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Target prices for top impending free agent defensive players were covered in an article earlier in the week. The focus now turns to the other side of the ball. 

As a reminder, it was my responsibility while working on the agent side to create target or asking prices for the firm's clients headed toward free agency regardless of whether I was the lead agent. In that spirit, I have set target prices with total contract value, overall guarantees, amount fully guaranteed at signing and first three years compensation (when applicable) for 10 intriguing offensive players who will be unrestricted free agents or designated as a franchise or transition player. 

Players don't necessarily sign for their target prices because free agency is a fluid process where adaptations must be made to changing market conditions. Some players are disappointed in free agency's outcome because their market never develops for a variety of reasons (age, unrealistic contract demands, supply at playing position, etc.).

Remember: The target or asking prices for these players may be on the high side and aren't necessarily what their actual deals will be.

Likely Franchise Player
Contract Package:
$150 million/4 years ($37.5 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$120 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$97.5 million

Absent a new deal, the Cowboys reportedly are going to place an exclusive franchise tag on Prescott before the designation period ends on March 16. The exclusive franchise number will be the average of the top five 2020 quarterback salaries (essentially salary cap numbers) at the end of the restricted free agent signing period on April 17, and currently projects to $31.509 million.

Todd France, Prescott's agent, and Cowboys officials met in Indianapolis while the recently NFL concluded combine was taking place to resume contract discussions that had ceased early last season. The new Cowboys offer is suspected to be in the same neighborhood as four-year contract extensions averaging $33.5 million per year Jared Goff and Aaron Rodgers signed with the Packers and Rams respectively over the last two years. The offer reportedly contained $105 million in guarantees. 

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Prescott insisting on becoming the NFL's highest paid player after successfully incurring the risk of injury and poor performance while playing out his rookie contract shouldn't come as a shock. Being in the best quarterback discussion isn't a prerequisite for becoming the highest paid player. Since 2017, Derek Carr (Raiders), Matthew Stafford (Lions), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) and Kirk Cousins (Vikings) became the highest paid player when signing their respective contracts.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson currently holds the distinction. The four year extension Wilson signed last April averages $35 million per year. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has the highest maximum average yearly salary at $37 million per year because his four year extension is worth as much as $148 million thanks to incentives and salary escalators. Goff's deal also contains an NFL record $110,042,682 in guarantees. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan's $94.5 million is the benchmark for money fully guaranteed at signing.

Length of contract may be a bigger sticking point than money. The Cowboys are accustomed to doing lucrative deals where players sign for at least five new contract years. The most common length is six new years where players are under contract for a minimum of seven years since time has been remaining on the deals when signed. The recent trend is high end quarterback deals have been shorter than what Dallas would prefer. Goff, Carson Wentz and Wilson gave up four new years in the deals they signed last year.

Contract Package: $100 million/3 years ($33,333,333 per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$65 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$50 million

Brady has an expiring contract for the first time in his illustrious 20 year career. Reports started surfacing around the Super Bowl that the Patriots would be willing to pay at least $30 million per year to keep Brady. If Brady ultimately is going to stay in New England, it would be beneficial for the Patriots to get a deal done before the last day of the 2019 league year on March 18. That's when his 2020 and 2021 contract years void. The Patriots will have a $13.5 million salary cap charge from the bonus proration with those years actually voiding regardless of Brady's decision about where to play next season. If Brady's Patriot reign is coming to an end, the Buccaneers, Chargers, 49ers, Raiders and Titans have been frequently mentioned as potential destinations.

Brady has consistently stated he wants to play at least until he's 45. He is already in uncharted territory as the oldest full-time starting quarterback in league history. Ben Roethlisberger, who will be 38 in March, sets the older quarterback market. The Steelers gave him a two-year, $68 million extension where $37.5 million was fully guaranteed last April. Since Father Time eventually catches up to everybody, it would be most prudent for any team signing Brady to make no more than a two-year commitment to him.

Potential Franchise or Transition Player
Contract Package:
$100 million/5 years ($20 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$63 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$45 million
First Three Years:
$63 million

Patience has been Cooper's best friend. Michael Thomas raised the bar for wide receivers last July when he signed a five-year, $96.25 million extension (worth up to $100 million through salary escalators) with the Saints. His deal has nearly $61 million in guarantees. Julio Jones took salaries for pass catchers to new heights with the three-year, $66 million extension, in which $64 million was fully guaranteed at signing, he received from the Falcons right before last season started. Expect any long term deal Cooper signs with the Cowboys to fall between these two deals even though he isn't the same caliber of player.

