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All-Paid Team of Tomorrow: Lamar Jackson, Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa among players poised to cash in

Which players are in line to earn big-money contracts in the near future and join the All-Paid Team? Anthony Holzman-Escareno takes a look into his crystal ball to project the All-Paid Team of Tomorrow, listing the top candidate to become the next player to push for the rank of highest paid at each position, along with other players who are on the big-money radar.

NOTE: Contract information is sourced fromOver The Cap and/or Spotrac.


Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens · Age 25
  • Projected average per year (APY): $45+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022 (fifth-year option)

Although the Ravens have been attempting to sign him long term, Jackson has bided his time with fiscal matters despite being eligible for an extension after the 2020 season. His patience has paid off, as Josh Allen, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson are all young, franchise quarterbacks who have each signed contracts that have substantially upped Jackson's value. Jackson has navigated through this process without an agent and has done a masterful job at that.

The unanimous league MVP back in 2019, Lamar has a skill set unique unto itself. He's the only player in NFL history with 2,500-plus passing yards and 1,000-plus rushing yards in a single season -- a feat that's he's accomplished twice (2019 and 2020). Had he not missed five games in 2021, he almost certainly would've eclipsed those marks for a third straight season.

As a starting quarterback, Jackson has never finished fewer than two games above .500 in a season. He owns the third-highest win percentage (.755) since the 1970 merger among all quarterbacks with 25-plus starts. The names he's sandwiched between in the top five? Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Roger Staubach and Joe Montana. When Lamar Jackson plays, the Ravens win football games.

The Browns gave Watson a fully guaranteed, five-year deal worth $46 million per season. Jackson is over a year younger and has a much higher QB win percentage (.755) than Watson (.528). He also has an MVP award in his trophy case. The Ravens will apply the franchise tag on Jackson should an agreement not be reached by next offseason.


Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos: Wilson finally found his way out of Seattle and joins a Broncos roster that was previously considered to be a quarterback away from contention. Given the investment the Broncos made in him, Wilson should be extended a new contract soon. He could, arguably, be flip-flopped with Lamar Jackson here. Peyton Manning is the only QB with more wins or passing touchdowns than Wilson in a player's first 10 seasons. The Broncos hope to find similar postseason success with Wilson as they did with Manning.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals: Murray has already expressed both his interest in a new contract and his willingness to sit out without one. The Cardinals still have four seasons of possible control (2022, fifth-year option, two franchise tags -- a third tag would seem to be cost-prohibitive). Murray and 2015 MVP Cam Newton are the only players with 10,000-plus passing yards and 1,500-plus rushing yards in their first three NFL seasons.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers; Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals.


Jonathan Taylor
Indianapolis Colts · Age 23
  • Projected APY: $15+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023

The running back market seems as though it could be headed for dire straits. The position's next great hope is Jonathan Taylor, and he's not even eligible for an extension until after the 2022 season.

In 2021, Taylor became the 11th (and youngest) player in NFL history with 2,000-plus scrimmage yards and 20-plus touchdowns in the same season. The 2020 second-round pick led the NFL in both categories. Also, he paced the league in rushing yards (1,811) and rushing scores (18). According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor had more rushing yards after contact (1,272) than any other player in the NFL had total rushing yards. (Nick Chubb finished a distant second in the rushing race with 1,259 yards.) Taylor accounted for 36.8 percent of the Colts' scrimmage yards last season, a figure that was over 5 percent higher than the next-closest player (Rams WR Cooper Kupp at 31.1 percent).

Multiple factors are working to devalue running backs in 2022, including a lack of marquee names, general disinterest in paying big money at the position, and the performance (or lack thereof) of those who have been paid. Taylor will be just 25 years old when his contract expires after 2023.


Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Thoughts of Barkley one day commanding top-of-the-market money seem to have evaporated, but the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year still has plenty of talent and an opportunity to rebuild his reputation as one of the league's best backs. Despite three consecutive down seasons, Barkley is still one of eight players since 2018 -- and one of 23 players all-time (min. 20 games) -- to average 100-plus scrimmage yards per game.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: "King Henry" has two years remaining on his current deal, and although he's coming off of a foot injury, he's yet to show significant signs of decline between the lines. The Titans could give Henry a short-term deal to both lessen his current cap figure and reward the bell-cow back for his work. Prior to his injury, he was the first player since Jim Brown to win the NFL's rushing triple crown (carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns) in consecutive seasons. Say less.

