Insiders

NFL AM: Who Is Next Up For A Contract Extension?

on

With the 2016 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror and OTAs and minicamps around the corner, teams around the league have turned their attention back to their own and the business of locking up some important players to long-term deals.

The Washington Redskins did just that on Thursday when they agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract extension with 25-year-old tight end Jordan Reed. The 2013 third round draft pick, who would have been entering the final season of his rookie contract, had an extremely productive season for Washington in 2015, and was a catalyst for the team’s offensive revival. He finished the year, his first playing more than 11 games and making more than four starts, with 87 catches and 952 yards receiving while hauling in 11 touchdown passes. He ranked second among all tight ends in receptions, fifth in yards and third in touchdown catches.

The high level of production in the team’s first season with Kirk Cousins under center full time made it a no-brainer for Washington to lock down one of his favorite and most important targets.

“It means a lot that the Redskins invested that kind of money into me and think that highly of me as a player and as a person,” Reed told the media in a Thursday conference call. “That means a lot to me. I’m going to show them that they made a good investment.”

Making wise long-term investments is an important part of this stage of the offseason for teams as they look to manipulate their cap space around incoming rookies and post-draft veteran signings. Reed may be the first big name locked into a long-term extension, but he almost certainly won’t be the last.

Here are a few other players looking forward to a windfall this spring and summer.

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts – This one has been rumored for over a year, and started to gain significant steam after Russell Wilson signed his extension in Seattle last August, but eventually talks broke off and then injuries sent Luck into the worst season of his young career. But the 26-year-old is now entering the final year of his contract and should be completely healthy and ready to re-establish himself as the top young quarterback in the league in 2016. There’s no chance the Colts allow him to do that with the possibility of him getting to free agency on the horizon.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins – Reed’s extension could well be a precursor to a similar move for Cousins, who had the franchise tag placed on him in March to keep him away from the open market. Speculation in some corners has been that Washington would rather take a wait and see approach with Cousins in 2016, making him prove his 2015 campaign was a trend and not an outlier. But that’s a dangerous game to play and D.C. has been a revolving door for quarterbacks for too long, so if they have a chance to get a long-term deal done, they should take it.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals – Here’s another extension that could come as a direct result of the one Washington just gave Reed. Cincinnati could use that deal as a baseline for a similar contract structure for Eifert, the 2013 first round pick who still has two years left on his rookie deal. We saw the same happen last offseason once the market was set at the wide receiver position by Dez Bryant’s extension with the Cowboys. Eifert emerged as a touchdown machine for the Bengals last year and a favorite target of Andy Dalton, who lost two of those this offseason, so locking up their right end would certainly behoove the Bengals.

Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles – Philly went on a spending spree early this offseason signing tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, tackle Lane Johnson, defensive end Vinny Curry and safety Malcolm Jenkins all to extensions. The one domino that didn’t fall was Cox, who was among the group that the franchise prioritized. But they couldn’t get the deal done and now Cox is skipping voluntary workouts and there have been whispers of a holdout. Because the final year of Cox’s rookie deal puts him in a low enough pay bracket ($7.8 million), that getting something smaller on the books might be impossible, that holdout might be the only thing that could force Philly’s hand toward an extension. Still the Eagles might be better off putting the franchise tag on him next March and going from there.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Unlike the players listed above, Brown already has one extension under his belt, signed back in 2012. Since then, he’s been a model citizen in Pittsburgh, restructuring his deal on three separate occasions to help the team move around some cap space. All the while, Brown has gotten better as a player and emerged as perhaps the league’s best wide receiver, making that old extension he signed a bargain. The payoff has to be coming for him soon, as his cap number in 2016 his significantly higher than it’s ever been. And at still just 27, smack dab in the middle of his prime, locking him up long term makes sense for both sides.

Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos –  Miller is another franchise-tagged guy that is actively seeking a long-term deal. But this is an interesting situation. Denver’s maneuvering, or lack thereof, this offseason has called into question the team’s long-term viability as a contender. Does Miller, who just turned 27, want to lock into perhaps six more years with a franchise that could be entering a rebuilding phase? On the flip side, one freak injury this season could seriously handicap Miller’s ability to get that windfall contract his production over the last several years has made him deserving of. This one might take all summer to play out, but don’t be surprised if he plays in 2016 without an extension.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – The Saints are a cap nightmare and as their highest grossing player with a $30 million cap hit set for 2016 at the moment, Brees has them over a barrel. They want him to restructure, but this being the last year of his current contract makes that quite difficult. It seems obvious that an extension will come down the pike here, it’s just a matter of when, how long and how much.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills – Another team in a serious salary cap situation, the Buffalo Bills have a few options in terms of moving money around, but the most logical one is an extension for Gilmore, who has established himself as one of the premier corners in the league over the last few years. Gilmore is due $11 million this season, the final one of his rookie deal, and Buffalo could reduce that number significantly with an extension that guarantees the player more money, safety and stability down the road.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys