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All-Paid Team of Tomorrow: Justin Jefferson, Nick Bosa poised to reset market at respective positions

Which players are in line to earn big-money contracts in the near future and join the All-Paid Team? Anthony Holzman-Escareno takes a look into his crystal ball to project the All-Paid Team of Tomorrow, listing the top candidate to push for the rank of highest paid at each position, along with other guys who are on the big-money radar.

NOTE: Contract information is sourced from Over The Cap and/or Spotrac.


Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · 27 years old
  • Projected average per year (APY): $55+ million
  • Free agent after: 2031

Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert could each have their turn atop the quarterback market; the sequence depends on the order in which they sign new contracts. Mahomes already had a run atop the All-Paid Team when he and the Chiefs shocked the sports world with a 10-year, $450 million deal in July 2020. However, three years later, Mahomes now ranks seventh at the position in terms of average annual salary. 

In Mahomes' five seasons as the starter, the Chiefs have made five straight AFC Championship Games and appeared in three Super Bowls, winning two. Mahomes’ 11 career playoff wins are not only tied with Aaron Rodgers for the most by any active player but are also just five shy of tying Joe Montana for the second-most all-time. Mahomes, Montana, and Tom Brady are the only players to win multiple NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards. Montana played 15 seasons. Brady played 23 seasons. Mahomes is entering Year 7. In February, he became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns, win the regular season MVP and win the Super Bowl MVP in a single season.

Perhaps the best example of Mahomes’ worth is his record in games when the cards are stacked against him. He is the only quarterback since 1950 to record a winning record (14-10) in games where his team trailed by at least 10 points (minimum 10 starts in such games). Mahomes is also the only quarterback with a winning record (17-13) in games in which his team allowed 28 points. In other words, there’s always a chance with No. 15. 

Mahomes recently emphasized that he cares more about winning Super Bowls and establishing a legacy than making the most money. However, the Chiefs have expressed a willingness to rework his current contract and acknowledged they will never be able to fully compensate him relative to his value to the franchise


Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow has an argument to be considered the NFL's best quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes, so he could definitely get his time atop the market. He finished second in the NFL in completion percentage (68.3), passing yards per game (279.7) and passing touchdowns (35, tied) last season. They don't call him Joe Brrr for nothing: He led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in the second half or overtime in 2022. For franchise context, the top two seasons in Bengals history in terms of both passing yards and touchdowns are Burrow's 2021 and '22 seasons. The Bengals have won as many playoff games with Burrow (five) as they had in the 53 seasons prior to drafting him first overall in 2020.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers: Herbert hasn't had close to the postseason success that Burrow has enjoyed, but he's the type of foundational piece franchises build around. The Chargers have leaned heavily on Herbert. He threw more passes (699) than any player not named Tom Brady (733) and had more passing yards (4,739) than any player not named Patrick Mahomes (5,250) last season. Though it was a down year in the touchdown column with a career-low 25, he set a career-high in the win column (10) and earned his first playoff appearance.

Other to consider: Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars; Justin Fields, Chicago Bears.


Saquon Barkley
New York Giants · 26 years old
  • Projected APY: $14+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (franchise tag)

Barkley took the league by storm after going second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He led the NFL with 2,028 scrimmage yards and scored 15 touchdowns on his way to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He put together a solid 2019 season, and the RB market began to grow -- the top four current contracts by APY were signed prior to the 2020 season. It seemed like it was just a matter of time before Barkley would sign a long, large extension with Big Blue. 

Then, the unforgiving injury bug hit. Barkley played just 15 games over the course of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, totaling 950 scrimmage yards and four scores over that span. Consequently, the Giants let him play out his fifth-year option in 2022. A healthy Barkley returned to play 16 games last season, posting a career high 1,312 rushing yards. He finished with more scrimmage yards (1,650) and touchdowns (10) than he'd posted in those two injury-plagued seasons combined, earning his first Pro Bowl nod since the transcendent 2018 rookie season. 

