With rosters beginning to take shape for the upcoming 2016 season, we'll take a look at one player on each of the 32 NFL teams who could be a candidate for a significant contract extension in the coming months. In many cases we've including our calculated projected value for that player's next contract.
Who did we miss? Send suggestions/comments to @spotrac.
Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Cardinals
Mathieu's become one of the most dominant and versatile defensive backs in the NFL, and has kept himself in line through his first 3 seasons in Arizona. Set to make $1.671M in 2016, Mathieu is projecting toward a new contract north of $14M per year. The problem? Arizona currently holds less than $1M in 2016 cap space.
Ryan Schraeder, OT, Falcons
Atlanta assigned a 2nd round tender on restrictred free agent Schraeder this offseason, signifying their desire to keep him in the fold for the immediate future. It would benefit both parties to lock in a long-term deal sooner rather than later, as the price for tackle (left or right) continues to rise steadily. An AAV between $6M-$7M appears to be the going rate for above average right tackles currently. With just north of $11M in estimated Top 51 cap space to work with, there's room for a deal this offseason.
Brandon Williams, DT, Ravens
Williams quietly put together a strong 2015 campaign, grading out as a Top 20 interior lineman according to Pro Football Focus, and filling in nicely for the spot once locked in for Haloti Ngata in previous years. The former 3rd round pick is entering a contract year in 2016, set to account for $1.8M in cap, and won't "break the bank" to lock in to a multi-year extension. Jaye Howard's $5M per year deal could be a foundation. The Ravens sit with just under $14M in Top 51 cap space to maneuver with.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
T-Mobile is set to enter his 2nd full season at the reins in Buffalo holding a super-value $3.1M cap figure. His 2017 salary voided due to playing time & performance last year, so Taylor will be entering a contract year this season, barring an extension. While numbers alone have Taylor projecting toward a $21M+ per year contract, his lack of experience could allow the Bills to bring that number down into the $18M-$19M range. The 2017 franchise tag is currently projected to come in at $21M, so the Plan B to keep Taylor in the fold is just as expensive. With just under $12M in Top 51 cap space currently, the Bills are a team to watch this month. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is also on the radar for a new deal.
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers
Despite a salary of "just" $1M this season ($1.4M cap figure), Short appears to be taking the high road this offseason, going about his workouts and camp without distraction of his forthcoming deal. He's been excellent since the Panthers selected him in the 2nd round back in 2013, and is currently projecting toward a 6 year $98M ($16.3M AAV) contract - though recent deals for Mo Wilkerson ($17.2M), and Fletcher Cox ($17.1M) could increase that value accordingly. With some $28M in current cap space to work with, Carolina certainly has room to lock in a raise for 8th ranked interior lineman according to PFF.
Willie Young, OLB/DE, Bears
Young had a strong 2015, combining with Pernell McPhee for a productive edge rush package for the Bears. Both players found themseves ranked Top 25 according to PFF, with Young excelling more so against the run. Entering a contract year in Chicago, and now 30 years old, it'll probably take close to $5M per year to get a new deal in place. The Bears have a healthy $22M in Top 51 cap space entering August.
Kevin Zeitler, G, Bengals
The 2012 first round pick (#12 overall) has been nothing short of great on the Bengals' O-Line, and is set to enter a contract year with his $8.07M 5th year option. With 34-year old Andrew Whitworth's contract expiring after 2016 as well, Cincy should be looking to extend Zeitler to go along with his Guard-mate Clint Boling, who signed a 5 year $26M extension last offseason. Brandon Brooks' 5 year $40M free agent contract with the Eagles is a target for Zeitler.
Joel Bitonio, G Browns
He won't be eligible for an extension until after the upcoming here, but he appears to be the next logical Browns player inline for a new deal (RG3 & Josh Gordon notwithstanding at this point, though both would need new deals if all goes well in 2016). Bitonio has done a nice job complementing Joe Thomas on the left side of the Browns line since he came onto the scene as a 2nd round pick in 2014. Another strong year should get talks going next spring. The Browns appear poised to carry over a ton of cap to 2017.
Travis Frederick, C, Cowboys
Dallas took a lot of flack when they selected Frederick in the 1st round back in 2013, but he's been consistently great ever since, and is a big reason the Cowboys' O-Line is one of the best in the biz. The 2016 season will be year 4 on his rookie contract, with an $8.8M 5th year option currently slated for 2017. It's likely Frederick becomes the highest average paid center in football by then (Alex Mack, $9M).
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
Sanders has quietly put together a strong career, benefited heavily by the fact that his only QBs have been Ben Roethlisberger & Peyton Manning. It's understandable that Sanders and his camp are pushing hard now for a new deal, with the likes of Paxton Lynch/Mark Sanchez throwing him passes for the upcoming 2016 season, the final year of his 3 year deal. His calculated market value currently hovers around the $11.5M per year mark, but nearing 30 years of age, and with an offense that appears to be poised to run more, it's more likely the $10M per year mark is his ceiling.
