Most of the big NFL player deals for the 2021-22 season have been inked and finalized. The new salary cap for the 2022 season has a ceiling of $208.2 million, compared to this year's $182.5 million, which caused teams to make difficult roster cuts.
Moving to the start of the 2021 NFL season, there are some AFC teams that have team-friendly contracts that also benefit the players. On that note, here's a look at five such NFL contracts for each AFC team.
Five best NFL contracts - AFC East
WR Stefon Diggs - 5 years/ $72 million - $40 million guaranteed
Diggs is the 19th-highest-paid WR this year, but he led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards last season. This is quite a bargain for the Bills, as they have surrounded QB Josh Allen with personnel to win the Super Bowl.
WR Emmanuel Sanders - 1 year/ $6 million - $5.9 million guaranteed
Sanders is 34, and his NFL contract is nearly 100% guaranteed, but he's worth every penny to the Bills. In 2020, Sanders had 61 catches for 726 yards and five TDs with the Saints. Buffalo needs targets other than Diggs and Cole Beasley for Josh Allen, and Sanders is the veteran presence that could tip the odds in their favor.
ILB Tyler Matakevich - 2 years/ $7.2 million - $3.45 million guaranteed
Matakevich isn't a household name in the NFL but should be known to all Buffalo fans. He was a special teams standout with Pittsburgh and was a productive third-string linebacker. With Buffalo, he will likely be Tremaine Edmunds' direct backup and see a decent amount of field time on a small NFL contract. It will be a win-win if Matakevich has a career year.
QB Mitchell Trubisky - 1 year/ $2.5 million - $2 million guaranteed
As a capable backup, Trubisky has an NFL contract that is team-friendly and could be a long-term win for the QB. If Josh Allen suffers an injury, there is still hope for Buffalo with Trubisky. If he can impress during pre-season and show his utility on the sidelines, he could land a much larger contract next year.
RB Matt Breida - 1 year/ $1.1 million - $140,000 guaranteed
Matt Breida is still young at 26, with his awful season with Miami likely an aberration. He'll likely be a third-string RB behind Zack Moss, but the role suits him well. He could be the fresh legs on a short-yardage play and an asset as a receiver.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah - 2 years/ $15 million - $7.5 million guaranteed
Ogbah, a former second-round pick by Cleveland, had a career-high nine sacks with Miami last year. If he has a similar year in 2021, Miami could get nearly 20 sacks for just a $15 million NFL contract.
CB Jason McCourty - 1 year/ $1.2 million - $987,500 guaranteed
McCourty is likely on his last NFL contract as he begins playing for his fourth team. There's a strong possibility he won't grab a starting role, but he could still be a decent backup. If something goes wrong with the Xavien Howard negotiations, Miami have a veteran to rely on at a small price.
WR/RB Lynn Bowden - 4 years/ $4.7 million - $985,248 guaranteed
This is Bowden's rookie NFL contract, but he was traded to Miami at the start of the season. For just over $1 million a year, the Dolphins have a utility player at their disposal that they should use to their advantage. It'll take some extra spice in the playcalling to give Miami the edge this year.
C Matt Skura - 1 year/ $1.75 million - $400,000 guaranteed
Skura has suffered several setbacks on returning from a season-ending knee injury in 2019. Once the starting center for Baltimore, Skura could be one of the cheapest starting centers if he can get his head right again.
T Jesse Davis - 3 years/ $15 million - $8.5 million guaranteed
Davis has a cap hit of just $4.5 million this year, which is a good value for a backup that started almost every game last year. He's got value as an experienced backup, willing to move around whenever he's called upon. Versatile offensive linemen are worth given a large NFL contract to.
New England Patriots
TE Hunter Henry - 3 years/ $37.5 million - $25 million guaranteed
Out of the two TEs signed in the off-season, Hunter Henry has an NFL contract that looks the better one. Both Jonnu Smith and Henry are dealing with lingering injuries and are expected to be used heavily in two TE sets. While Hunter has a history of injuries, there's less guaranteed money on his name.
