It was reported last month that Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was in talks with the team to become the . Saturday, that extension finally came to fruition, as Waller agreed to a new three-year, $51 million deal, per CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson.
"Darren Waller is an exemplary teammate in every way, and we're excited to see him continue to grow as a leader on this team,"Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said, via their official website. "Darren brings a tremendous commitment and work ethic to the building every day and we couldn't be more thrilled that he will be a part of the Raiders Family for years to come."
Waller's new AAV of $17 million does in fact make him the highest-paid tight end in the league, as he passes San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, whose deal carries an AAV of $15 million. According to Waller's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, this extension was apparently a tough one to nail down
"This was one of the most challenging negotiations I've encountered," Rosenhaus said, via ESPN.
Per NFL Media, Waller's new deal has a base value of $25 million over the next two years, and he received $19.25 million fully guaranteed at signing. It also includes $2.55 million in active roster bonuses. The rest of the deal is reportedly non-guaranteed, offering $12 million in 2024, $13 million in 2025 and $15 million in 2026. He also has a $250K Pro Bowl incentive each year.
While this is a huge chunk of change, Waller is certainly deserving of this contract. The Pro Bowl tight end recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in 2019 and 2020, and while he played in just 11 games last year due to injury, he still caught 55 passes for 665 yards and two touchdowns. Waller finished the 2021 campaign No. 11 in receiving yards among all tight ends, and fifth in receiving yards per game with 60.5. In last year's season opener against his former team in the Baltimore Ravens, Waller caught 10 of 19 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown in an overtime victory. That performance caused former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to dub Waller the best player he's ever coached.
The 29-year-old was originally selected by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Georgia Tech. His professional career got off to a rocky start due to issues in his personal life, as Waller struggled with substance abuse issues. But Waller overcame his addiction, and became one of the best tight ends in the NFL.
The Raiders have a new head coach in McDaniels, but Waller still figures to be a focal point of this offense, and Las Vegas proved its dedication to him with this lucrative extension.