After making their first playoff appearance since 2016, the Giants extended Daniel Jones this offseason and used the franchise tag on Barkley. He’s yet to sign the tag as of this writing in hopes of receiving a long-term deal prior to the July 17 deadline. The Giants do have reason to be cautious here: Barkley is a running back entering Year 6 with an injury history and he faded down the stretch last season (103.4 rush YPG in Weeks 1-10 and 54.4 in Weeks 11-18). Barkley is likely the position’s last hope in the next year or so to move the market upward. 


Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts: Taylor was in Barkley's spot on this list last year and could be the player to reset the market. Taylor won the rushing triple crown (led in carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns) in 2021, and given his age, a return to form could put him in line for a top-of-market deal. Given his position, however, the franchise tag could be in his future.

Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders; Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (two more franchise-tagged backs): There is a stark difference between the two franchised-tagged backs not named Saquon Barkley. Jacobs has proven to be a workhorse, while Pollard has served exclusively in a committee. Jacobs won the rushing title with a career-high 1,653 yards and led the NFL with yards from scrimmage (2,053) last season. He broke 90 tackles on runs and had over 1,100 yards after contact, both top two in the NFL, according to PFF. Pollard and 2023 All-Paid Team running back Christian McCaffrey were the only players with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns over their final 10 games. Only Derrick Henry, Jacobs, McCaffrey and Justin Jefferson had more scrimmage yards than Pollard over their final 10 games. He had the fewest carries (193) of any running back last season to reach the 1,000-yard threshold.

Others to consider: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers; Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans, Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots; Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers; Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons.


Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings · 23 years old
  • Projected APY: $31+ million
  • Free agent after: 2024 (fifth-year option)

One could make the argument that Jefferson has been the best receiver in the NFL since the Vikings put him in the starting lineup in Week 3 of his rookie season (2020). After setting the rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards, he’s surpassed that total in each of his last two seasons. 

Here’s an attempt to put the start to his career in context: Not only is he the only player in NFL history to record at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, but there are only seven players who have posted more career seasons reaching that threshold. Should he reach the mark again in 2023, the list of players with more such seasons drops to two: Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones

Jefferson has reached the century mark in in 24 of his 50 career games, the highest percentage of career games with at least 100 receiving yards (48 percent) in NFL history. The Viking star averages the most receiving yards per game (96.5) in NFL history -- and the scariest part is he’s only getting better. Each year, he’s increased his receiving yardage total by an average of 204.5 yards. Should he keep that pace in 2023, he would become the first player in NFL history with 2,000 receiving yards in a single season. 

As for his bag, Jefferson will leave the negotiating table with it overflowing. Although Tyreek Hill’s contract has an APY of $30 million, his deal includes an inflated $43.9 million base salary in the final season (2026). Jefferson should easily become the first true $30 million receiver. 


CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys exercised Lamb's fifth-year option in April, so Dak Prescott's No. 1 target isn't leaving town anytime soon. Lamb ranked among the top six in the NFL in receptions (107), receiving yards (1,359), and touchdowns (9) last season. He was also the NFL's most productive slot receiver in terms of yardage (826) last season, per Next Gen Stats.

Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals: Higgins has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and although he's likely the best WR2 on any NFL roster, he possesses a WR1 skill set. He averaged more than 90 receiving yards per contest when Ja’Marr Chase was out in Weeks 8-12 last year, and he boasts the fifth-most receiving yards among players under 25, trailing only Jefferson, Lamb, Jaylen Waddle and Chase. The latter two aren't eligible for an extension until after the 2023 regular season.

Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars: Ridley is a wild card here, given his talent and prior production. Ridley's contract tolled to 2023 due to his season-long suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy. When he takes the field for the Jaguars this fall, Ridley will be two seasons removed from his breakout 2020 campaign with the Falcons (1,374 receiving yards, nine touchdowns), but he has high production potential catching passes from Trevor Lawrence in Doug Pederson's offense.

Others to consider: DeAndre Hopkins, free agent; Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers; Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts; Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals; Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins; DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles; Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions.


