Contract Breakdown Projections for 12 WR Candidates

Contract Breakdown Projections for 12 WR Candidates

As the March 11th “tampering period” nears, Spotrac has developed complete contract extension projections for 12 notable wide receivers, including two (Mike Evans, Calvin Ridley) who seem certain to get to the open market in 10 days.

Justin Jefferson (Vikings, 25)

Quick Details
4 years, $128,000,000
$32,000,000 AAV
$70M guaranteed at signing
$100M practically guaranteed

Jefferson is entering his 5th-year option season in Minnesota, set to earn a fully guaranteed $19.743M in 2024. He brings a nearly perfect resume to the negotiating table, putting pressure on the Vikings not only to pony up in his regard, but in how they make decisions at the QB position & as a whole this offseason. Spotrac is projecting a 4 year extension that includes a whopping $70M fully guaranteed at signing, which would currently rank 15th in the entire NFL, and 1st among WRs by nearly $20M (Tyreek Hill, $52.5M). The projection includes $100M of practical guarantee through the 2027 season.

CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys, 25)

Quick Details
4 years, $120,000,000
$30,000,000 AAV
$55M guaranteed at signing
$75M practically guaranteed

Lamb enters his 5th-year option season in 2024, set to earn a fully guaranteed $17.9M from Dallas. His stock has risen each of the past 4 seasons, culminating with a 135 reception, 1,750 yard, 12 TD campaign last year. It seems highly likely that Lamb is on his way to the top of the non-Justin-Jefferson market sooner rather than later. Spotrac is projecting a 4 year extension that includes $75M practically guaranteed through the 2026 season. It might not be enough.

Ja'Marr Chase (Bengals, 24)

Quick Details
4 years, $120,000,000
$30,000,000 AAV
$46M guaranteed at signing
$70M practically guaranteed

Injuries to himself & to QB Joe Burrow over the past two seasons have limited Chase’s ability to reach his max ceiling. Cincinnati likely pays a king’s ransom to see that happen within their offense soon. The 24-year-old has 2 years, $26.6M left on his rookie deal through 2025, so there’s not an immediate rush to get something done here, but it’s certainly worth discussing. Spotrac projects a $70M guarantee over the next 3 seasons, including back to back $20M bonuses to keep cap hits at bay while this contending team continues to get more and more expensive across the board.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (Lions, 24)

Quick Details
4 years, $112,000,000
$28,000,000 AAV
$45M guaranteed at signing
$65M practically guaranteed

Much to the surprise of some, St. Brown has now posted back-to-back 100+ catch, 1100 yard seasons in Detroit, fully entrenching himself as the #1 WR option for Jared Goff and co. in 2023. The former 4th round pick enters a contract year in 2024, set to earn a non-guaranteed $3.3M (thanks to a proven performance escalator). Spotrac projects a 4 year, $112M tack on extension, including $45M fully guaranteed at signing, and $65M locked in by next March. The deal contains a team-friendly $7.5M cap hit in 2024 to allow the Lions to extend & acquire core players as they push toward the top of the NFC.

Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins, 25)

Quick Details
3 years, $82,500,000
$27,500,000 AAV
$46M guaranteed at signing
$60M practically guaranteed

With Tyreek Hill now north of 30, extending Jaylen Waddle carries both a short & long-term benefit for the Dolphins.The 25-year-old still has 2 years, $19.8M remaining on his rookie deal, so an extension this offseason isn’t imperative, but still remains likely. Spotrac is projecting a double bonus structure in Year 1 & Year 2 to keep cap hits at bay through 2026, plus $50M fully guaranteed at signing.

Tee Higgins (Bengals, 25)

Quick Details
4 years, $104,000,000
$26,000,000 AAV
$40M guaranteed at signing
$60M practically guaranteed

The Bengals have offered Higgins a $21.8M franchise tag this February, resetting his value to a minimum of that figure from here forward. Cincinnati can now negotiate against themselves into July, hoping to find a way to lock in both Higgins & Ja’Marr Chase in the next two offseasons. Spotrac projects an extension that offers $3.25M more than a double franchise tag through 2025, with $60M fully guaranteed through 2026.

