Every NFL Franchise's Most Team Friendly Contract

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2019

Every NFL Franchise's Most Team Friendly Contract

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Building a successful NFL roster isn't just about amassing the best collection of players. Because the league has a hard salary cap, front offices must also put together the right combination of team-friendly contracts.

    What constitutes a good contract for an NFL franchise? Financial value plays a part, but not every player can be a bottom-dollar bargain. Even hefty pacts are good for teams when they fall below market value.

    Locking up key players for the long term is also beneficial to teams, especially when the price is fair. A five-year deal signed now is likely to be well below market value in just a couple of years given the consistent rise of the salary cap.

    So which contracts are the best for each team with all these factors considered? Let's take a look.

Arizona Cardinals: DE Chandler Jones

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Five-Year, $82.5 Million Deal

    Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones will carry a cap hit of $19.5 million in 2019. That's a lot, but it's roughly $6 million less than what Von Miller is getting from the Denver Broncos.

    What makes Jones' deal look even better is how it stacks up to some of the more recent pacts signed by elite edge-rushers. Frank Clark, for example, signed a five-year, $104 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason. While that only carries a cap hit of $6.5 million this season, the number jumps to $22.7 million in 2020.

    Jones, who equaled Clark's 13.0 sacks in 2018, will cost roughly $3 million less than his Chiefs counterpart after the latter's pay spike. Jones is an elite pass-rusher—he should be even more productive if the new-look offense forces other teams to throw—and the Cardinals have him locked up below market value.

    Considering the importance—and the price tag—of pass-rushers in today's NFL, Jones will remain a relative bargain for Arizona for the next several seasons.

Atlanta Falcons: WR Calvin Ridley

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $10.9 Million Deal

    As previously mentioned, financial value is especially important for teams in a salary-cap league. This is why you will find several players on rookie deals here.

    For the Atlanta Falcons, wide receiver Calvin Ridley gets the edge over other key players on rookie contracts like Deion Jones and Keanu Neal because of positional value. Quality linebackers and safeties definitely get paid, but the market price for wide receivers continues to skyrocket.

    Just consider the fact that the Indianapolis Colts signed middling possession receiver Devin Funchess to a one-year, $10 million deal this offseason. Ridley, who exploded with 821 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, will earn just a little more than that over his first four seasons with Atlanta.

    As a first-round draft pick, Ridley also carries a fifth-year team option on his contract. This means that if Ridley doesn't regress, the Falcons can employ him in 2022 for roughly the going rate. Atlanta has both value and flexibility here.

Baltimore Ravens: CB Marlon Humphrey

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $11.8 Million Deal

    The Baltimore Ravens have quarterback Lamar Jackson on a rookie contract, which is big. However, while Jackson appears to be a future Pro Bowler, the Ravens already have an elite player in cornerback Marlon Humphrey.

    He finished the 2018 season with 37 tackles, 15 passes defended and two interceptions. Humphrey also ranked 11th among cornerbacks at Pro Football Focus for the season.

    Elite cornerbacks are hard to find, but the Ravens are only going to pay theirs $3.2 million in 2019.

    Having a No. 1 corner on such a team-friendly contract is likely one of the reasons the Ravens could offer safety Earl Thomas a four-year, $55 million contract this offseason. Baltimore will have Humphrey on the cheap for two more seasons and can keep him for a third by using the fifth-year option.

Buffalo Bills: DE Jerry Hughes

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Three-Year, $31 Million Deal

    As is the case for Baltimore, the Buffalo Bills have a quarterback on a rookie contract. Josh Allen showed some glimpses of promise in his first year and could well be the franchise's answer at the position.

    However, the Bills know they have a premier defender in Jerry Hughes. While his sack numbers aren't on par with some of the game's top edge-rushers—he had 7.0 in 2018—Hughes is a quality defensive end who can pressure the quarterback with consistency.

    Pro Football Focus ranked him seventh among edge-defenders this past season.