T.J. Hockenson
Minnesota Vikings · 25 years old
  • Projected APY: $15+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (fifth-year option)

With the game's elite players at the tight end position currently locked up, there aren't many candidates to push the top of the pay scale. Hockenson is a very good player with multiple realities working in his favor: He's of high draft stock (taken eighth overall by the Lions in 2019); the Vikings traded a package of Day 2 picks for him prior to the 2022 trade deadline; he's entering a contract year (fifth-year option from his rookie contract); and he's in a market that has an established price for high-level tight end play.

Hockenson finished the '22 campaign with career highs of 86 receptions and 914 receiving yards. Both of those marks ranked second among all tight ends behind Travis Kelce. Hockenson had a 100-yard, two-touchdown receiving game with both the Lions and Vikings -- the only tight end with multiple outings of 100-plus receiving yards and multiple touchdowns in 2022.

The tight end market has grown substantially over the last three seasons. Believe it or not, Jimmy Graham was the NFL's highest-paid tight end (at $10 million per year) from 2014 through 2019. In 2020 and fresh off a Super Bowl clash, Kelce and George Kittle moved the market miles, each signing extensions worth more than $14 million a clip. Hockenson should benefit from the growing TE market. None of the current top-seven-paid tight ends are set to become free agents before 2026.


Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars: Engram might have one more chance to get that top-of-market deal that's eluded him due to inconsistent production. A contract year on the franchise tag might be just the remedy after he enjoyed a career season on a one-year prove-it deal in Jacksonville. His 73 receptions and 766 receiving yards were not only career highs, but also single-season records for a Jags tight end. With the team selecting Brenton Strange in the second round, his next deal may not come in Duval, but a strong 2023 would put him in prime position to cash in next offseason.

Other to consider: Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons; Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers.


Tristan Wirfs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · 24 years old
  • Projected APY: $23+ million
  • Free agent after: 2024 (fifth-year option)

Wirfs' assignment as a rookie in 2020: protect the NFL's greatest player, Tom Brady, in his first season with a new team after two decades in New England. The No. 13 overall pick exceeded all expectations on that front, starting at right tackle on Day 1 and playing a vital role in the team's Super Bowl LV victory that season. Since stepping on the NFL gridiron, he's been one of the league's best offensive tackles.

Wirfs earned Pro Football Focus' second-highest pass-blocking grade (90.5) in 2022, behind only Texans LT Laremy Tunsil -- the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman. Wirfs allowed just five pressures in 2022, per PFF, the fewest among 78 offensive tackles with at least 200 pass-blocking snaps.

If there is one (not great) argument against Wirfs being in this spot, it's that he's played his entire NFL career at right tackle. This flawed skepticism doesn't seem to consider that modern defenses typically deploy their best pass rushers in a variety of alignments. The Eagles have already made Lane Johnson the first $20 million-per-season right tackle.

The Buccaneers picked up Wirfs' fifth-year option, worth $18.2 million, for 2024. With talk of him moving to left tackle, the team would be wise to get Wirfs under contract long term before he has the chance to show off how seamlessly he can make the transition. More high-level positional flexibility would lead Tampa to need more high-level financial flexibility in Wirfs' new deal.


Andrew Thomas, New York Giants: Some has already labeled the No. 4 overall pick a bust after a rough rookie season in 2020. However, the former Georgia Bulldog has significantly improved over each of the last two seasons, blossoming into one of his position's very best players. Thomas earned the third-highest PFF overall grade and fourth-highest pass-blocking grade among offensive tackles last season. The Giants exercised his fifth-year option and have him under club control through the 2024 season. Thomas is a building block for this storied franchise and will be compensated as such.

Other offensive tackles to consider: Jedrick Wills Jr., Cleveland Browns; Tytus Howard, Houston Texans.

Notable OTs not eligible for extension: Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers; Christian Darrisaw, Minnesota Vikings; Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions.

Other interior offensive linemen to consider: Mike Onwenu, New England Patriots; Jonah Jackson, Detroit Lions; Ezra Cleveland, Minnesota Vikings; Dalton Risner, free agent; Kevin Dotson, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Notable interior OLs not eligible for extension: Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs; Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets; Landon Dickerson, Philadelphia Eagles; Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs.


