The salary cap dropping from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million this year wreaked havoc on free agency for most players. This hasn't been the case for a select group of players. Details on 15 noteworthy multiyear deals from the early part of the NFL offseason are below. The three-year contract extension reportedly for $54.15 million with $42.6 million in guarantees offensive tackle Kolton Miller just received from the Raiders was not included because of a lack of verified details on the deal.
Average yearly salary and total compensation are the most common contract metrics but most insignificant because of the lack of security with NFL contracts. The overall contract guarantees, amount fully guaranteed at signing, first three years compensation (when applicable) and the earliest realistic contract exit point for the team are also highlighted with each player.
Contract value: $160 million/4 years ($40 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $126 million ($66 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $95 million
Three-year cash flow: $126 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2024 ($126 million earned)
The Cowboys were able to escape having a second Prescott franchise tag count $37,690,800 against the salary cap by recognizing he had the upper hand in negotiations. Concessions were made by the Cowboys in nearly every major aspect of the deal. Prescott's $66 million signing bonus is the largest in league history. None of the signing bonus is deferred to 2022, making Prescott's 2021 compensation a record-setting $75 million. His $95 million fully guaranteed at signing is the most ever in an NFL contract. Prescott also sets a new standard in first three new years compensation, which averages $42 million per year.
The only area where the Cowboys got a slight break is with the contract's length. Prescott only wanted to sign for four years during last year's negotiations while Dallas was insisting on a five-year deal. Dallas has Prescott under contract for five years from the end of his rookie deal when factoring in his 2020 franchise tag. Prescott playing his 2024 contract year is unlikely if he continues to perform at a high level because the Cowboys are prohibited from designating him as a franchise or transition player. The Cowboys will need to sign Prescott to an extension to keep him from testing free agency in 2025. A $5 million fifth day of the league year roster bonus in 2024 could accelerate the timing of an extension. Prescott also has a no-trade clause.
Contract value: $63 million/3 years ($21 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $45 million ($22.5 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $45 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($45 million earned)
Williams, who was designated as a franchise player by the Giants for a second year in a row at $19,351,200, capitalized on a tremendous contract year in which he tied for seventh in the NFL with a career-high 11.5 sacks last season. Williams' $45 million guaranteed is the most ever in a Giants contract. The 26-year-old Williams is well-positioned to collect another big payday with an extension in 2023 or from 2024 free agency, after the new media-rights deals have kicked in, because a third and final franchise tag on him will be $36.72 million, 144% of his $25.5 million 2023 cap number, at a minimum.
Contract value: $138.06 million/6 years ($23.01 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $45.1 million ($30.1 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $40.1 million
Three-year cash flow: $60.75 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2024 ($60.75 million earned)
Williams is the NFL's highest-paid offensive tackle at $23.01 million per year, eclipsing the $23 million per year David Bakhtiari received from the Packers in a four-year extension last season. His $30.1 million signing bonus is also the largest ever in an offensive lineman's contract. The deal is structured with the 49ers having to exercise an option for the final three years (2024 through 2026) worth $77.31 million by April 1, 2023. An additional $10 million of Williams' $19.4 million 2023 base salary becomes fully guaranteed with the option being picked up. Declining the option would mean Williams has a three-year deal for $60.75 million, which still makes him the third player in the $20 million-per-year offensive lineman club with Bakhtiari and Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil
Contract value: $80 million/5 years ($16 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $46.89 million ($17 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $31.8 million
Three-year cash flow: $48 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2024 ($48 million earned)
Thuney became the NFL's first $15 million-per-year interior offensive lineman. The previous benchmark had been the four-year, $56.55 million extension averaging $14,137,500 per year Brandon Brooks received from the Eagles during the middle of the 2019 season. Thuney also raised the bar for overall guarantees in offensive guard contracts. There's an additional $4 million which can become fully guaranteed that isn't included in the $46.89 million. Two million (which is currently unsecured) of Thuney's $15.5 million 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2024 league year. The same holds true with respect to 2025, where the guarantee date is the third day of that league year. Thuney is behind only Zack Martin in money fully guaranteed at signing. The Cowboys right guard has $32 million.
Contract value: $72 million/4 years ($18 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $40 million ($17 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $28 million
Three-year cash flow: $54 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($54 million earned)
The expectation was Golladay would be the primary beneficiary of the Buccaneers and Bears designating Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson as franchise players. Golladay's market was slow to develop before the Giants signed him. Nonetheless, he ties Odell Beckham Jr., who signed a five-year, $90 million extension in 2018 with the Giants before getting traded to the Browns less than a year later, as the league's sixth highest-paid wide receiver at $18 million per year. Incentives make Golladay's deal worth as much as $76 million.
Contract value: $61 million/4 years ($15.25 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $35 million ($15 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $32.1 million
Three-year cash flow: $46.5 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2024 ($46.5 million earned)
The Broncos made sure Simmons wasn't going anywhere by giving him a franchise tag for a second straight year. This time it was for $13,729,200 with an NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement mandated 20% raise. Simmons was ultimately rewarded for arguably being the league's best free safety over the past two seasons. The Broncos made Simmons the NFL's first $15 million-per-year safety. Simmons has the second-most overall and full guarantees currently in contracts for safeties. Washington Football Team safety Landon Collins leads both categories with $44.5 million and $37 million, respectively.