    The Bills managed to sign Hughes to a two-year extension this offseason, essentially putting him on a three-year deal worth just over $10 million per season. That's a great price for a top-tier defender and one of the most proven veterans on the roster.

Carolina Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $17.2 Million Deal

    Not every player on a rookie contract is worth more than their salary. Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, though, is worth much, much more. Just consider the fact that the Stanford product racked up 1,098 yards rushing, 107 receptions, 867 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns this past season.

    McCaffrey was the Panthers offense in 2018.

    Then consider the fact that McCaffrey will cost Carolina an average of roughly $5 million per year for the next two seasons. That's a tremendous value for one of the game's best all-around backs. As a first-round pick, McCaffrey also provides Carolina with the flexibility of the fifth-year option.

    Le'Veon Bell has a similar skill set, and he just got a four-year, $52.5 million deal. Next to that, McCaffrey looks like an absolute steal.

Chicago Bears: QB Mitchell Trubisky

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $29 Million Deal

    The difference between quarterbacks like Jackson and Allen and Chicago Bears signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky is the fact that Trubisky has proved himself a little more. Like Jackson, he led his team to the postseason in 2018, but he also racked up 3,223 yards passing and made the Pro Bowl.

    Trubisky showed a tremendous amount of growth in his second NFL season, and he's even the most popular bet for 2019 NFL MVP, according to Caesar's Palace.

    It's difficult to argue that Trubisky isn't one of the most important players on Chicago's roster and the team's best value. What's he costing the Bears? A mere $7.9 million this season and $9.2 million in 2020. His contract also carries a fifth-year team option.

    Thanks to Trubisky's low cap hit, Chicago has been able to add top-tier free agents Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix over the past two offseasons.

    The Bears should have a championship-caliber roster in 2019, and Trubisky's contract is a big reason why.

Cincinnati Bengals: QB Andy Dalton

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Six-Year, $96 Million Deal

    Whether or not you believe Andy Dalton is a quality starting quarterback, the former TCU star has had his bright moments for the Cincinnati Bengals. He began his pro career by leading Cincinnati to the postseason five consecutive times, and he's made three Pro Bowl appearances along the way.

    The Bengals hope that new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton return to playoff form.

    Though Dalton's contract was considered large at the time it was signed, it looks like a bargain now. He is set to earn just $16.2 million in 2019, which is a mid-level deal in today's quarterback market.

    Perhaps more importantly for the new Cincinnati regime is the fact that Dalton has no dead money remaining on his contract. If Taylor and Co. decide Dalton isn't their guy, the Bengals can release him outright next offseason without taking a financial hit.

Cleveland Browns: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Five Years Remaining on a Five-Year, $90 Million Deal

    When Odell Beckham Jr. signed his five-year, $90 million contract extension with the New York Giants last offseason, one would have been hard-pressed to call it a bargain. For one of the best receivers in the NFL, however, it was at least fair.

    What makes Beckham's contract amazing for the Cleveland Browns is that he was acquired after the Giants paid out the majority of bonuses on the deal. Beckham is essentially locked up in Cleveland on a five-year, $77 million pact.

    This means the Browns will pay Beckham an average of $15.4 million over the next five years. That is a bargain when you consider the going rate for wide receivers. Sammy Watkins, for example, is set to earn an average of $20.1 million over the next two years in Kansas City.

    Cleveland also has quarterback Baker Mayfield on a rookie deal, which is huge. What makes Beckham's contract so good, though, is that it isn't significant enough that the Browns will have to choose between the two players when it's time for Mayfield to get his extension.

Dallas Cowboys: ILB Leighton Vander Esch

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $11.8 Million Deal

    You could make a case that two-time league rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott has provided the Dallas Cowboys with their best value. However, he should be getting a hefty payday soon—a la Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell—so we'll look at another young rising star instead.

    Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, 23, was a revelation for the Cowboys as a rookie in 2018. He amassed 140 tackles, seven passes defended, two interceptions and made the Pro Bowl.

    He should soon replace the oft-injured Sean Lee as the centerpiece of the Cowboys defense—if he hasn't already—and he's likely to be a legitimate defensive MVP candidate.

    What's all this costing Dallas? Not much. Vander Esch won't top $3.8 million in annual cap dollars at any point in the next three seasons. If he doesn't get his own extension like Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott are about to, the Cowboys can exercise the fifth-year option for another value year.

Denver Broncos: DB Kareem Jackson

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Three-Year, $33 Million Deal

    Cornerback Kareem Jackson wasn't happy that the Houston Texans didn't make an effort to retain him in free agency this offseason.

    "I wasn't offered a deal of any sort," Jackson said, per Mark Berman of Fox KRIV. "I kind of feel a little disrespected to be honest about it."

    The Texans may not have wanted Jackson, but the Denver Broncos did—and they landed him with an incredibly team-friendly contract. Jackson will earn just $11 million per season over the next three years. That's fair money for a good defensive back, but Jackson isn't just good. He's great.

    In 2018, Jackson had an impressive 17 passes defended to go with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus ranked him 14th among all cornerbacks for the year.

Detroit Lions: WR Kenny Golladay

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    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $3.2 Million Deal

    As mentioned, rookie contracts are extremely good for teams when wide receivers are involved. This is the case for the Detroit Lions and 2017 third-round pick Kenny Golladay. Though Golladay hasn't quite emerged as a legitimate No. 1 receiver yet, he's approaching that level.

    In 15 games this past season, Golladay racked up 70 receptions, 1,063 yards and five touchdowns. Those are great numbers, and Golladay's value to the Detroit offense far outweighs the $855,706 he'll earn in 2019.

    Since he won't be eligible for a contract extension until next offseason—players mush have accrued three years of experience—the Lions have him at a massive discount for at least the coming season. This is likely why Detroit was willing to spend $4.5 million on Danny Amendola to bring him in as Golladay's 2019 complement.    

Green Bay Packers: CB Jaire Alexander

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $12.1 Million Deal

    Cleveland's Denzel Ward was the first cornerback taken in the 2018 draft, and he was an early Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Though he didn't get quite as much recognition, Green Bay Packers rookie Jaire Alexander was every bit as good as Ward.

    In 13 games, Alexander amassed 66 tackles, 11 passes defended and an interception. With a little growth, he should become a perennial Pro Bowl talent.

    "Alexander is competitive and has ball skills, and I think we'll see him follow up his strong debut by graduating to shutdown corner status," NFL Media's Gil Brandt wrote of Alexander.

    Simply put, Alexander is a legitimate No. 1 corner, and he's only going to cost the Packers an average of roughly $3.3 million over the next three seasons—with a fifth-year team option following that.

Houston Texans: QB Deshaun Watson

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $13.8 Million Deal

    Like Trubisky, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has proved himself to a large degree as a pro. He racked up 4,165 yards passing, 551 yards rushing and 31 total touchdowns in 2018 while leading the Texans to the playoffs and earning his first Pro Bowl nod.

    Watson is one of the league's rising stars. NBC Sports' Chris Simms even ranked him fifth on his list of top 40 NFL quarterbacks.

    While Watson may not quite be deserving of top-five status yet, he is most definitely a quality NFL starter. This is why having him on a rookie contract is a huge deal for the Texans. They'll pay him an average of just over $4 million for the next two years with a fifth year likely to follow after the team picks up his option.

    That's a great deal for the Texans and one that should allow Houston to continue building a playoff roster around its young signal-caller.

Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $23.8 Million Deal

    The Indianapolis Colts had two rookie All-Pros in 2018—linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Quenton Nelson. Both are on rookie contracts and deserving of making this list. However, Nelson gets the nod because of his importance to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.

