7 NFL Players Who Should Get Big Contract Extensions During 2023 Regular Season
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With preseason action in the rearview mirror, expectations remain at a season high for all 32 clubs. Everyone is 0-0, injuries — for some — have yet to ravage a depth chart, and the fantasy of hoisting a Lombardi trophy seems legitimate. But with regular season action rapidly approaching, select general managers and decision makers across the league have entered crucial negotiation periods with it’s biggest stars.
While the focus remains on football, the intricate process of constructing a contract extension is no easy task. It’s the dirty work, financial laundry if you will behind the scenes that ultimately pieces together a roster.
Money talks, and goodness has it ever this offseason. Justin Herbert (five-years, $262.5M), Jalen Hurts (five-years, $255M) Daniel Jones (four-years, $160M), Quinnen Williams (four-years, $96M), they represent just a few cornerstones that enter the 2023 campaign with thicker pockets. However, not all will receive a large token of reward towards their future with the likes of running backs Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley unlikely to see their times ahead solidified before the season kicks off.
But for a select few, an extension is more than warranted. And in this case, necessary for the overall success of their teams’ respective side of the football. The following is a list of players that merit a long-term extension during the 2023 season.
Edge Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
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The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, it would be smart business for general manager John Lynch to present Bosa with a blank check. The former No. 2 overall pick, he’s become one of the league’s most dominant 5-techniques with a unique blend of speed, power, and flexibility that can overwhelm even the most elite of offensive tackles.
With high-priced teammates in tight end George Kittle, wideout Deebo Samuel, and linebacker Fred Warner each locked in for the foreseeable future, penning Bosa to a four-year, $114.6M ($28.7M AAV) extension, per his current market value, should still be looked upon as a discount considering the level of production he’s amassed at just 25 years of age.
Currently slotted eighth on the 49ers’ all-time sack list with just three years of action under his belt (torn ACL in 2020), Bosa has amassed a gaudy 186 pressures and 40 sacks his last two seasons combined, per PFF.
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
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The last handful of years for Burrow has been seemingly one reserved for fairy tale. From a backup at Ohio State, to one of the most prolific offensive seasons in college football history, he’s quickly etched his name amongst the NFL’s elite.
A Bengals organization that failed to record seven or more wins in the five-year stretch prior to his arrival, he’s completely revitalized the city of Cincinnati. Two consecutive conference championship appearances, 78 touchdown passes combined the last tandem of seasons, he’s a magician under center. A cerebral athlete whose ability to dissect defenses at every level showcases one of football’s most accurate passers, the aforementioned extensions for Hurts, Jones, and Herbert have set the stage for Burrow to be paid handsomely with a projected total contract value of $270M over five seasons.
Although injuries and leaky offensive lines have hindered his performance ceiling at times, the Bengals have their guy under center. Solidifying the future if you’re general manager Duke Tobin should remain at the top of his immediate to-do list.
WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
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Minnesota’s record holder for receptions and receiving yards in a single-season, Jefferson has quickly become arguably the top pass-catcher in the game. An organization that has gazed upon the legendary talent of Randy Moss and Cris Carter, Jefferson – in time – could trump each as the most productive and heralded wideout in Vikings history.
Currently tabbed with a projected per year average upwards of $29M a season, he’d immediately become the second-highest grossing wide receiver in football behind only Miami’s Tyreek Hill ($30M) if Minnesota were to pay now.
However, with Bengals wideout Ja’Marr Chase extension eligible in 2024, waiting could elevate Jefferson’s leverage, and pull further funds from Minnesota’s ever-decreasing cap space. The team recently made T.J. Hockenson ($16.5 AAV) the second-highest paid tight end in football, per OverTheCap.
Jefferson undoubtedly will be extended, it’s just for how much, how long and will he wait for Chase to put pen to paper before ever solidifying his future in Minnesota.
Edge Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers
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Raking in $16M in a year isn’t a bad day at the office by any standards. However, for Brian Burns, a larger, more stable contract is warranted in Carolina.
Currently playing on his fifth-year option, inking the dynamic edge rusher to a long term extension sooner rather than later would be ideal. With the price for pass-rushers steadily increasing, getting cute at a premier position usually invites trouble.
A 2022 season that saw him total career highs in sacks (13), and pressures (68), Burns has become a key cog for what is expected to be a much improved Panthers group this fall. With enough cap space to maneuver a long-term deal before the season ends, further delaying negotiations wouldn’t be wise if you’re general manager Scott Fitterer.
OT Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Moving to left tackle this offseason has only increased Wirfs’ value. Overpowering run blockers and athletic offensive tackles are a dime a dozen, and at just 24 years old, the former Iowa Hawkeye is in a class of his own.
Expectations have been drastically lowered in Tampa Bay since the departure of Tom Brady, but inking their future along the front five would be ideal considering their potential draft slot in 2024. A two-time Pro Bowler that has already earned an All-Pro nod, he’s allowed just seven sacks in 2,213 pass pro snaps, per PFF.
A right tackle by trade, he should undoubtedly reset the market at whatever tackle spot he calls home in the future. His current projected AAV of $25M per year would match Laremy Tunsil’s current contract as the highest grossing lineman in the game. While Tampa remains cap-stricken heading into the regular season, pulling strings to lock up Wirfs is a move tailored towards future seasons.
DL Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
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The ongoing saga that has surrounded Jones will end at some point… right?
Staying on the hopeful side for Kansas City faithful, a return to action from the two-time Super Bowl champion will come only if an extension that fits his desires is presented. Absent from all offseason activities this summer, Jones has racked up nearly $2M in fines and now runs the risk of losing his first week’s salary ($1.1M) if not added to Kansas City’s 53-man roster by Thursday night’s opener. His absence has had a trickle down effect.
“He’s the best defensive player in the league right now,” teammate Travis Kelce said.
“He’s deserving of all the money in the world. Chris… please come back.”
A dominant ’22 season that saw Jones smash his career highs in pressures (97) and sacks (17), only time will tell if he suits up for the Chiefs this fall. General manager Brett Veach has played the waiting game, but losing the presence of a talent like Jones could have long-lasting effects within a rather underwhelming defensive interior.
CB AJ Terrell, Atlanta Falcons
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A down year in 2022 has placed Terrell and Falcons brass in a unique position. Now eligible for an extension with three years of service under his belt, the smooth perimeter defender could perhaps take less in an extension than initially envisioned.
After inking guard Chris Lindstrom to a long-term deal in the spring, locking up Terrell on the opposite side of the ball would be piecing together another corner of the roster puzzle in Atlanta. Tabbed with a projected annual value of $20.1M over four years, according to SpoTrac, the asking price could come lower after allowing nine touchdowns as the primary man in coverage last season. He’d allowed just eight combined his first two years in the league.
But folks, the corner spot isn’t easy. And from a parallel perspective, Dallas recently made Trevon Diggs the fifth-highest paid corner in football after giving up 2,478 yards in coverage in the same time frame that Terrell has been a Falcon (1,531 yds). It all requires context, of course, with Diggs’ 17 interceptions tops in football the last trio of seasons, but Terrell can flat out cover on an island, and those guys don’t last long on the open market. It’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league, but Terrell deserves to suit up in the black and red for years to come.
Ryan Fowler covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @_RyanFowler_.