Darius Slay, CB, Lions
Slay clocked in as the #2 ranked cornerback in football according to Pro Football Focus in 2015, and appears to have come into his own as he enters a contract year in Detroit. The 2013 2nd rounder is projecting to a 5 year $58M deal currently, and is a lock to reel in Top 10 cornerback money when all is said and done.
T.J. Lang & Josh Sitton, G, Packers
The 5th & 6th ranked guards in 2015 (According to PFF) are both entering a contract year in 2016. At 28 years old, Lang has an edge age-wise, and has more to gain from his previous $5.5M AAV (Sitton, 30 years old, $6.75M AAV). With a little under $9M in current cap space, the Packers don't have a ton of wiggle room to maneuver with at this point - nor is it a guarantee that both will be brought back in 2017. But it's very likely both receive Top 5 guard money by next spring ($7.8M - $11.7M).
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
The Texans don't need to do anything with Hopkins yet, as the 2016 season will be his 4th ($2.4M cap). Houston exercised a $7.9M 5th-year option for 2016, but could risk him holding out should they wait to extend Hopkins through next year. He's a Top 10 WR in the league and is likely to be paid as such, currently projecting toward a 5 year $70M contract according to our formula.
Jack Mewhort, OL, Colts
The 2014 2nd round pick had an excellent 2015 campaign and has experience both at tackle and guard as he heads into his third season with the Colts. Indy will need to wait until next offseason to address his contract, but barring a major step back in performance, this extension should be a no brainer. The Colts have about $130M allocated to their 2017 cap table currently (21st in the NFL), so there appears to be room for a Mewhort raise.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
Jacksonville didn't wait long to get Allen Hurns under a more appropriate contract this offseason (4 years $40.65M up from 3 years $1.45M), so it's safe to assume the same for Robinson in the coming months should he be able to reproduce his 2015 performance. His 80 receptions, 1,400 yards, and 14 TDs last year have him projecting to a 5 year $61M contract currently. With $41M in Top 51 cap space under their belt currently, Jacksonville should be carrying plenty over to 2017 to make another splash.
Eric Berry, S, Chiefs
The Chiefs couldn't come to terms with a multi-year deal for Berry this offseason, who has yet to sign his $10.8M franchise tag and is holding out of all offseason activities accordingly. It's not likely that Berry misses games come September, and the 4th highest ranked safety according to PFF should play himself into an even bigger contract come next March. He's currently valuing north of $8M per year, but was asking for a contract closer to the $10.25M Harrison Smith received in Minnesota. It won't help that Kansas City currently has $163M allocated to their 2017 cap (4th most in the NFL).
Michael Brockers, DT, Rams
With both of the edge rushers (Quinn, Hayes) under contract for a few more seasons, the Rams will soon need to focus on their excellent interior linemen. Brockers is the first to expire, set to play out his $6.1M 5th-year option in 2016. While many Rams fans will point to Trumaine Johnson (playing out a $13.9M franchise tag in 2016) as the likely extension candidate, the Rams inability to make much progress with a long-term deal this offseason might signal they don't even plan to do so. Brockers' recent production is about 75% that of Malik Jackson's, who locked in a $14.25M deal this offseason in Jacksonville. Simple math says a new deal for Brockers should range in the $10M-$11M frame.
Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins
The 28-year-old made some noise this offseason by making it public that he's hoping to sign a new deal in the very near future - even with 2 years $14.3M remaining on his current one. What he's likely referring to is a need for GUARANTEED dollars, as his current deal contains none going forward. When stacking him up against other strong safeties who have signed around the age of 28, Jones actually projects for a slight pay raise, valuing at $7.9M per year. A 4 year, $31M extension with about half of it guaranteed should do the trick.
Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Vikings
The former Panther has had back to back nice seasons with Minnesota, and is entering a contract year in 2016 ($4.5M cap). He dropped in as a Top 20 cornerback according to PFF last season, and at 28 years old should still be inline for a nice payday. Recent signings to Sean Smith (OAK), and Brandon Flowers (SD) appear to be targets for Munnerlyn, who is projecting at $8.5M per year currently.
Jamie Collins, LB, Patriots
The 2013 second round selection out of Southern Mississippi has become a quiet star for the Patriots defense. Set to earn less than $1M in his contract year, Collins is currently projecting to a 5 year, $56M contract according to our formula, Top 5 among all active OLBs. This would be a rare maximum contract from the Patriots should it come to fruition.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees is sticking to his Week 1 deadline to get a new deal locked in with New Orleans, otherwise he might become the most coveted 38 year old QB to hit the open market since Peyton Manning. While he's still producing at an extremely high level, his bloating cap figures and restructures have bogged downthe Saints' ability to manuever for many offseasons. A more team friendly deal, possibly to the tune of Tom Brady's 4 years, $72M (in terms of cap dollars), 60% or so fully guaranteed (mostly in the form of signing bonus), should satisfy both parties.