    Leonard is a tremendous talent, and as a second-round pick, his four-year, $7.2 million contract is a better financial value. However, Luck is the Colts' biggest asset, and Nelson is one of the five men tasked with keeping him upright and uninjured on Sundays.

    Nelson was great at that job, too, finishing the season ranked third among guards by Pro Football Focus. The $5.4 million Nelson will earn this season is virtually nothing in contrast to his value to the offense.

    The pacts of both Leonard and Nelson are great for Indianapolis. Nelson could be responsible for helping to extend Luck's playing career, though, which—along with the fifth-year option—makes his contract the best the Colts have on the books this offseason.

Jacksonville Jaguars: CB D.J. Hayden

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Two Years Remaining on a Three-Year, $19 Million Deal

    It's easy to view cornerback Jalen Ramsey as the face of the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. He's outspoken, he's brash and he's damn talented. However, fellow Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden has quietly become a defensive key himself.

    Hayden was ranked 25th overall among cornerbacks in 2018 by Pro Football Focus, three spots higher than Ramsey. While Ramsey is set to earn $21 million over the next two seasons—which is still a bargain—Hayden is due to earn roughly $15 million.

    Ramsey is a full-time starter, of course, while Hayden is more of a depth/rotational player—he made six starts in 2018. He's thrived in that role with the Jaguars, though, and he has proved to be one of the best values of any 2018 acquisition.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Patrick Mahomes

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $16.4 Million Deal

    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the reigning NFL MVP. He will cost the Chiefs a mere $4.5 million in 2019. His contract is arguably the best value in professional sports.

    Mahomes provides more than just value for Kansas City, though. He's the heart and soul of the Chiefs' new open offense, and his presence ensures that they have a chance in every single game. One could argue—and plenty have—that if Mahomes had gotten an overtime opportunity in the AFC title game, the Chiefs would have been Super Bowl-bound last season.

    Mahomes, who threw for a ridiculous 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018, isn't just the face of the Chiefs. He's quickly becoming the face of the modern NFL. It's hard to put a price on that, but Mahomes' price tag is incredibly good for Kansas City.

Los Angeles Chargers: DE Joey Bosa

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Five-Year, $40.2 Million Deal

    While Mahomes is one of the NFL's hottest young offensive players, Los Angeles Chargers edge-rusher Joey Bosa is one of its top defensive superstars. Though injuries have limited Bosa to 35 games in three seasons, the Ohio State product has racked up 134 tackles and 28.5 sacks.

    The 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Bosa has been so good as a pro that his younger brother, Nick—the second overall pick in this year's draft—was considered a blue-chip prospect from practically the moment he set foot on Ohio State's campus, in part because of his bloodlines.

    Though Bosa is eligible for a contract extension, the Chargers appear ready to let him play out the fourth year of his rookie pact, a deal that will pay him just $8.2 million this season. Even with a hefty raise due in 2020 thanks to the fifth-year option, Bosa will only cost L.A. roughly $22.5 million over the next two seasons.

    Considering he's one of the league's best young sack-artists, this is a tremendous deal for the Chargers.

Los Angeles Rams: S Eric Weddle

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    Two Years Remaining on a Two-Year, $10.5 Million Deal

    Eric Weddle may be 34 years old, but he's still one of the NFL's best free safeties. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked him 10th among safeties in 2018.

    Can Weddle remain at the top of his game for the length of his new two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams? It's possible—and the age factor could be why the Rams got such a bargain.

    Still, top-10 safeties generally don't play on deals in the $5 million-per-year range unless they are on a rookie contract, but that's what the veteran Weddle will do for Los Angeles.

    To put things into perspective, consider that Weddle, a two-time first-team All-Pro, will make less over the next two seasons than the largely unproven Dante Fowler Jr. will make in 2019 with the Rams.

Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Two Years Remaining on a Two-Year, $11 Million Deal

    Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the long-term answer at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins? No. He's most likely little more than a placeholder for either recent acquisition Josh Rosen or a quarterback to be drafted later. Therefore, you may be surprised to find him here, but really, his contract is a brilliant one for the Dolphins.

    Miami is set to pay Fitzpatrick a mere $11 million over the next two seasons. That's a fair price, even if he only serves in a backup role. If Fitzpatrick does hold down the starting job for part or all of a season, it's an outright bargain.

    Just consider the deal that the Cardinals gave Sam Bradford last offseason to serve in the same role. According to NFL.com, his pact was worth a maximum of $20 million for just one season. Though Arizona quickly put Rosen into the starting lineup and eventually dumped Bradford, the veteran still accounted for nearly $11 million in dead money.

    The Dolphins haven't done a lot right when it comes to the quarterback position in recent years, but landing Fitzpatrick with such a team-friendly contract is one of them.

Minnesota Vikings: S Anthony Harris

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    One Year Remaining on a One-Year, $3.09 Million Deal

    While many of the contracts listed here involve some sort of long-term security for the teams involved, the contract of safety Anthony Harris is all about pure value. 

    Harris was a valuable member of the Minnesota Vikings defense in 2018, appearing in 15 games with nine starts and racking up 46 tackles and three interceptions. He was also one of the best defensive backs in the league, finishing the season ranked third among safeties by Pro Football Focus.

    Harris, who was a restricted free agent this offseason, was given a second-round tender by the Vikings—and that was probably an easy decision. The 2015 undrafted free agent has Pro Bowl potential but will only cost Minnesota just over $3 million for the 2019 season.

New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    One Year Remaining on a Two-Year, $30 Million Deal

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has given the franchise six Lombardi Trophies. Even at age 41, he was an elite passer in 2018, throwing for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns. There is no quarterback more decorated in the history of the sport than Brady, and no signal-caller has played as well at his age.

    No one would blame the Patriots if Brady were the highest-paid player in the NFL. He isn't though, and it's not close.

    In terms of annual salary, Brady is the 19th-highest-paid quarterback. That alone makes his contract a great value for the New England Patriots. The fact that Brady's deal allows the Patriots to afford to put a championship roster around him makes it even more valuable.

    Brady is certainly due a raise, and he'll probably get one sooner than later if he is indeed intent on playing beyond this season. Whether he actually wants one is a mystery, as Brady is happy to keep those thoughts to himself.

    "I've never really talked about my contract or anything like that so I don't really want to start doing that now," Brady said, per Nick O'Malley of MassLive.com.

    Given everything he's proved as a pro and everything he means to the Patriots franchise, Brady's contract might just be the best one in the NFL.

New Orleans Saints: RB Alvin Kamara

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $3.8 Million Deal

    The New Orleans Saints struck gold when they selected former Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft. Kamara has been one of the league's most versatile running backs since, and while he's never been a 1,000-yard rusher, he's topped 1,500 combined rushing and receiving yards in each of his two pro seasons.

    If not for the presence of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, Kamara would likely be considered the centerpiece of the Saints offense. Wideout Michael Thomas is elite as well, but Kamara's ability to produce both on the ground and as a pass-catcher makes him invaluable. With Mark Ingram in Baltimore, he'll also likely take over the starting job on a full-time basis.

    Kamara is employed at a value rate. He'll earn roughly $1.12 million over the next two seasons. That's important for New Orleans, which is trying to maximize its Super Bowl window with Brees.

    Could the Saints have afforded to give Brees a new two-year, $50 million extension if they were paying Kamara the going rate for elite running backs? Probably not—at least not without making sacrifices at other positions.

New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $31.1 Million Deal

    While New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley doesn't have as thrifty a contract as Kamara, one could argue that his contract is just as valuable. Kamara was one of the best players on his offense, but Barkley was the best player for the Giants in 2018.

    Simply put, Barkley is special. Yes, good running backs can be found at all stages of the draft, but not those with Barkley's skill set—which is why the team was willing to use the second overall pick on him.