WR Nelson Agholor - 2 years/ $22 million - $16 million guaranteed
Agholor is the veteran in New England's WR group and is coming off a career year with the Raiders. If he can have another year with 800+ yards and 7+ TDs, his NFL contract would be worth it. Even if he doesn't put up great numbers, the hope is he could help train up the younger guys.
S Jalen Mills - 4 years/ $24 million - $9 million guaranteed
Mills was a backup safety on the depth chart entering OTAs, but a holdout from Stephen Gilmore is allowing him to get more reps with the starters. Whether Gilmore shows up or not, Mills' versatility in the secondary makes his NFL contract well worth it.
C David Andrews - 4 years/ $19 million - $6.5 million guaranteed
The 7-year veteran is building a relationship with all three QBs as they start the competition to be a starter. Andrews is a lock to keep his starting job and is owed just under $5 million a year with his NFL contract, making him a bargain at a high-profile position for New England.
New York Jets
WR Corey Davis - 3 years/ $37.5 million - $27 million guaranteed
Davis is one of many players coming off a career-high season and starting with a new team. Zach Wilson will rely heavily on Davis as his big target as the rookie gets his feet wet in the NFL. Davis' NFL contract is one of the more affordable ones, considering his potential on the field.
DE Carl Lawson - 3 years/ $45 million - $30 million guaranteed
Lawson was given a huge contract, but it still qualifies as one of the best NFL contract negotiations for the Jets. Playing in Cincinnati, Lawson seems to have been under the radar as a top pass rusher. The former 4th-round pick could easily make the Pro Bowl and All-Team this year, despite having just 5.5 sacks last year.
DT Foley Fatukasi - 4 years/ $2.6 million - $174,253 guaranteed
Speaking of under-the-radar players, Foley is a former sixth-round selection who is panning out to be an elite nose tackle. According to PFF, Foley had the third-highest run-defense grade by an IDL since 2019. Aaron Donald and Cam Heyward were ahead of him.
DE Vinny Curry - 1 year/ $1.3 million - $1.075 million guaranteed
Lawson's signing pairs well with Curry's. Coming off the line at opposite ends gives the Jets a formidable defensive line. Curry is 32 but has been durable throughout his career and could probably produce for another year. He'll be helping the younger men along the way as well, which is not bad for a $1 million value.
TE Tyler Kroft - 1 year/ $2 million - $1.5 million guaranteed
Chris Herndon seems to be in the hot seat with the coaching staff, and Tyler Kroft is looking better than him on the field this off-season. Kroft could steal the starting job, and the Jets need a TE who excels in blocking.
Five best NFL contracts - AFC North
DT Brandon Williams - 5 years/ $52.5 million - $33.75 million guaranteed
Williams is entering the final year of his NFL contract deal and is playing as arguably the best run-stuffing tackle in the league. He's 32 and can still be an elite player as a pivotal piece of this defense. He almost became a cap casualty this season but is worth $10.5 million per year. If Big Baby is open to a hometown discount, it would be beneficial for all parties.
TE Josh Oliver- 4 years/ $4.25 million - $1.1 million guaranteed
Nick Boyle has been sidelined with a knee injury, allowing the former Jaguar to shine as a consistent receiver in camp. Oliver could be a cheaper running mate with TE Mark Andrews and have a career year in the process.
WR Sammy Watkins - 1 year/ $5 million - $5 million guaranteed
After a rough start in camp, Watkins is looking like a true 1,000-yard receiver. He's on a cheap 'prove it' NFL contract and Lamar Jackson has been missing that elite deep threat along the sideline. Watkins seems to be quicker than Hollywood Brown.
T Alejandro Villanueva - 2 years/ $14 million - $8 million guaranteed
The former Steeler decided to sign with the 'enemy' in the off-season and may make his earlier team regret letting him walk. He's been getting nothing but praise from John Harbaugh and seems in line to win the starting spot at RT. Villanueva was known for improving the Steelers' run game early into his stint and could help Baltimore continue to pound the defense with their run game.