Quinnen Williams
New York Jets · 25 years old
  • Projected APY: $24+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (fifth-year option)

Williams enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 as a key contributor to one of the greatest defensive turnarounds in NFL history. The Jets finished fourth in both scoring and total defense in 2022, one season after finishing dead last in both metrics. Robert Saleh's D became the first in the Super Bowl era to rank top 10 in both scoring and total defense the season after finishing in the cellar in both categories.

Williams posted career highs in sacks (12), quarterback hits (28) and tackles for loss (12) last season, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors for the first time. He posted more QB hits in 2022 than he had in his previous two seasons combined (26 from 2020-21) and nearly matched his sack total from the same span (13 from 2020-21). The only interior defensive lineman with more sacks last season was fellow 2022 All-Pro Chris Jones (more on him in a second).

Williams has made one thing clear this offseason: He wants to be paid now ... as he should. He's apparently looking for $25 million-plus per season. At the moment, the two DTs with the highest APY are Aaron Donald ($31.7 million) and Jeffery Simmons ($23.5 million).


Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs: Jones is entering the final season of a four-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2020. His on-field performance has paralleled (and at times exceeded) his paycheck ... even on a deal worth $20 million per year. He led all interior defensive linemen in sacks (15.5) and quarterback hits (29) in 2022. Over the last five seasons, Aaron Donald is the only interior defender with more sacks or hits than Jones. Last season was Jones' second with at least 15 sacks, the most such seasons by any interior DL in NFL history.

Others to consider: Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins; DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts; Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers; Leonard Williams, New York Giants; Derrick Brown, Carolina Panthers.


Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · 25 years old
  • Projected APY: $32+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (fifth-year option)

After taking home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2019, Bosa suffered an ACL injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season. If there were any questions about how he'd bounce back, he's answered all of them by leading the NFL in sacks (34.0), quarterback hits (80) and tackles for loss (40) over the last two seasons.

All he did in 2022 was add another piece of hardware to his trophy case with his first Defensive Player of the Year award. Bosa led the NFL with 73 pressures (per Next Gen Stats) and he also paced the league with 18.5 sacks and 48 QB hits (the third-most in a single season since the metric has been tracked in 2006). He joined J.J. Watt (2012, 2014) and Aaron Donald (2018) as the only players to record at least 18 sacks and 40 QB hits in the same season.

No defensive player is within $3.5 million of Donald's $31.7 million average per year. However, Bosa should not only be the NFL's second $30 million defensive player, but he will likely become the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history in short time.

Nick's brother, Joey, currently holds the second edge rusher spot on the All-Paid Team. The thought of Joey going from the second-highest-paid pass rusher in the NFL to the second-highest-paid pass rusher in his family is hilarious.


Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers: Burns is one of three players with at least 7.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hits in each of the last four seasons. The other two guys on that list boast an APY of at least $20 million: perennial Pro Bowlers Myles Garrett and Chris Jones. He also knows his value to the Panthers. The franchise made it evident when it reportedly turned down an offer including two first-round and a second-round pick from the Rams for the pass rusher. Burns enters the 2023 season on his fifth-year option having just turned 25 in April.

Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers: Gary had a breakout 2021 season, setting career highs in sacks (9.5) and quarterback hits (28), the latter of which ranked seventh in the NFL. He was on pace to set a new career high in sacks this past year -- with six in the first two months -- before a torn ACL in Week 9 sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Chase Young, Washington Commanders: Selecting a player who had his fifth-year option declined for this team may seem odd, but if Young can live up to the potential he showed during his 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign, the Commanders' decision may ultimately only serve to move Young's payday up a year.

Others to consider: Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings; Haason Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles; Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys; Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins; Greg Rousseau, Buffalo Bills; Kwity Paye, Indianapolis Colts.


Devin White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · 25 years old
  • Projected APY: $20+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (fifth-year option)

White is likely the next player up after Roquan Smith became the first $100 million (and $20 million per year) linebacker in NFL history. Whether or not White receives something near that number will be based on his performance in 2023.

In the last 30 seasons, White and Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher are the only players with at least 400 tackles and 20 sacks over the course of their first four seasons. White is also the only player of any experience to reach those thresholds over the past four campaigns. White can fill up a stat sheet with tackles and sacks, but he has experienced some ups and downs in coverage. And White has never graded well according to PFF's system, earning a 45.5 overall mark last season (94th among 104 qualified linebackers).

Currently set to play on his fifth-year option, White requested a trade this offseason, though the Buccaneers have made it clear they have no intention of moving him. Still, the Bucs clearly want to see more consistent play from the former fifth overall pick, based on their hesitancy to sign him to a long-term deal now.


Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals: Just a few words about Simmons. The Cardinals didn't even pick up his fifth-year option this offseason, so having him here is odd, for sure. The former Clemson star has yet to put it together on the pro level. However, Simmons is the type of athletic talent who can change a lot of minds with one great season.

Others to consider: Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens; Dre Greenlaw, San Francisco 49ers; Logan Wilson, Cincinnati Bengals.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Nick Bolton, Kansas City Chiefs; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns.


Trevon Diggs
Dallas Cowboys · 24 years old
  • Projected APY: $22+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023

Diggs is the ultimate risk-reward proposition on the back end. However, the rewards typically outweigh the risks in a modern NFL where takeaways are invaluable. With 17 interceptions and 49 passes defensed through three NFL seasons, Diggs leads the NFL in both categories since entering the league in 2020. He stole an NFL-high 11 passes in 2021, the most in a season by any player in over 40 years. (Worth noting: Diggs has currently gone 10 straight regular-season games without a pick, the longest streak of his NFL career.)

On the flip side, Diggs has allowed 2,361 yards in coverage since 2020, per PFF, the highest total in the NFL. However, Diggs did cut down on this metric last season. After allowing the league-high 1,016 yards in 2021, he chopped that number to 700 in 2022 (still ninth-most in the NFL). As a second-round pick, Diggs doesn't carry a fifth-round option. Thus, the Cowboys will have to franchise the corner if they want to keep him on the 2024 roster without giving him an extension.


A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons: Last year, it was Diggs and Terrell in this spot. The Falcons exercised Terrell's fifth-year option this offseason, making him one year further from free agency than Diggs. However, once Diggs does sign, Terrell will surely find his spot on the All-Paid Team. According to PFF, Terrell has allowed the lowest completion percentage (50.7) and fewest yards (630) in coverage among 67 cornerbacks with at least 100 targets over the last two seasons. He is a foundational piece for the Falcons franchise.

Others to consider: L'Jarius Sneed, Kansas City Chiefs; Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Sauce Gardner, New York Jets; Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos; Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks; Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers; Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers; Tyson Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars; Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers.


Budda Baker
Arizona Cardinals · 27 years old
  • Projected APY: $17+ million
  • Free agent after: 2024

Baker is the type of player you feel in your facility. He's the living embodiment of the sports clichés we've heard our whole lives: the heartbeat of the team, the pulse of the defense -- that's Baker. His moments on Hard Knocks In Season show it all. However, he requested a trade from the Cardinals this April. But I think a new contract should be enough to ease those demands.

A second-round pick back in 2017, Baker didn't become a starting safety until Week 11 of his rookie season, but that didn't stop him from earning first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in Year 1 as a special teamer. Since that point, he's been the undeniable leader of the Cardinals' defense. He's the only defensive back with 600-plus tackles and 30-plus tackles for loss since 2017.

The Cardinals made Baker the highest-paid safety in the NFL in August 2020, before he had ever recorded an interception in the NFL (zero in his first three seasons). He's recorded multiple picks in each of the three seasons since. With two years remaining on his contract, his $14.8 million APY ranks seventh at the position.


Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winfield is a stat-sheet stuffer with 262 tackles, nine sacks, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and 13 quarterback hits since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2020. His four sacks last season were tied with Derwin James for the second-most among defensive backs (Donovan Wilson had five). Winfield can produce against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer. He should see a nice payday in the near future.

Others to consider: Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks; Darnell Savage Jr., Green Bay Packers; Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers; Brandon Jones, Miami Dolphins.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins; Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers; Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens.

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