    He didn't disappoint as a rookie, either, amassing more than 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards. That's incredible production and well worth the $7.8 million annual salary.

    Is Barkley's contract a huge bargain for New York? Perhaps not, but his annual salary is less than those of Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy and David Johnson—and Barkley may already be better than any of them.

New York Jets: QB Sam Darnold

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    Three Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $30.2 Million Deal

    Sam Darnold just might be the quarterback to put an end to the New York Jets' instability at the position. At the very least, he showed flashes of franchise-QB potential as a rookie.

    While that's what's most important about presence, his affordable rookie contract carries weight too. Darnold is set to earn just $6.8 million in 2019, which is roughly half what even low-end veteran starters tend to make.

    This was huge for the Jets this offseason because they needed to spend big to lure top-tier free agents such as Le'Veon Bell. Could the Jets have afforded to give Bell a four-year, $52.5 million deal if Darnold were on his second contract? Possibly not.

    With Darnold making far less than the league average for at least the next three seasons—New York will also have the fifth-year option—the Jets can continue to put talent around him.

Oakland Raiders: QB Derek Carr

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Four Years Remaining on a Five-Year, $125 Million Deal

    Two offseasons ago, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension. The deal briefly made him the NFL's highest-paid quarterback, but it looks affordable now.

    Carr is set to earn $22.5 million in 2019, less than what Giants quarterback Eli Manning will earn.

    What makes Carr's contract beautiful for the Raiders isn't its relative affordability, however. It's the fact that it will have just $5 million in dead money remaining after this season. This means that if Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders decide Carr is no longer their franchise signal-caller, they can part ways without having to eat a substantial amount of cash.

    If the Raiders stick with Carr in 2020? He'll earn roughly the same as journeyman Nick Foles will make in Jacksonville. That will look quite good, especially if Carr can return to the near-MVP level of play he showcased in 2016.

Philadelphia Eagles: C Jason Kelce

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Three Years Remaining on a Three-Year, $24.5 Million Deal

    Jason Kelce is both the anchor of the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line and one of the best interior linemen in the NFL—Pro Football Focus ranked him first among centers for 2018. This makes his three-year, $24.5 million deal look good, even at first blush.

    What makes Kelce's contract even better is the creative way in which it is structured. With bonuses spread across dummy years that will automatically void, Kelce is earning an average of more than $8 million per season but won't actually count that much against the salary cap.

    Kelce will carry a cap hit of just $2.4 million this season, $6.4 million in 2020 and $8.4 million in 2021. That last year may be tough to swallow, depending on Philadelphia's salary situation, but Kelce is extremely affordable over the next two seasons.

    In fact, Kelce's contract probably played a large role in the Eagles' having enough cap space to ink quarterback Carson Wentz to his four-year, $128 million extension this offseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB T.J. Watt

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $9.2 Million Deal

    Being the younger brother of J.J. Watt certainly helped T.J. Watt enter the NFL with name recognition. However, the work T.J. has done for the Pittsburgh Steelers since being drafted in 2017 is all his own.

    Watt has been remarkable in his two pro seasons. He's amassed 20.0 sacks in 31 games, made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and finished the season ranked 24th among edge-rushers by Pro Football Focus.

    In Watt, the Steelers have their next great franchise edge-rusher, and they have him on a team-friendly rookie contract. Over the next two seasons, he will earn an average of roughly $2.7 million per year. This is a great deal, even for a player on a rookie contract.

    Myles Garrett—who was drafted 29 spots higher than Watt and who has just 0.5 more sacks—will earn nearly $9 million per season over the next two years.

San Francisco 49ers: TE George Kittle

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $2.6 Million Deal

    Now that Rob Gronkowski has retired, who is the best receiving tight end in football? A case could easily be made that it's San Francisco 49ers standout George Kittle.

