The Schein Nine  

 

Derek Carr headlines nine NFL stars who should be paid NOW

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The offseason is starting to get a tad quiet. That needs to change. It's high time for teams to get ahead on contracts. When it comes to certain building-block players on certain teams, management just needs to ... PAY THE MAN!

Here is my list of guys who deserve new money now, Schein Nine style:

1) Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

Age: 26
Free agent in: 2018

Colleague Michael Silver broke the story this week that Carr's camp is getting frustrated with the pace of negotiations on a new deal. Well, the quarterback should be frustrated. It's absurd that it is taking this long. Back in February, Carr said on my SiriusXM Radio show that he thought there was a realistic chance they would reach a deal by March 9 and the start of free agency! Not so much ...

Carr is not only a great player -- he got my Associated Press vote for MVP last season -- but he's a true leader in every sense. He gets it. And that's crucial, as the team prepares for a move to Las Vegas. Carr stressed to me that he wanted to get a long-term pact done before training camp, so it won't be a distraction or a topic any of his teammates have to deal with. We are still a few months away from panic, but if the Raiders don't sign him by mid-July, then it's disrespectful, counterproductive and flat-out wrong.

Derek Carr is a star and the epitome of class. You don't let him dangle in a contract year.

2) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Age: 24
Free agent in: 2018

At the age of 24, Hopkins is already a legit No. 1 receiver. In 2015, you could argue he was a top-three wideout in the NFL -- racking up 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns, and also becoming the first player in league history to record 100-yard games with four different quarterbacks throwing him the ball. In 2016, he got "Brocked" by completely inept QB play.

Last month, though, the Texans traded up to take Deshaun Watson with the No. 12 pick of the draft. This is promising -- for Houston and for Hopkins in particular. With a competent quarterback, Hopkins is a nightmare to defend, given his spectacular ability to win at the catch point.

It would save Houston money to get out in front of this contractual situation. Like, NOW.

3) Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Age: 28
Free agent in: 2018

The Redskins should've given him franchise-quarterback money last offseason. Now they're spinning their wheels for reasons beyond my comprehension.

Is Cousins the perfect quarterback? No. Is Cousins a fine fit for Jay Gruden and these Redskins? Yes. And he continues to get better. Cousins has spent the past two years rewriting Washington's record book -- he deserves respect from the franchise. The Redskins seem to be forgetting one important thing about this league ...

There are two types of teams in the NFL: Those that have quarterbacks and those that don't.

Why would this franchise actively choose to go backward? And the threat of Cousins leaving next offseason for San Francisco (and his old offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan) looms large.

4) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Age: 29
Free agent in: 2018

Re-read that Cousins blurb, because much of the same rationale applies here. Stafford isn't perfect, but he's currently the Lions' franchise. And I was very impressed with how dominant he looked for much of last season sans Calvin Johnson. With clutch play late in games, Stafford carried a flawed Detroit team to the playoffs. That was the Lions' second playoff appearance in the past three seasons. This is a team that hit the postseason once from 2000 through 2013.

I'm not sure what's taking so long. Stafford's clearly the guy Bob Quinn and Co. should continue building around.

5) Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions

Age: 27
Free agent in: 2018

Again, what's taking so long, Detroit?? Yes, hampered by an ankle injury, Ansah suffered a down season in 2016, recording just two sacks in 13 regular-season games. But he's one year removed from a 14.5-sack, Pro Bowl campaign. And actually, in this past January's playoff loss at Seattle, Ansah was one of the few bright spots for Detroit, finishing that game with nine tackles and a pair of sacks.

If this kind of pass-rushing talent reaches the open market next offseason in his prime, the price tag is going to be astronomical. And Detroit could come up short in a bidding war. You don't want Ndamukong Suh, Part II.

6) Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks

Age: 29
Free agent in: 2018

He's no spring chicken and has suffered some injury nicks in recent years, but I think the world of Kam Chancellor. He's a bona fide star. Chancellor is a huge part of the identity and fabric of this Seahawks group. He's the BOOM in the Legion of Boom. He remains a vital piece, on the field and in the locker room. Can you imagine the 'Hawks without Chancellor? Me neither.

Chancellor has been underpaid for years. Give him the loot, Seattle!

7) Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Age: 23
Free agent in: 2018

After tying for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions in 2015, Robinson slumped a bit last season. In a related story, Blake Bortles had a bit of trouble with the forward pass last season. And even in a down year, Robinson still had 883 yards and six touchdowns. Not horrible.

Robinson is a really good player -- and a fantastic worker and leader. In other words, he's a Doug Marrone/Tom Coughlin kind of guy.

8) Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams

Age: 25
Free agent in: 2019

As noted just above, Donald isn't set to hit free agency until after the 2018 campaign. But when this cat becomes a huge star in Los Angeles, don't say I didn't warn you to get the deal done far in advance. The price tag will only go up on this type of game-wrecking defender -- especially if he has the kind of transcendent season I anticipate in 2017. Yes, I'm picking Donald to win Defensive Player of the Year. And I don't think I'll be alone in that prediction.

Despite playing on the interior of the defensive line, Donald has piled up 28 sacks in his first three NFL seasons. The guy's a machine, the kind of talent you build a defense around.

9) Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders

Age: 26
Free agent in: 2019

He would be higher on this list if it weren't for Carr. The 2016 Defensive Player of the Year is a free agent after the 2018 season. Oakland should handle Carr first, then instantly pay Mack, before the pass rusher delivers Carr's premonition of a 30-sack season.

Mack, who entered the NFL as the No. 5 pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, has shown immense growth over his first three NFL seasons, establishing himself as one of the best young talents in the entire game. He's an all-around beast against the pass and the run -- a guy who keeps offensive coordinators up at night. Pay the man, Raiders!

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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