NFL

Diving Deeper into ‘Extension Season’

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A couple weeks back, we ran a feature (Welcome to “Extension Season”) that covered some of the significant extension talks taking place around the league. Just a short time later, several other prominent players have cozied up to the negotiating table.

Cam Newton made the big splash this week, agreeing to terms on a $103 million extension. That should help advance contract talks with Russell Wilson, who is in line for an even larger payday. However, quarterbacks are not the only ones making bank.

Here is a look at five non-quarterbacks on the verge of massive new contracts, none of whom were covered in our first extension evaluation.

LT Russell Okung (Seahawks)

There is more than one vital member of Seattle’s offense awaiting a new contract. While talks continue with Wilson, they have yet to get underway in earnest with his blindside protector, Okung.

The former No. 6 overall pick is one of the best pass protectors in the game, having allowed just seven sacks over the last three seasons. The reason he hasn’t cashed in with a new deal already is his questionable durability. He has missed 30 percent of Seattle’s games since entering the league in 2010 due to assorted knee, foot and chest injuries. But when he’s on the field, he routinely shuts down the best pass rushers the game has to offer.

Okung, who will make a more than $7 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract, is on-deck at the negotiating table. The framework for his next deal was likely put in place last offseason, when the Dolphins signed Branden Albert to a five-year, $47 million pact.

WR Julio Jones (Falcons)

Jones bounced back from the foot injury that cost him most of the 2013 season in a major way. His 2014 campaign featured 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, Jones is set to receive a significant pay raise.

“Plain and simple, we want Julio here for a long time to come,” said Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.

Jones will not come cheap. He is looking to produce even bigger numbers in his fourth season as he takes over the “X” receiver role in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Additionally, with Roddy White (33) falling into more of a complimentary role, Jones will be featured more than ever.

Jones will demand a contract similar to the seven-year, $113.45 million extension Calvin Johnson signed with the Lions back in 2012. He apparently has a lot of faith a deal will get done sooner than later, as he is currently participating in Atlanta’s OTAs; most players in his situation would sit out to avoid any potential injuries until a new contract was secured.

DT Marcell Dareus (Bills)

The No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft just keeps getting better. He comes off a dominant 2014 campaign in which he posted 10 sacks for a Buffalo defense that led the league in that category. With new head coach Rex Ryan coming onboard — and bringing his exotic blitz packages with him — Dareus could be even more disruptive in 2015.

There are some off-the-field concerns; Dareus has been suspended for the first game of the season because of a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The suspension stems from an arrest in May 2014 when Dareus was picked up for felony possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“The league was really lenient on me,” Dareus said. “They’re just letting me do my one-game suspension. I deal with that, I talk with my team and we’re just moving forward and putting it all behind us.”

Despite the obvious red flag, GM Doug Whaley has made locking up Dareus his top priority. The two sides have already begun exchanging contract numbers.

”We’ll try our best, yeah. Now will it happen? Who knows,” Whaley said. ”We’ve got to see where they’re coming from and what they’re thinking and everything. Typical negotiation process.”

LB DeAndre Levy (Lions)

The Lions lost a couple of marquee defenders this offseason in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Now, the organization will do everything in its power to make Levy doesn’t follow them out the door next offseason.

The Wisconsin product is one of the most active, productive outside linebackers in the league. Over the last two seasons he has accumulated 270 tackles, seven interceptions, 19 pass breakups and 2.5 sacks. His versatility is a plus, as well, as he plays middle linebacker in some of Detroit’s sub packages.

Detroit has already begun extension talks with Levy, according to GM Martin Mayhew.

“We’ve had some dialogue with him,” Mayhew said. “I think it’s ongoing at this point.”

If a new deal gets done, it will mark Levy’s third with the Lions. After joining the team as a third-round pick in 2009, Levy signed a new three-year, $9.75 million deal back in 2013. His latest contract could see those figures doubled, but with Suh and Fairley no longer on the books, the Lions have the cap space to make it happen.

CB Prince Amukamara (Giants)

This situation is similar to Okung’s. Amukamara has been extremely productive when on the field, racking up six interceptions, 35 pass breakups and two forced fumbles in just 44 career games. The problem has been injuries, as the former first-round pick missed 20 games due to hamstring, head and biceps injuries.

Amukamara missed the second half of last season with a biceps injury. The good news is that is not the kind of ailment that affects a defensive back in the long term. And he was playing extremely well before the injury, often shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers.

The Giants are expected to address Eli Manning’s contract situation before they get to Amukamara. It is possible GM Jerry Reese allows Amukamara to play out his contract year — and prove he can stay heathy — before offering him a new deal. It’s certainly a gamble, though, because if Amukamara stays on the field and plays up to his potential, his salary ($6.896 million in 2015) may very well jump north of $10 million annually.

Which other players deserve new contracts? Discuss with Michael Lombardo in his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … you can ask your question now


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.