RB Gus Edwards - 2 years/ $9 million - $3.75 million guaranteed
JK Dobbins will lose some snaps to Gus Edwards, who deserves any snaps given to him. Edwards just signed a two-year extension NFL contract and is too productive to allow Dobbins to be the lead back.
WR Tyler Boyd - 4 years/ $43 million - $17.3 million guaranteed
Boyd had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before starting just eight games last year. With Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins around, hopefully, Boyd will find less pressure to allow him to eclipse 1,000 yards again. Joe Burrow is healthy and ready to sling the ball downfield.
CB Mike Hilton - 4 years/ $24 million - $6 million guaranteed
Another cap casualty for the Steelers, Hilton, will likely be a nickel corner for the Bengals. He had a fabulous season last year and will be a bargain starter for the revamped Bengals' secondary.
SS Vonn Bell - 3 years/ $18 million - $3 million guaranteed
Bell had a quiet year in 2020 but hopes to hit new strides with new faces around him. The former Saint will have better players around him and should have a much better outing this time around.
FS Ricardo Allen - 1 year/ $1.49 million - $400,00 guaranteed
Allen fell into the lap of the Bengals, getting a young accomplished DB for pennies on the dollar.
CB Eli Apple - 1 year/ $1.2 million
Eli Apple has bounced around the NFL and landed in Cincy with a 'prove it' NFL contract. With a lot of new faces in the secondary, Apple could have a reset and fit in a rotation of backups.
WR Jarvis Landry - 5 year/ $75.5 million - $47 million guaranteed
Odell Beckham Jr's fate is unknown at this point, and Landry could be the lone superstar for Baker Mayfield. If OBJ does leave town, Landry could see more targets and have another 1,000-yard season. If he stays and is as good as people say he is this year, Landry will have a partner to take some pressure off him and carve up defenses. Either way, 2021 is set to be good for Jarvis Landry.
RT Jack Conklin - 3 years/ $42 million - $30 million guaranteed
Conklin left Tennessee to find his big NFL contract. Luckily, it was on the team with a dynamic backfield. With Nick Chubb out, Kareem Hunt will have to manage the load, and the offensive line has to remain steady. It's a good thing the Browns have Conklin to help anchor the line and make Hunt look good.
RB Kareem Hunt - 2 years/ $12 million - $5.5 million guaranteed
Speaking of Hunt, he seems to have found himself in Cleveland. Once a superstar going down a dark road, he is now on the verge of being the lead runner once more. Nick Chubb seems to be out most of the season, if not all. With just a $6 million cap hit, Hunt could be a cheap alternate and could warrant a big contract elsewhere in 2022.
DE Jadeveon Clowney - 1 year/ $8 million - $7 million guaranteed
Clowney sees the fit with the Browns as a no-brainer and has found his dream teammate in Myles Garrett. Now healthy, Clowney could easily outplay his $8 million NFL contract within the first half of the season. If he can have the same success Olivier Vernon has had, Clowney could be looking at a big final contract next year.
DT Malik Jackson - 1 year/ $3.75 million - $3.6 million guaranteed
This signing was a bit controversial since Jackson is over 30 and had a rocky few years. The main reason behind bringing in Jackson was to for him to be the leader of the defense, as the linebackers around him are much younger and fresher in the league. It was a great signing, bringing the experience and leadership the Browns are in dire need of.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick - 4 years/ $16.4 million - $16.4 million guaranteed
Pittsburgh gave up a first-round pick to Miami for Fitzpatrick, who turned out to be a great trade. Minkah has easily been one of the best players under 25 in the NFL over the last two years. The Steelers get at least two more years of small paychecks for great talent. His future with the team is unknown, though.
QB Ben Roethlisberger - 1 year/ $14 million - $12.9 million guaranteed
Roethlisberger is now in the middle of the pack in his yearly pay compared to other QBs. That's the perfect scenario for both parties. If he plays like he did last year during their 11-0 run, they'll get their money's worth. If he has had a down year and is truly past his prime, then it wouldn't be a financial crisis.