Brandon Aiyuk (49ers, 26)

Quick Details
4 years, $96,000,000
$24,000,000 AAV
$40M guaranteed at signing
$57.6M practically guaranteed

Aiyuk’s status in San Francisco is very much in question, but it’s nothing a few (dozen) million guaranteed can’t fix. The 26-year-old showed his worth in 2023, and enters 2024 on a $14.1M fully guaranteed 5th-year-option. Spotrac is projecting a 4 year, $96M tack on extension, including $40M fully guaranteed at signing, and nearly $58M fully locked in by next March. It’s a 1A version of Deebo Samuel’s deal with the Niners, so if Aiyuk is traded to a team that will increase his role to a true WR1, this projection likely becomes a floor, not a ceiling.

DeVonta Smith (Eagles, 25)

Quick Details
3 years, $72,000,000
$24,000,000 AAV
$32.5M guaranteed at signing
$50.5M practically guaranteed

Smith’s rookie contract holds 2 years, $19M remaining on it, so an extension isn’t required this offseason. Like many players on this list, Smith’s extension would mean that two high profile wide receivers on a respective team are under a veteran contract - something not all franchises will be willing to do right now. Spotrac has projected a very Philly-style-structure here for Smith’s extension, including a double bonus payout over the next two seasons that keeps the cap hits under $8M. This would align nicely with the stability of A.J. Brown’s contract, allowing a transfer of power to happen after the 2025 season as needed.

Mike Evans (Buccaneers, 30)

Quick Details
3 years, $75,000,000
$25,000,000 AAV
$50M guaranteed at signing
$50M practically guaranteed

Evans appears poised to hit the open market on March 13th, which inflates his value. It also means that the Buccaneers didn’t offer a “blow me away” contract in the past few weeks. Does $50M fully guaranteed at signing qualify as a sticker shock for the 30-year-old? Here’s the issue. There may be 3 teams willing to offer Mike Evans the exact contract that Spotrac has projected here - which only further inflates his price point. Wide Receivers like this simply don’t get to the open market, and when they do, the numbers never disappoint.

Michael Pittman Jr. (Colts, 26)

Quick Details
4 years, $100,000,000
$25,000,000 AAV
$40M guaranteed at signing
$65M practically guaranteed

Pittman was a late bloomer in Indy, but with so much change at the coaching & QB levels, it’s tough to place too much blame. Will the Colts get a “small sample size” discount to keep Pittman from hitting the open market? Not likely. Indy is flush with cap space, destined to keep their core intact to build around Anthony Richardson, and don’t have an easy way to replace their WR1 currently. Spotrac projects a 4 year extension that includes $40M fully guaranteed, through 2025.

Amari Cooper (Browns, 30)

Quick Details
2 years, $45,000,000
$22,500,000 AAV
$35M guaranteed at signing
$45M practically guaranteed

Cooper is entering a contract year in Cleveland, set to earn a non-guaranteed $20M in 2024. Spotrac is projecting a 2 year, $45M tack on (3 years, $65M total), including $35M fully guaranteed through 2025. It’s a bit of a soft extension in comparison to many others noted here, but the Browns are likely looking to tread lightly in many areas with so many mouths already fed around the roster. $45M guaranteed is an awful lot more than $0.

Calvin Ridley (Jaguars, 29)

Quick Details
3 years, $66,000,000
$22,000,000 AAV
$32M guaranteed at signing
$42M practically guaranteed

Ridley was given every chance to establish himself as Trevor Lawrence’s #1 option in 2023, but failed to do so with any measure of consistency. That doesn’t mean he’s not a top-flight wideout in the league, and won’t be highly coveted on the open market (where he’s likely to go based on his trade condition). Spotrac’s projection sees him earning $43.2M over the next two seasons (about $4M less than two franchise tags). While the money doesn’t pop off the page, being considered “value” among this group could mean Ridley ends up in a spot that allows him to showcase himself into a much bigger payday. If so, look for a shorter (maybe even 1 year) contract to do exactly that.