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50-plus NFL players who could get contract extensions before the 2020 season
7:00 AM ET
  • Dan GrazianoESPN Staff Writer

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    • Joined ESPN in 2011
    • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

In a normal year, this is about the time NFL teams would be working on contract extensions with some of their most important players. This is not, as you might have noticed, a normal year.

While the NFL hasn’t endured an in-season disruption the way other professional leagues have, since the coronavirus pandemic struck during the offseason, the business of the league has been somewhat disrupted. Questions linger about what kind of season awaits, how much revenue will be lost if fans aren’t able to attend games, and what effect that might have on the salary cap in 2021.

Teams aren’t even signing their first-round draft picks, whose contracts are all pre-slotted. Only three of the 32 first-rounders have signed. In a normal year, 20 or more would have been signed by now.

So as we present to you our annual list of NFL contract extension candidates, we do so with a couple of disclaimers. One is that many teams aren’t ready to talk about extensions until they get some clarity on their short-term cash flow projections and what happens to next year’s salary cap. Another is that while the current expectation is that players will be able to report on time for training camps next month, that is no sure thing. And since training camp usually functions as some form of de facto deadline for these things, the possibility that report dates get moved could reduce some of the normal urgency.

Finally, one thing I was told over and over again in reporting for this story is that a lot of teams are prioritizing deals for their designated franchise players, since the deadline for doing those deals is July 15. After that date, teams cannot negotiate long-term deals with their franchise players until after the season. There are 14 teams that used the franchise tag this year, and not one of those 14 players has signed a long-term deal. That’s nearly half the teams in the league facing an imminent deadline with single, specific players. If you’re a guy on one of those teams who’s headed into the final year of your rookie deal, you might have to wait until the franchise player gets signed or that deadline passes.

Those situations are accounted for in this year’s list, which includes franchise players, players heading into the final years of their rookie deals, and some other interesting cases sprinkled throughout. Without further ado, this year’s list of NFL summer extension candidates, by position:

JUMP TO A POSITION:


QB | RB | WR | OL


EDGE | DL | LB | DB


QUARTERBACKS


Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

What’s that? He was on last year’s list too? You don’t say. We’ve spilled a fair bit of ink and filled a fair bit of airtime discussing Prescott’s contract situation over the past year, and it remains unresolved. The Cowboys have offered Prescott a significant contract extension that would make him one of the three highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, and they used the exclusive franchise tag on him, meaning his current worst-case scenario for 2020 is a one-year, fully guaranteed $31,409,000 salary and a cost to the Cowboys of $37,690,800 in 2021 if they want to franchise him a second time.

Any claim that the Cowboys don’t want to pay Prescott is ludicrous and inaccurate. He has been asking for more than they’ve offered, and if that’s still the case on July 15, we might be doing this again next year. But I expect Prescott’s deal to get done at the deadline, and for him to either be the highest-paid quarterback in the league or very close to it, at least until one of these next two deals gets done.


Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Neither Mahomes nor the Chiefs need to do this extension this year. Mahomes has about $2.8 million in salary and bonuses coming in 2020, and the Chiefs hold a $24.8 million option on him for 2021. If they really wanted to wait, the Chiefs could franchise Mahomes in 2022. All of that said, Mahomes is 24 years old and already has a league MVP award and a Super Bowl MVP award on his résumé. The Chiefs will sign him at some point to an extension that most in the industry expect to shatter records and establish new precedents.

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