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10 NFL Contract Extension Candidates

10 NFL Contract Extension Candidates © Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Donald, DL, Rams

Projection: 6 years, $120M, $65M guaranteed at signing

Donald has been essentially underpaid since the day he walked into the NFL, as the #13 overall selection back in 2014 has amassed 39 sacks, 148 tackles, & 9 forced fumbles in 62 games. He’s reeled in $10.2M for his efforts, and is set to earn “just” $6.892M from his 5th-year option in 2018. All signs point to him sitting on the sidelines until a new contract is in place - and rightfully so at this point.

In light of the above, with a $19.5M calculated market value, Donald is projecting toward the highest defensive contract of all-time. Currently Von Miller’s 6 year, $114.1M contract ($19M AAV) holds the high mark, including $41.6M thru 2 years, & $60.6M through 3. Donald should be inline to surpass all of these milestones, as well as Ndamukong Suh’s $59M guaranteed at signing, and Miller’s $70M in practical guarantees.


Khalil Mack, DE, Raiders

Projection: No deal, franchise tagged in 2019

Mack has cashed in 40.5 sacks, 303 tackles, and 10 forced fumbles, in 64 games since the Raiders selected him #5 overall back in 2014. Like Donald above, all signs point to him putting pen to the largest defensive contract ever. With that said - it’s looking more and more like the Raiders simply can’t (or won’t) afford a deal of this magnitude in the near future, putting Mack on a fast track for a 2019 franchise tag.

Mack should be seeking at least $65M guaranteed at signing, and $80M over a 4-year period for his next deal, whether in Oakland (Vegas) or not.


Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

Projection: No deal, free agent in 2019

With running back guarantees (and overall cash payments) down almost 50% over the past 7 years, Bell could have done plenty worse than his the $26.6M his back-to-back franchise tags are set to pay him. The top recent multi-year contracts have offered much less over the first 2 seasons:

LeSean McCoy: $21M
Devonta Freeman $18.2M
Jerick Mckinnon: $16M
Lamar Miller: $14M

Statistically speaking, Bell’s rushing & receiving numbers over the past two seasons against the four above mentioned players puts him around 48% better, placing his calculated market value just under $12M. A 3rd franchise tag in 2019 would mean almost $21M for Bell, an absurd figure for a running back in one season.

Bell will need at least $36M over a 3-year span, with at least $24M of that fully guaranteed, as Freeman’s deal scored him $17M guaranteed at signing, with another $5M available. He’ll want more than Pittsburgh can offer, and he’ll likely have to find it elsewhere in 2019.


Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

Projection: The Moon

Rodgers’ likely cracked open a beer in Kirk Cousins’ honor this March when he signed his fully guaranteed 3 year contract in Minnesota. The writing is now on the wall for the Packers’ future HOF QB, as recent signings for Cousins & Garoppolo have vaulted his calculated market value to $30M, but more importantly, may have also paved the way for 4 years of guarantees - something that just doesn’t happen in NFL veteran contracts.

Yes, recent injuries are a concern, and the loss of favorite target Jordy Nelson is also a bit of a red flag to Rodgers’ future success, but the 34 year old has done more than enough to warrant a top of the market deal. He’s sitting on a calculated projection of 4 years, $120M in new money, & should be targeting at least 3 years, $90M of that to be fully guaranteed.


Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

Projection: 5 years, $148M ($87M guaranteed at signing)

Statistically speaking, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are within striking distance of each over over the past few seasons, putting both inline for historic pay days over the coming months. With Ryan 2 years younger (32) than Rodgers, it’s plausible to assume he’ll be the breadwinner in this horse race, but all signs point to his figure coming in at or just above the recent $84M in guarantees that Kirk Cousins was just awarded.

Should he push to cash in though, it can be easily argued that his numbers and consistency are well above Matthew Stafford’s, and on par with Rodgers’, which means $90M+ in full guarantees, over the first three season.


Odell Beckham Jr, WR, Giants

Projection: Trade

Beckham already appears poised to hold out for a new contract, a decision most believe is the right move. But coming off of a season where teams like the Chiefs, Rams, & Eagles showed that offenses with depth, and role players (i.e. the Patriots way), might be the new norm, the Giants should be reluctant to throw historic money at their one young weapon, especially with an aging quarterback, a non-existent running game, and questions at the other receiving slots.

Yes he’s as dynamic a receiver as the league has to offer when healthy, but his value on the trade block might be just as useful to the Giants over the long-term. Financially speaking, Beckham’s production on the field has been projecting to a deal worth $17.2M per year, which tops Antonio Brown’s high AAV mark.


Zack Martin, OG, Cowboys

Projection: 5 years, $68M ($32M guaranteed)

Martin’s first four seasons went from great, to greater, to greatest, to greatestest. He was already set to cash in handsomely before the Jaguars rewarded Andrew Norwell with a $13.3M AAV this free agency. This becomes the new baseline value for Martin as he enters his 5th-year option season with the Cowboys ($9.341M). The 27-year old will be seeking $30M+ in upfront guarantees, all in the first 2 years. 


Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE, Texans

Projection: No deal, franchise tag in 2019

After struggling to find the field to begin his career, Clowney has really put together a nice resume heading into his 5th-year option season ($12.3M) with the Texans. His production has gotten exponentially better over the past three seasons, capping off at 9.5 sacks, 60 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in 2017.

But the numbers likely forthcoming for Aaron Donald, and eventually Khalil Mack might be suppressing Houston’s urge to lock in Clowney long term right now, as the 25-year-old holds a $16.6M calculated market value for his efforts. The waiting game might backfire on Houston though should he put together another productive season in 2018, forcing his value to the top of the defensive contract list. 


Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams

Projection: 4 years, $56M ($34M guaranteed at signing)

Cooks will join his 3rd team in 4 years per his recent trade to Los Angeles this month, despite averaging 75 catches, of 1,130+ yards, & 8 TDs per year over the past three seasons. He joins a versatile Rams offense where his role & numbers are likely to be reduced - but his success rate is likely to increase.

Los Angeles has already expressed interest in extending the 24-year-old, and Jarvis Landry’s recent extension with the Browns paints a pretty nice picture of what that deal might have to look like. His $15.5M calculated market value derives from the Chiefs overpayment of Sammy Watkins, and the Browns slight overpay for Landry, and might be too rich for the Rams’ young, depth-necessary offense. In light of this, we slot his projection at $14M per year, with 60% of the deal guaranteed at sign.