Others to consider: Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns; David Montgomery, Chicago Bears.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts; Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers; Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos.


Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers · Age 26
  • Projected APY: $27+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022

"Deebo coming" had to be running through the minds of defensive coordinators assigned with stopping the NFL's most versatile offensive threat last season. The 2021 first-team All-Pro exploded into stardom with 1,770 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Samuel has expressed an interest to be traded. He is not attending voluntary workouts this week. His wariness about his usage is understandable, given the short shelf life of many players who take handoffs in the NFL.

A pillar of both efficiency and self-sufficiency, Samuel became the first player to lead the NFL in yards per reception (18.2) and receiving yards after the catch per reception (10.1) in the same season (since the latter was tracked in 1992; minimum 50 receptions). To truly illustrate his versatility, paint with me. Samuel finished 2021 with eight rushing touchdowns, six receiving scores and a passing TD. The only other player in NFL history to reach each of those thresholds? Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 (14 rushing, six receiving, one passing). For a closer-to-home comparison, 49ers icon Jerry Rice had just one season with more scrimmage yards (1,884 in 1995) than Samuel had in 2021. The team's best running back and wide receiver, Samuel was the catalyst for success in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He had six carries through his first eight games, but averaged 7.3 per game over his final 11, including the playoffs. Last season, Samuel became the only player in NFL history with 1,400-plus receiving and 300-plus rushing yards in the same season, and he scored more rushing touchdowns (eight) than any wide receiver in NFL history.

Whether it's the 49ers or not, some team will compensate Samuel extremely well on his second contract. Using A.J. Brown's deal with the Eagles ($25 million per year) as a floor in negotiations seems like a fair starting point.


Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: A pay raise seems in line for a player who won Super Bowl MVP and finished with the second-most single-season receptions (145) and receiving yards (1,947) ever. Kupp led the NFL in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns, becoming the first player to win the receiving triple crown since Steve Smith in 2005. Kupp currently ranks outside the top 15 in average salary among wide receivers.

DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks: The NFL's ultimate size-speed freak at the wide receiver position, Metcalf's uniqueness cannot be overstated. He was one of three players with 900-plus receiving yards and double-digit receiving touchdowns in 2020 and 2021, alongside Davante Adams and Mike Evans. Russell Wilson's departure gives Metcalf the opportunity to prove that he can lift an offense without elite play at QB.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders: McLaurin has never had the quarterback play that many of his star contemporaries benefit from. Nonetheless, he's eclipsed 350 targets and 3,000 yards during his first three seasons, despite catching passes from seven different quarterbacks. McLaurin is a leader on and off the field for the Commanders.

Others to consider: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals; Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers; Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts; Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears; Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings; Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals; CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys; Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins; DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles.


Darren Waller
Las Vegas Raiders · Age 29
  • Projected APY: $15+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023

The foresight to lock up Waller early in his breakout 2019 campaign paid dividends for the Raiders. Since the start of that 2019 season, only Travis Kelce has more receptions or receiving yards than Waller. Those two are the only tight ends to average 1,000-plus receiving yards over the last three seasons.

Waller had just 665 receiving yards in 11 games last season, but he turned in back-to-back campaigns with 90-plus receptions and 1,100-plus receiving yards in 2019 and 2020. Kelce, Tony Gonzalez and Todd Christensen are the only tight ends to ever do so in multiple seasons.

The Raiders have gotten a discount on Waller's production over the last few seasons, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old tight end should strike it big with a new extension. He has two seasons remaining on his current deal.


The franchise-tagged tight ends (Mike Gesicki, David Njoku, Dalton Schultz): Each of these tight ends is in a unique position to use 2022 to break out and cash in (if no long-term contract is signed prior to the July 15 deadline). The Cowboys traded Amari Cooper, which should free up targets for Schultz to gobble up. The Dolphins traded for Tyreek Hill, which should free up coverage for Gesicki to exploit. The Browns traded for Deshaun Watson, which gives Njoku a better quarterback to work with.