The Cowboys didn't give up their 2019 first round pick to the Raiders for Cooper to have a short stint in Dallas. This dynamic gives Cooper a tremendous amount of leverage in negotiations to remain with the Cowboys.

Prescott's improved play since the second of the 2018 season has coincided with Cooper's arrival as the legitimate receiving threat that had been sorely missing although he can disappear for stretches during a season. Nonetheless, Copper set career highs in 2019 with 1,189 receiving yards (eighth in the NFL) and eight touchdown receptions (tied for ninth in the NFL). 

Getting a deal done with Prescott before the franchise/transition designation period ends on March 16 would allow the Cowboys to franchise Cooper. The wide receiver number projects to $18.027 million with a $200 million salary cap. If the players vote against accepting the owners' Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal, teams will use of both a franchise and transition tag. A transition designation would be 120 percent of Cooper's $13.924 million fifth year option salary for 2019 season, which is $16,708,800. 

Likely Franchise Player
Contract Package:
$52.5 million/3 years ($17.5 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$25 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$25 million

Green is one of the NFL's best wide receivers when healthy, which he hasn't been in recent years. He didn't play at all last season because of an ankle injury suffered in training camp that required surgery. Green, who turns 32 in July, also missed six games in 2016 because of a hamstring tear and was limited to nine games in 2018 due to a toe injury also requiring surgery. He had career lows of 46 receptions and 694 receiving yards in 2018. 

The expectation is the Bengals will franchise Green although getting tagged isn't his preference. Presumptive first overall pick quarterback Joe Burrow is in favor of the Bengals retaining Green. If Green becomes an unrestricted free agent, it will be interesting to see what type of impact his injuries and age would have financially. One thing we do know is any deal that keeps Green in Cincinnati will not have comparable security to the top wide receiver deals because Bengals veteran contracts are historically light on guarantees.

Contract Package: $70 million/4 years ($17.5 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$40 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$40 million

Conklin should thank the Titans for declining to pick up a $12.866 million fifth year option on him for the 2020 season. He was coming off a challenging season returning from the right ACL he tore during a January 2018 AFC playoff game when the decision on the option year was made last May. Conklin bounced back in 2019 to display more of the form that got him named first team All-Pro at right tackle as a rookie in 2016. 

Trent Brown took right tackle salaries to unprecedented heights during free agency last year when he became the NFL's highest paid offensive lineman. The Raiders signed him to a four-year, $66 million contract with $36.25 million fully guaranteed. Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson replaced Brown as the league's highest paid offensive lineman when he signed a four-year extension averaging $18 million per year and containing $54.595 million of guarantees late last season.

Potential Franchise Player
Contract Package: $80 million/5 years ($16 million per year)
Overall Guarantees: $45 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing: $35 million
First Three Years: $51 million

The Redskins have been trying to keep Scherff in the fold through a new contract since last offseason. There's a good chance he could become the first offensive guard to be designated as a franchise player since Logan Mankins was by the Patriots in 2011. Retaining Scherff, who earned his third Pro Bowl berth in 2019, takes on additional importance because disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams has been given permission to seek a trade. Scherff's franchise tag would be $15.03 million, which is 120% of his $12.525 million 2019 fifth year option salary, if the salary cap is $200 million. Recent history suggests that a Pro Bowl caliber guard in his prime will re-set the market in free agency. The current standard is the four-year, $56.55 million extension averaging $14,137,500 per year Brandon Brooks received from the Eagles during the middle of last season.

Potential Franchise or Transition Player
Contract Package:
$70 million/5 years ($14 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$45 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$30 million
First Three Years:
$45 million

Henry really made his mark in the playoffs during the Titans' run to the AFC Championship Game. He became the first player to ever have two games of at least 180 rushing yards in the same postseason. Henry also set a NFL record for the most rushing yards during a playoff run (not including the Super Bowl) with 446. His 148.7 rushing yards per game this postseason is the fourth best mark ever in any single playoffs.