    Kittle isn't exactly a household name—unless, of course, your household engages in a lot of fantasy football. However, the 2017 fifth-round pick emerged as a stud this past season, hauling in 88 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns. Oh, and he did it largely without the presence of potential franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

    Having Kittle will be great for Garoppolo as he makes his way back from a torn ACL. Not only is Kittle a safety valve, but he's also a legitimate downfield threat. Having him on a rookie contract that will pay him roughly $760,000 a year over the next two seasons is great for the 49ers and their plans to build a playoff contender.

Seattle Seahawks: S Bradley McDougald

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    Chris Keane/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Three-Year, $13.5 Million Deal

    Two offseasons ago, the Seattle Seahawks signed safety Bradley McDougald as a free agent. They gave him a three-year extension the following offseason worth an average of just $4.5 million per year. That seemed like a good deal for the team at the time, but it looks like a steal in retrospect.

    McDougald has quietly become one of the NFL's best strong safeties. In 2018, he finished with 78 tackles, nine passes defended, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also finished ranked 22nd among safeties by Pro Football Focus, 17 spots higher than Landon Collins.

    Collins, by the way, inked a six-year, $84 million deal this offseason. Does that help make McDougald's contract look like a great value for Seattle? Yes. Yes, it does.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Chris Godwin

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $3.28 Million Deal

    The emergence of wideout Chris Godwin in 2018 is likely a big reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were comfortable trading DeSean Jackson and parting with Adam Humphries in the offseason. The 2017 third-round pick racked up 842 yards and seven touchdowns while playing alongside Jackson, Humphries, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard.

    Godwin will likely take over the No. 2 receiver role in 2019, which is huge because he's playing on that third-round contract. This season, he'll receive just $875,041 in salary and bonuses.

    This is important because the Buccaneers aren't loaded with cap space—they have $7.9 million, according to Over the Cap—and couldn't have afforded to retain either Jackson or Humphries.

    Fortunately for the Bucs, Godwin's rise and his price tag mean Tampa can still have a functional receiving corps. He'll replace Jackson while offseason acquisition Breshad Perriman—who inked a modest one-year, $4 million deal—will replace Humphries.

Tennessee Titans: CB Adoree' Jackson

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $11.28 Million Deal

    The Tennessee Titans' Adoree' Jackson, 23, is one of the league's best young cornerbacks—Pro Football Focus ranked him 27th at the position for 2018—but he likely won't stop there.

    "If he can become more consistent, Jackson can become one of the NFL's top cornerbacks," NFL Media's Gil Brandt recently wrote. "Jackson reportedly spent more time at the Titans' headquarters this offseason in an effort to become a better student of the game, and his hard work should pay dividends."

    He also adds value as a punt returner, which only makes his modest rookie salary ($3.07 million this season) even better for the Titans.

    Tennessee will have Jackson on the cheap for the next two campaigns and can retain him with the fifth-year option in 2021.

Washington Redskins: DE Jonathan Allen

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Two Years Remaining on a Four-Year, $11.59 Million Deal

    Washington Redskins defensive end Jonathan Allen isn't widely regarded as elite, and he isn't a pure edge-rusher. However, he's a versatile player who can both stonewall ball-carriers at the line and pressure quarterbacks—he had 8.0 sacks in 2018.

    This sounds an awful lot like defensive end Trey Flowers, who received a massive five-year, $90 million deal from the Lions this offseason. That's the kind of contract Allen may eventually get, but for now, he's playing on a valuable rookie deal.

    While Flowers' pact will pay him an average of $18 million per season, the Redskins have Allen under contract for less than $3.4 million per year over the next two campaigns.

    Washington has Allen locked up for far less than market value for two more seasons and can have him for a third at the going rate. Considering Allen is one of the team's top players and one of the league's best in-line defenders—Pro Football Focus ranked him 53rd among interior defensive linemen in 2018—this makes for a terrific deal for the Redskins.


    *All contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise noted.