Justin Pugh, G, Giants
Pugh joins center Weston Richburg as the lone bright spots of the Giants offensive line in 2015. Should he match his consistency heading into his fourth year, the Giants might do well to extend him prior to his $8.8M 5th-year option kicking in. The #19 overall selection in 2013 is likely targeting Jeff Allen's $7M per year contract as a baseline.
Sheldon Richardson, DE, Jets
Substance abuse and personal conduct violations have thrown major red flags at the idea of keeping Richardson around long-term, but there's no denying his talent when he's on the field. Of the names listed here, the probability of this extension happening in the next 12 months is near the bottom percent, and a 5th year option plus franchise tag year in 2018 appears much more likely. He's currently projecting to a 5 year, $64.4M contract ($12.8M per year).
Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
The Raiders are remarkably locked in when looking at notable players across their entire roster, so locating a player in need of a new contract at this point (outside of QB Derek Carr who can't be considered until 2017), was a challenge. We chose Murray simply because he's a projected starter at a notable position with a contract expiring after 2016 - but it's perfectly possible that he's not even the goto tailback for Oakland by the end of 2016. Murray's set to enter his contract year with a base $675k salary, and is projecting just north of $3M per year for his next deal.
Bennie Logan, DT, Eagles
Logan's been a solid run-stuffing nose tackle through three seasons in Philly, compiling an average of 56 tackles over the past two seasons. He enters a contract year with players all around him having cashed in in a big way, and could be the next man up for a new deal, especially as the defense opens up in a new flex 4-3 this season. With pass-rushing statistics significantly lower than those DT's at the top of the paychart, Damon Harrison's $9.25M per year deal appears to be a logical foundation for Logan.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Pending 4-game suspension and right knee injury aside, Le'Veon Bell has been one of the best values in football over the past 3 seasons in Pittsburgh. So much so that for a position in heavy financial decline, Bell's numbers (both in rushing and receiving) shoot him into an Adrian Peterson pay grade when removing outside factors. In a more structured evaluation, Bell's currently projecting to a 5 year $47M extension, but could (should?) be competing with fellow weapon Antonio Brown for Steelers' dollars next offseason. With just $113M allocated to their 2017 cap (28th most), it should be a noisy offseason next spring.
Melvin Ingram, OLB, Chargers
Ingram had a breakout season in 2015, posting 10.5 sacks and 52 tackles in San Diego. He's set to play out his $7.7M 5th-year option this season, and could be a strong candidate for the franchise tag next spring should the Chargers not be ready to dish out a big pay day. As of now, Ingram is projecting toward a 5 year $58M contract extension. But a 2016 season that matches 2015 will greatly increase that figure. With just $5M in 2016 cap space, and $147M already allocated to 2017, San Diego will have work to do to get this deal done over the next 10 months.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, 49ers
I know... I know. The reality here though is that the 49ers have had so much turnover across their roster, that it's tough to speculate Which of the younger players (including Carlos Hyde) will be a strong long-term fit for the new regime. If Gabbert wins the QB job out of camp, it will be because the system is built better for his style of play, and thus it makes sense for the Niners to begin to build around him (and draft new QBs, immediately). There's a lot of work to be done here.
Michael Bennett, DE, Seahawks
Extension rumors have already begun for Bennett, who put together an elite season in 2015, including 10 sacks, 52 tackles, and a Top 5 ranking among all DEs according to PFF. The reality is that the market values for edge rushers after the age of 30 drops considerably. In terms of our calculated valuation, Bennett is inline for a slight raise from $7.125M per year to $9.1M per year.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
Jackson was on his way to yet another 70 catch, 1,000 yards receiving season before injuries set in. At 33 years of age he's certainly not looking to make a splash financially, but Tampa Bay can still benefit from his talent and veteran presence among a very young offense. He's projecting to a 3 year $16M contract when comparing to other 30+ WR signings in recent history, but with just $105M allocated to their 2017 cap table, the Buccaneers have money to burn should they look to sweeten the pot to ensure keeping him around.
Kendall Wright, WR, Titans
Wright had a breakout year in 2013 but has trailed off both in games played and subsequent production ever since. The fact that Tennessee exercised his $7.32M 5th-year option for 2016 is a good sign for Wright looking ahead, but with young talent on the depth chart below him, a poor start to 2016 could spell an exit next offseason. Tennessee has $21M in Top 51 cap space currently, should another big move be in the works.
DeSean Jackson & Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins
The 29-year old duo have complemented each other well over the past two seasons in Washington. With both players entering a contract year in 2016, and Josh Doctson's and Jamison Crowder's fighting for snaps below them on the depth chart, the Redskins offense will be one to watch closely this season. Should Cousins pan out and require an extension next spring, it's highly unlikely either Garcon or Jackson will be able to sign back with Washington at any kind of increased rate, especially with $131M already allocated to the Redskins' 2017 cap table.