Henry led the NFL in rushing (1,540 yards) and tied for the league's most rushing touchdowns with 16 despite missing a game late in the season because of a hamstring injury. He earned his first Pro Bowl berth and was named to the Pro Football Writers of America's All-NFL team. Since the middle of the 2018 season, Henry has been the NFL's most productive ball carrier. He has league bests of 2,299 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns with 5.4 yards per carry.

Henry is probably be looking to join the top running back salary tier although he doesn't fit the profile of running backs who command top dollar. Dual threat running backs have been getting that type of money lately. Henry doesn't add much in the passing game. He is more of a traditional ball carrier from the previous era. Nonetheless, Henry may be more valuable to the Titans than anyone else because of his role in the offense. This could lead to the Titans keeping Henry off the open market with a franchise or transition tag. The non-exclusive running back franchise and transition tags are expected to be $10.372 million and $8.56 million respectively with a $200 million salary cap.

Ezekiel Elliott sets the running back market with six-year, $90 million extension he received from the Cowboys last September to end his lengthy preseason holdout. The two-time rushing champion also established new standards for running backs with $50,052,137 in overall guarantees and $28,052,137 fully guaranteed at signing. The bottom of the top tier is the $13 million per year the Cardinals gave David Johnson in 2018. His three-year extension has $31,882,500 of guarantees.

Contract Package: $56 million/4 years ($14 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$30 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$30 million

Anderson would like to remain with the Jets, but also recognizes that the NFL is a business. Free agency could be good business for Anderson since he will be the best deep threat available. Players who can take the top off a defense are sometimes paid a premium. Speedster Tyrell Williams received a four-year, $44.4 million contract with $22 million in guarantees from the Raiders last year in free agency when he was coming off 41 receptions, 653 receiving yards and five touchdowns for the Chargers in 2018. The Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins to a three-year, $48 million contract with $30 million fully guaranteed during 2018 free agency after only catching 39 passes for 593 yards and eight touchdowns with the Rams in 2017. Anderson had 52 catches for 779 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season. 

Contract Package: $44 million/4 years ($11 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$25 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$25 million

It would be a surprise if Hooper didn't re-set a stagnant market. Jimmy Graham became the NFL's first $10 million per year tight end in 2014 with the Saints. He was still the league's only $10 million per year until the Packers released him on Thursday from the three-year, $30 million contract he signed in 2018 free agency. 

Hooper was arguably the NFL's most productive tight end before spraining the MCL in his left knee during a Week 10 contest against the Saints. Through each team's first nine games, Hooper was leading NFL tight ends in receptions (56), was second in receiving yards (608) and tied for the league lead in touchdown catches (6). He missed three games because of his knee injury. Hooper finished the season with career highs of 75 receptions, 787 receiving yards and six touchdown catches. He was a Pro Bowl participant for a second straight season.

Hooper became only the third tight end in NFL history to have at least 50 receptions, 500 receiving yards and five touchdown catches in the first half of a season. This feat was previously accomplished by Ben Coates (Patriots) and Shannon Sharpe (Broncos) in 1994 and 1996 respectively. Zach Ertz (Eagles), future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (Chiefs) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) have done it over the second half of season. Gonzalez is the only one to reach these marks on two different occasions.

Contract Package: $42 million/4 Years ($10.5 million per year)
Overall Guarantees:
$22.5 million
Fully Guaranteed At Signing:
$22.5 million

Gordon never really got untracked after ending an ill-conceived holdout that lasted until the fourth week of the 2019 season. The Chargers reportedly offered Gordon $10 million per year during his holdout. No other details about the reported offer were ever disclosed. There were reports that Gordon was looking for top tier running back money in the same ballpark as David Johnson's $13 million per year. The Chargers also gave Gordon permission to seek a trade. Nothing ever came of those trade efforts.

The holdout gave Austin Ekeler the opportunity to demonstrate that he was more than just a complementary running back. The Chargers rewarding Ekeler last week with a reported four-year, $24.5 million contract puts Gordon's return in serious jeopardy.

Top tier money has always seemed like a stretch for Gordon. He might be better served trying to establish a new second tier of running back pay between the $8.25 million per year Devonta Freeman received from the Falcons in a 2017 extension and Johnson's $13 million average yearly salary. A lucrative free agent contract will likely require some team to believe Gordon can consistently perform like he did in a Pro Bowl 2018 season in which he averaged 73.8 rushing yards per game with career bests of 5.1 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns.