Around the NFL  


Which players could sign mega-deals this summer?


In a piece we wrote previewing the Keenan Allen extension last week, we hinted that there could be a few other wide receiver names to sign quickly following Allen's four-year, $45 million extension. But in this bustling period for general managers and negotiators, it won't just be pass catchers taking center stage. While we know franchise tag candidates need to get deals worked out before the July 15 deadline, there are plenty of other big names out there who could push for big paydays before the start of the regular season -- just ask Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox.

Here are a few of the biggest names, culled from various reports, people with knowledge of potential deals who spoke with Around The NFL and some good old-fashioned common sense.

Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos wide receiver: Multiple sources around the league believe that Sanders is likely the next wide receiver to sign an extension. The team sent a proposed deal to Sanders' agent last week and the Broncos, seemingly fed up with the Von Miller negotiations, are ready for some good news.

"I don't want to go anywhere," Sanders said recently, via The Denver Post. "I've expressed that to (general manager John) Elway. It's all about just getting the right number. I pray that they do come to the right number. I think I've given my heart to this city. I've never left anything on the field."

What is the right number? Time will tell. Sanders is due to make $5 million this year and likely will want to double that in terms of average-per-year salary. Allen's deal might alter that number slightly given how consistent Sanders has been over the course of his career and especially over the last two seasons.

Doug Baldwin, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks: Baldwin said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has talked with Seahawks general manager John Schneider recently and that Schneider said a new deal was on the horizon.

"We haven't started conversations yet," Baldwin said. "I did have a one-on-one meeting with John Schneider a couple weeks ago and he assured me that we'd be on the way to discussing a possible extension in the next couple weeks."

The issue for Baldwin will be fair compensation. As an undrafted free agent, Baldwin was on the bottom-rung of the league's salary structure before his three-year, $13 million deal that he signed back in 2014. Baldwin is set to earn $4 million this year plus a hefty bonus. His cap number is $6.325 million. Baldwin, though, deserves much more. He is one of just five NFL players over the last 11 years to go undrafted and log 1,000-plus yards and 10-plus touchdowns in a season. His 2015 stats -- 78 catches, 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns -- was higher in approximate value (Pro Football Reference) than Cruz's best season back in 2011.

UPDATE: Baldwin signed a four-year, $46 million extension with the Seahawks on June 28.

Kawann Short, defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers: What seemed like a relatively open and shut case is now turning into a Josh Norman situation Part Deux. Our belief that Short would receive a contract this offseason shattered Monday following the news that Cox signed a six-year, $103 million extension with $63 million in guarantees. Panthers coach Ron Rivera referenced that deal when he spoke of "unbelievable contracts" that could be impacting negotiations between the team and Short. We tend to agree, and we are expecting an unhappy player on the field working for $1.036 million this season.

Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints: This will be a matter of bookkeeping for the Saints, who have Brees at a $30 million cap number for 2016. Although both sides claim they are more than fine playing out the deal -- Brees recently said that it has been more than two months since the Saints reached out to him about an extension -- New Orleans is going to need more than $1,770,781 to cover expenses this season and beyond. By not signing Brees, the Saints also risk a monstrous franchise tag number in 2017, or the challenge of competing with a contender for the remaining years of Brees' career.

Jamie Collins, linebacker, New England Patriots: If Tyrann Mathieu is the consummate Swiss army knife defender among defensive backs, Collins is his counterpart among linebackers. New England has four key extensions to take care of on defense this offseason or before free agency hits in 2017 (Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Malcolm Butler and Jabaal Sheard), but perhaps none more important than Collins. The third-round pick is a steal at the moment, but New England will look to allocate some of its $9,912,177 in cap space to him in the future. The contract signed recently by Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy would seem to be Collins' floor (the same goes with Hightower). Perhaps there is another option, though. An interesting note from the Boston Globe explored the possibility that Collins might just want some security, and could agree to a deal below market to remain with a good, competitive team.

Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts: Here's what we know about the Luck deal: It will likely be done before July 4 and it will be the largest contract signed in NFL history. Luck could very easily eclipse $200 million mark and he will top all of the existing leaders in each category, which are as follows:

» Joe Flacco (average per year): $22,133,333

» Aaron Rodgers (guarantee at signing): $44.5 million

» Russell Wilson (money over first three new years): $70.6 million.

There have been some interesting solutions thrown out in regards to Luck's deal. Perhaps the Colts should just guarantee him a percentage of the salary cap, for example, which was proposed by Darrelle Revis' former agents during their negotiation with the Jets in 2010. If the Colts decide to go the standard route, though, we will hear a lot about $25 million per season.

Why? The answer is simple. There is no real market test for a quarterback of Luck's stature in the modern NFL. What on Earth would another team pay to try and steal him away? The Colts, afraid of finding out, won't let that happen.

UPDATE: Andrew Luck signed a six-year, $140 million contract with the Colts on June 29.

Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, Buffalo Bills: Taylor likely will continue to be one of the best bargains in football at $2 million (with play-time bonuses). Although he's openly expressed his desire to sign a contract extension in Buffalo (including this interview with Around The NFL at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii this past year) the Bills have not been shy about pushing back. Coach Rex Ryan said that the salary cap will simply not allow for a big-money extension this year and general manager Doug Whaley has echoed those remarks.

"We want him to be, he wants to be, and time will tell," said Whaley in April about Taylor and the team's aspirations to keep him long term. "But we're excited about what he did last year -- he went 8-6 as a starter.

"I'll tell you this: I know he's a big competitor and he's going to want to raise his level of his game next year and take the next step and we are excited and we're going to try to give him as much ammunition around him for him to succeed."

Taylor's agent, Adisa Bakari, was understandably displeased and made his feelings known. This might be the type of deal that doesn't get done until October or November.

Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan, once again, has a cornerback holdout problem. His insistence on strong, man-cover corners to run his scheme has gotten him in trouble before, as players are well aware of their value. Gilmore, a former top-10 pick, is entering the fifth-year option portion of his contract, but is held back by a team that has just $12 million in cap space and a few very important players to take care of. Gilmore is a top-10 corner and one could argue he significantly outplayed new Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who inked a five-year, $75 million deal in Washington this offseason. While that might not be Gilmore's floor for a new deal, it is certainly not his ceiling.

Ezekiel Ansah, defensive end, Detroit Lions: Sacks sell, and Ansah completed his first season sans-Ndamukong Suh with 14.5 quarterback takedowns. He has 30 sacks over his first three NFL seasons. These are prime-time pass rushing numbers, and while Ansah's market might not be dictated by the ludicrous contract obtained by new Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, Ansah will be in line to be paid like a top-five defensive end if and when the Lions decide to make a move. An extension might not be in the near future, though. As we learn more about new Lions general manager Bob Quinn, we're seeing shades of his mentors in New England. Those around the general manager wouldn't be surprised if Ansah plays out the year on his fifth-year option and then is tagged before the 2017 season.

Le'Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers: Back in March, Bell famously tweeted: "I'm as humble as I get, but I'm aware of my value." The Steelers are in a tricky situation with their incredible running back. Bell is coming off an MCL/PCL injury from last season, but he has been remarkably consistent when healthy. He projects as a top-three running back for next season and is in line for another year with more than 70 receptions. That would undoubtedly put him atop the running back market, eclipsing the $12 million cap hit currently boasted by Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Pittsburgh is just barely under the salary cap and also needs to figure out what to do with underpaid wideout Antonio Brown and guard David DeCastro, who is soaking up an $8 million cap hit on his fifth-year option. An extension for DeCastro could move some money around to aid in Pittsburgh's cap recovery, but there is still a long way to go. Allowing Bell to hit the open market after what could be a banner year in 2016 would break the bank in Pittsburgh, but it has a window now to make everyone happy.

Tyrann Mathieu, defensive back, Arizona Cardinals: Quite possibly the best defensive back in football -- and certainly the best hybrid defensive player -- will earn top dollar from the Cardinals. It's just a matter of when. Despite coming off a serious knee injury, all signs point toward a massive extension in the near future for Mathieu. As NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport noted in May, the Cardinals view him as a face of the franchise and a leader in their off-field community efforts. Obviously, he is also the lynchpin in a versatile defense that added some key pieces in the offseason amid a Super Bowl push. We would not be surprised to see this deal announced before Arizona breaks for the summer, or right when it returns to training camp.

Malcolm Butler, cornerback, New England Patriots: Unfortunately, this is probably not happening. The Patriots can hold onto Butler's rights for some time and won't have to worry about a new deal until after restricted free agency in 2017. New England has always been good at finding talent well below market value, and having its No. 1 cornerback making $600,000 is the definition of coach Bill Belichick's savvy.

Michael Floyd, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals could try and work a similar deal to the one the Chargers recently agreed to with Allen. Floyd is one major season away from receiving a big-time deal in free agency, but he also could be had at a better value if the price is right before camp.

Darius Slay, cornerback Detroit Lions: Slay has already approached the Lions about the possibility of a long-term extension, which is a smart move for the former second-round pick due to make $976,269 this year along with a pair of bonuses that take the contract to just over $1 million. Slay's representatives have met with Detroit's front office multiple times already, and it might behoove them to lock up their ascending corner before the market gets out of control. The Giants did not help matters by signing Janoris Jenkins to a five-year, $62.5 million deal in March and the Redskins' deal for Norman has put the position in another stratosphere in terms of affordability.

UPDATE: Slay agreed to a four-year, $48 million extension on July 29, Rapoport reported.


Fan Discussion