Contract value: $72 million/4 years ($18 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $34.5 million ($18.75 million fully guaranteed 2021 roster bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $34.5 million
Three-year cash flow: $51 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($36 million earned)
Retaining Barrett was a priority for the Buccaneers after opting to designate wide receiver Chris Godwin as a franchise player instead of him for a second straight year. Pass rushers were the hottest commodities in free agency. Five other edge rushers besides Barrett (Bud Dupree, Leonard Floyd, Trey Hendrickson, Matthew Judon and Carl Lawson) signed multiyear contracts averaging either at least $15 million per year or with $30 million or more in guarantees. Somewhat surprisingly, none of the edge rushers were able to top the deal Trey Flowers received from the Lions in free agency two years ago. Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million contract containing $56 million in guarantees where $40 million was fully guaranteed at signing. Barrett can make as much $76 million with his deal because of $4 million in salary escalators for 2023 and 2024 based on sacks.
Contract value: $62.5 million/5 years ($12.5 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $26 million ($13 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $17 million
Three-year cash flow: $36.5 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($26 million earned)
Linsley, who earned All-Pro honors in 2020, replaces Ryan Kelly as the NFL's highest-paid center. Kelly signed a four-year extension averaging $12,412,500 per year with the Colts last September. Linsley's guarantees lag behind Kelly's. The Colts gave Kelly $34 million in guarantees, of which $25.35 million was fully guaranteed at signing. Nine million of Linsley's $26 million in guarantees doesn't become fully guaranteed until next March on the second day of the 2022 league year. This gives the Chargers an out after the first year but things would have to go really wrong for Linsley to be released before vesting occurs since only $1.2 million of salary cap room would be gained unless a post-June 1 designation is used.
Contract value: $82 million/5 years ($16.5 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $35 million ($16 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $33.75 million
Three-year cash flow: $51 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($34 million earned)
Dupree is the latest example of a serious injury in a contract year no longer being the kiss of death financially for free agency. He was well on his way to his second consecutive double digit sack season with the Steelers when he tore his right ACL in early December. Dupree had eight sacks in 11 games. He expects to be 100 percent by the time training camps open during the latter part of July. Dupree's five year contract is worth up to $85 million with incentives.
Contract value: $28 million/2 years ($14 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $23 million ($12 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $20 million
Earliest realistic exit point: None ($28 million earned)
Watt chose the Cardinals after the Texans granted his request to be released partially because of his familiarity with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. He was the Texans' defensive backs coach during Watt's first three years in the NFL (2011-13). Joseph's defensive scheme is very similar to the one Watt was in during his 10 years with the Texans. Watt's deal is worth a maximum of $31 million through salary escalators and incentives. Three contract years for 2023 through 2025 automatically voiding on the last day of the 2022 league year were added in order to prorate Watt's $12 million signing bonus over five years instead of two to help combat the $15.7 million drop in the salary cap. This makes the annual bonus proration $2.4 million for five years rather than $6 million in 2021 and 2022. Watt's 2021 cap number is $4.9 million when it would have been $8.5 million without the inclusion of the voiding/dummy years. There is a cost to manipulating the salary cap in this manner. The Cardinals will have a $7.2 million cap charge in 2023 when Watt's 2023 through 2025 contract years void that March from the signing bonus proration associated with those years.
Contract value: $50 million/4 years ($12.5 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $31.25 million ($15 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $31.25 million
Three-year cash flow: $38 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2024 ($38 million earned)
Smith exceeded all reasonable expectations in becoming the NFL's third highest-paid tight end behind George Kittle and Travis Kelce, whose contracts with the 49ers and Chiefs, respectively, average $15 million and $14,312,500 per year. Smith's $31.25 million is the most ever fully guaranteed in a tight end contract.
Contract value: $37.5 million/3 years ($12.5 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $25 million ($15 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $25 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($27 million earned)
Henry hit the open market after the Chargers decided against giving him a second franchise tag for $12,728,400. Where Henry landed was more surprising than his deal since the Patriots had already signed Jonnu Smith to a $12.5 million-per-year contract. The Patriots are trying to replicate the two-tight end success of the early 2010s when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were the league's two highest-paid tight ends.
Contract value: $48 million/4 years ($12 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $13 million (all signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $13 million
Three-year cash flow: $36 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($20 million earned)
Free agency hasn't been kind to running backs in recent years except for Le'Veon Bell, who signed for $52.5 million over four years worth a maximum of $60.15 million with the Jets in 2019. Jones is slightly better off over the next two years with his $20 million than if Packers had gone year to year by franchising him twice. The 2021 running back number is $8.655 million. A second designation in 2022 would have been $10.386 million. As expected, Jones' only guaranteed money is his signing bonus. This is customary in Green Bay veteran contracts. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the lone exception. His contracts have had salary guarantees. Jones' unsecured $3.75 million and $7 million third day of the league year roster bonuses in 2022 and 2023 are supposed to be substitutes for additional contract guarantees. In 2023, Jones faces a dicey proposition because his salary balloons $16 million. Salary escalators make the maximum value of the deal $48.75 million.
Contract value: $40 million/3 years ($13,333,333 yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $29 million ($12 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $24.5 million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2022 ($31 million earned)
Griffin, Adoree Jackson and William Jackson signed similar three-year contracts with a base value in the $13 million- to $13.5 million-per-year range. The maximum value of Griffin's deal is $44.5 million thanks to $1.5 million in annual incentives. Griffin signed with the Jaguars despite a push by the Seahawks to keep him.
Contract value: $27 million/5 years ($5.4 million yearly average)
Contract guarantees: $9.6 million ($4 million signing bonus)
Fully guaranteed at signing: $8.35 million
Three-year cash flow: $14.5 Million
Earliest realistic exit point: 2023 ($9.6 million earned)
Juszczyk continues to easily set the fullback market with his new contract. The four-year deal he signed in 2017 to join the 49ers averaged $5.25 million per year. Ravens two-way player Patrick Ricard, who provides depth at defensive tackle, is the second highest paid with the two-year extension averaging $3.65 million per year he signed late in the 2019 season.