T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions: Hockenson made his first Pro Bowl following the 2020 season and was possibly on his way to another before missing the final five games with a hand injury. He had four games with eight-plus grabs in 2021; the only tight end with more was Mark Andrews (six). Hockenson and Kyle Pitts are the only tight ends selected in the top 10 since 2015.

Others to consider: Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks; Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills.

Notable player not eligible for extension: Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons.


Orlando Brown
Kansas City Chiefs · Age 26
  • Projected APY: $24+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022 (franchise tag)

Kansas City placed the franchise tag on Brown this offseason. The 6-foot-8, 363-pounder was the cornerstone piece to the Chiefs' O-line revamp following their Super Bowl LV loss to the Buccaneers. Kansas City acquired Brown in exchange for a package of picks that included a first- and third-rounder.

Brown wanted out of Baltimore for the opportunity to play left tackle -- a position his father raised him to play. It's also the position that pays most along the offensive trenches. Selected to each of the last three Pro Bowls, Brown has earned the honor in both of his seasons on the blindside (he was a Pro Bowler at right tackle following the 2019 season).

Protecting Patrick Mahomes is the No. 1 priority in Kansas City. Brown, who turned 26 this May, should be tasked with that responsibility for years to come. Regardless of whether an extension gets done, the tag can keep Brown in K.C. for at least 2022 -- and likely 2023, if it comes to that.

When Trent Williams became the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman in March 2021, he did so by procuring a mere $10,000 more per season ($23.01 million) than Packers OT David Bakhtiari ($23.0 million). Brown should be the next player jockeying for that title, even though he's not yet the same caliber of player as Williams or Bakhtiari.


Laremy Tunsil, Houston Texans: Tunsil missed 12 games with a thumb injury last season, but he's still an elite player at the league's most valued offensive line position. The Texans made his value to the team abundantly clear when they traded a package that included two first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Dolphins for his services in 2019, then made him the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman in 2020. He will be 29 years old at the conclusion of the 2023 season, when he is set to be a free agent.

Others to consider: Jonah Williams, Cincinnati Bengals; Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Jedrick Wills Jr., Cleveland Browns; Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers; Mekhi Becton, New York Jets; Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions; Andrew Thomas, New York Giants.


Quenton Nelson
Indianapolis Colts · Age 26
  • Projected APY: $20+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022 (fifth-year option)

Nelson is the nastiest offensive lineman this side of Trent Williams. The proof is in the tape and the adoration from his peers. Nelson is arguably the best guard in the NFL, but he will certainly be looking for compensation more in line with the elite offensive tackles.

Nelson is the only offensive lineman in the Super Bowl era selected as a first-team All-Pro in each of his first three seasons (2018-2020). The last player to do so at any position: Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Nelson should be very confident in his leverage at the moment. The current high-water mark in the guard market is Brandon Scherff's deal with the Jaguars for $16.5 million per year. There is no reason to think that Nelson can't become the first interior O-lineman to sign a contract worth $20 million annually.


Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys: Martin has been one of the NFL's best offensive linemen since he stepped foot on an NFL field in 2014. The only offensive linemen with more All-Pro campaigns than Martin (five) in their first eight seasons: Hall of Famers Larry Allen and Anthony Muñoz (six each). The Cowboys made Martin the NFL's highest-paid guard in 2018. With no decline in play and a contract expiring in 2025, another big deal could be in play for Martin.

Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers: Versatility -- that is Jenkins' game. He's a great guard, but might be too good of a tackle to keep on the inside. In his 2020 Pro Bowl season, Jenkins played snaps at left guard (643), center (287), right tackle (31) and left tackle (27). He played all but one snap at left tackle while filling in for David Bakhtiari in 2021, although Jenkins missed nine games himself.

Others to consider: Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons; Dalton Risner, Denver Broncos; Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs; Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets.


Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams · Age 31
  • Projected APY: $30+ million
  • Free agent after: 2024

Just to put into perspective how much of an anomaly Donald is: He's the only member of this "team" who is also already on the 2022 All-Paid Team. With Donald and the Rams already working on an extension, he needs to be present here.

Donald leads the NFL in sacks (98.0), quarterback hits (226) and tackles for loss (150) since entering the NFL with size concerns in 2014. A first-team All-Pro in seven of his eight seasons, Donald trails only Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor for the most by a defensive player in the Super Bowl era. Each of them has eight such selections.

It could be a generational bias, but I feel like it's time to bestow Donald with the title of greatest defensive player in the annals of league history. Donald, J.J. Watt and Taylor are the only players in NFL history to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards. Odds are Donald will become the first to ever win a fourth, as he begins as the favorite to win the award in just about every season.


Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans: Simmons has done nothing but wreak havoc in backfields since he stepped onto an NFL field. Simmons' disruption bloomed into production in 2021, as he recorded career highs with 8.5 sacks, 12 TFL and 14 QB hits, earning him the first of what should be many Pro Bowl selections. Simmons is arguably the second-best interior defensive lineman in the NFL behind Donald.

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets: The third overall pick in 2019, Williams has recorded 13.0 sacks and 26 QB hits over the last two seasons from the interior defensive line. Those numbers speak volumes, but don't truly illuminate the 24-year-old's impact on Robert Saleh's defense.

Others to consider: Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins; Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants; Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills; Daron Payne, Washington Commanders; Leonard Williams, New York Giants; Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Christian Barmore, New England Patriots; Derrick Brown, Carolina Panthers.


Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · Age 24
  • Projected APY: $28.5+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023 (fifth-year option)

Joey Bosa spent the 2020 season as the NFL's highest-paid defensive player after he signed a five-year, $135 million pact with the Chargers. T.J. Watt surpassed him last offseason, but the title should return to the Bosa family soon. Joey's younger brother, Nick, is just as proficient in the family business of pass rushing.

After missing 14 games in 2020 with a torn ACL, Nick bounced back in a major way. Bosa finished top five in sacks (15.5) and quarterback hits (32) last season, while tying Watt, the Defensive Player of the Year, for the league lead with 21 tackles for loss. He generated 68 pressures in 2021, per Next Gen Stats, good for fourth in the NFL.

Compensation is just the next thing in which little brother is going to one-up big brother. Joey was the third overall pick in 2016; Nick was selected second overall in 2019. Both Bosa brothers won Defensive Rookie of the Year, but the younger Bosa's 15.5 sacks last season were more than Joey has managed in any of his six campaigns. Pass rushers are the second-most valuable position in today's NFL. Nick Bosa will soon find this out firsthand.


Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers: Burns just made his first Pro Bowl, turned 24 in April and has shown flashes of elite play. He's one of nine players with 7.5-plus sacks in each of the last three seasons -- a list that includes a litany of the NFL's highest-paid defenders, including T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald and Chris Jones.

Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings: Hunter has missed 26 games over the last two seasons, but he had 14.5 sacks and Pro Bowl nods in each of his two previous full years (2018 and '19). A free agent after 2023, Hunter could earn another lucrative payday with a clean 2022 season. The 27-year-old did receive an $18 million roster bonus on March 20.

Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers: Gary enjoyed a breakout season in 2021, seeing extended playing time with the injury absence of Za'Darius Smith. Gary ranked seventh in the NFL with 28 QB hits in 2021 and added a career-high 9.5 sacks. The 12th overall pick in 2019, Gary had his fifth-year option exercised this offseason.

Others to consider: Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos; Josh Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars; Montez Sweat, Washington Commanders; Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Chase Young, Washington Commanders; Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins; Greg Rousseau, Buffalo Bills.


Roquan Smith
Chicago Bears · Age 25
  • Projected APY: $19+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022 (fifth-year option)

Smith's next up among traditional linebackers in line for new deals. The only player with over 150 tackles and three-plus sacks in 2021, the former top-10 pick is a foundational piece for the future of the Bears' defense.

Smith and Darius Leonard are the only players with 500-plus tackles, 10-plus sacks, and five-plus interceptions since 2018. Smith, Leonard, Bobby Wagner and Fred Warner are the only players with 500 or more tackles over that span. Leonard and Warner are currently the NFL's two highest-paid linebackers, while Wagner previously held the title.

Smith, like Lamar Jackson, does not have an agent. His fifth-year option sits at $9.7 million for 2022, but Smith should easily get a deal at or near the top of the positional market. The Bears have notably made Khalil Mack (since traded) and Eddie Jackson the highest-paid players at their respective positions in recent seasons. Smith will likely be next.

If Micah Parsons hasn't created a new position label by the time he's due an extension, he'll be shattering these numbers soon enough.


Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills: Edmunds enters 2022 on his $12.7 million fifth-year option with two Pro Bowls in four seasons. Youth is on his side, as the 2018 first-round pick just turned 24 on May 2.

Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: When White gets moving, his athleticism jumps off the screen. His 15.0 sacks are the most by an off-ball linebacker since he entered the NFL in 2019. He's the only player with as many sacks and 350-plus tackles over that span.

Others to consider: Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons; Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys; Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns; Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals; Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens.


Trevon Diggs
Dallas Cowboys · Age 23
  • Projected APY: $21.1+ million
  • Free agent after: 2023
A.J. Terrell
Atlanta Falcons · Age 23
  • Projected APY: $21.1+ million
  • Free agent after: 2024 (fifth-year option)

Jaire Alexander was penciled into this spot until the Packers locked up the lockdown corner on a four-year, $84 million deal this May. That's why anything that pertains to NFL contracts isn't written in pen. Alexander and Denzel Ward both joined Jalen Ramsey in the $20 million corner club this offseason. Neither Terrell nor Diggs is eligible for an extension this offseason, but these two are the next cornerbacks in line for market-setting extensions.

When it comes to Terrell, Ramsey was the only corner with a higher Pro Football Focus coverage grade in 2021. Per PFF, there were 181 players with more than 40 targets in coverage in 2021; Terrell allowed the lowest completion percentage (43.9), the fewest receiving yards (200) and the second-lowest passer rating (47.5) among them. Stefon Diggs had more receiving yards on Terrell than any other wide receiver in 2021. He finished the game with a mere 24 yards.

Diggs could be the NFL's biggest risk/reward proposition, as Ramsey perfectly explained earlier in the offseason. Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions last season. The last player with more was Lester Hayes in 1980 (13), that season's Defensive Player of the Year. That said, Diggs also led the NFL in receiving yards allowed in coverage last season (1,016). Taking away the football has a great correlation to winning games. Diggs has proven apt at doing so in a league that has seen interception numbers wane with rules changes and offensive improvements.

Terrell and Diggs will each be eligible to rework their deals after the final regular season game of the 2022 season. The Falcons can exercise Terrell's fifth-year option after the coming season. The Cowboys don't have the same luxury, since Diggs wasn't a first-round pick.

Other to consider: Byron Murphy, Arizona Cardinals.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys; A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons; Patrick Surtain II, Denver Broncos; Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers.


Derwin James
Los Angeles Chargers · Age 25
  • Projected APY: $17+ million
  • Free agent after: 2022 (fifth-year option)

When Derwin James is on a football field, there is nothing he can't do. From dropping in coverage to playing the run to blitzing the passer, James is adept at everything. The only issue is the Swiss Army Knife's inability to stay on the field.

After being selected 17th overall in 2018, James became the first rookie safety to earn first-team All-Pro honors since Hall of Famer Paul Krause in 1964. This dominant debut was followed by James missing 11 games in 2019 with a stress fracture in his foot. Then a torn meniscus in training camp cost him the entire 2020 season. In 2021, though, James played 15 of 17 games (missing two due to injury) and earned his second Pro Bowl nod. James and 2021 All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell were the only players with 100-plus tackles along with multiple interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles last season.

Surely, there are some past injury concerns for James, but he's an elite hybrid player who impacts the Chargers' defense in numerous ways. There aren't many players who can stop a back in the hole, sack the quarterback and line up mano a mano with a slot receiver. James can.


Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers: Fitzpatrick put together back-to-back All-Pro seasons in 2019 and 2020 after the Steelers relinquished a first-round pick for him early in the 2019 campaign. Fitzpatrick's 11 interceptions since joining the team rank top five among safeties and top seven in the NFL. Depending on who signs first, Fitzpatrick and Derwin James are interchangeable here.

Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals: Bates reportedly will not play under the franchise tag, which could spur some action here before the July 15 deadline. He earned PFF's highest grade by a safety for both the 2020 season and the 2021 playoffs.

Others to consider: Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills; Darnell Savage Jr., Green Bay Packers.

Notable players not eligible for extension: Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers; Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Xavier McKinney, New York Giants; Kyle Dugger, New England Patriots; Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins.

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