. I suspect any long-term contract Nelson does could have an escalator for playing tackle.
I do not think there is any doubt that Dallas Goedert is a good tight end and the future starter in Philadelphia. When do they do that deal? On one hand, I am a big believer that once you know a guy is part of your core, sign him sooner because it will only cost more to wait. Of course, their current situation complicates things some.
Goedert is entering his final year, so if I had to guess, we will see the Eagles do a deal with him relatively soon. He is a guy that fits their history, even going back to when I was there, of rewarding their core players and getting them locked in early. I do not think he will reach the range of some of the tight ends we saw last year, who reached $15 million, but I think he will be close. We will see in the negotiations, but I would rather have him than Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, who both received $12.5 million annually from New England. I think he is a better talent than Smith, and Henry has serious injury concerns.
Mark Andrews should be approaching the top tight ends at $15 million annually, just because the most recent guy signing tends to beat previous deals — even if they are not necessarily better. I do not think he is a clear tier above Goedert, but I think he has had more time to prove himself being the lead guy at the position. He has also been one of the best red-zone targets in the NFL since he entered the league. He is still very young and has stayed relatively healthy over the course of his first three years.
He has had numerous gripes with his contract over the years, and I think Seattle could have realized this better and structured a deal with more severe consequences for not honoring it. He does only have one year left, but players need to learn to sign shorter deals. There is essentially nothing to gain when you sign long deals with non-guaranteed money attached at the end. You are essentially creating an option for the team that they are going to exercise if they think there is value there, and release you if they think you are overpaid.
Brown will already be 36 by the time the season starts and has had some mounting injuries, so I do not know how confident Seattle would be in extending him into the future.
Jack Wolov contributed to this story.