WR Juju Smith-Schuster - 1 year/ $8 million - $7 million guaranteed
Everyone thought Juju was going to leave town and take the money. Instead, he did the admirable thing and took a large pay cut to stay with his team until they could pay him next year. With Chase Claypool emerging as a great WR2, hopefully, he can emerge as a phoenix and have a successful season.
DE Tyson Alualu - 2 years/ $5.5 million - $1.9 million guaranteed
Alualu was all but signed to the Jaguars before turning around and staying in Pittsburgh. Despite being 34, he was a centerpiece of the defensive line and crucial against the run. It is good to see a player like him finish out his career on a dynamic defense.
QB Mason Rudolph - 1 year/ $5 million - $2.09 million guaranteed
Rudolph signed an extension last year, and it seems Pittsburgh is keen to go with him after Ben retires. He's had an inconsistent career with Pittsburgh so far and is at least a fairly priced backup who knows the playbook.
Five best NFL contracts - AFC South
WR Brandin Cooks - 5 years/ $81 million - $49.5 million guaranteed
Whether Deshaun Watson plays or Tyrod Taylor has to start, at least Cooks is there for a reliable veteran receiver. He led the team in yards and receptions and all for a reasonable average price.
QB Tyrod Taylor - 1 year/ $5.5 million - $2.5 million guaranteed
It seems like the mysterious procedure that cost him his job with the Chargers was long ago. Taylor might get to see redemption for his NFL career should Deshaun Watson step away from the game. For just over $5 million, the Texans would get an experienced starter, should that happen.
RB Phillip Lindsay - 1 year/ $3.25 million - $1 million guaranteed
It's unclear who the starter will be by Week 1, although David Johnson is the only one too expensive to cut. Lindsay is younger and had two 1,000-yard NFL seasons with Denver. The Texans could end up with a cheap stud as their featured guy.
CB Vernon Hargreaves - 1 year/ $2 million - $500,000 guaranteed
The Texans are fond of Hargreaves and his versatility in the secondary. With a change to a 4-3 base this year, it's the perfect situation for Hargreaves to thrive with the Texans. Factor in Bradley Roby's suspension, and he could be a non-risk starter.
DT Maliek Collins - 1 year/ $5 million - $2 million guaranteed
With the change to the Tampa 2 defense, Collins knows how to play the pivotal role of tackle. He's still only 25 and could count this as a 'tryout' for a long-term deal with Houston. The future of the D-line is uncertain, and there is plenty of young potential.
LT Eric Fisher - 1 year/ $8.4 million - $6 million guaranteed
The Colts have put their trust in Eric Fisher being able to cover Carson Wentz and be their ticket to the Super Bowl. The offense around Wentz is young and talented. A key position on the o-line is a proven veteran on a decent NFL contract that won't hurt Indy financially.
WR TY Hilton - 1 year/ $8 million - $8 million guaranteed
Hilton's career in Indy seems to have stalled, and this is a smart contract for the Colts. If Hilton can once again prove to be a long-term WR1, they'll get him on a bargain before deciding to pay him a large sum. If he falters, they would cut their losses and move on.
TE Mo Alie-Cox - 1 year/ $3.4 million
Mo Alie-Cox has been named one of Indy's most underappreciated players. He doubled his stats in one year and seems to be emerging as a potential TE1. Jack Doyle is better suited as a run-blocker at this point and could aid Alie-Cox, with Wentz running multiple TE sets.
LS Luke Rhodes - 4 years/ $4.85 million - $1.25 million guaranteed
Why is a long-snapper on this list? With one of the best kicker competitions we have had in years, having a reliable long-term LS is key to picking the right man.
DT DeForest Buckner - 4 years/ $84 million - $44.38 million guaranteed
To succeed in offense, you need to be successful in defense. Last year, Buckner had 9.5 sacks and looks set to improve that in year two. He is ranked as the fourth-best DT in the NFL right now.
CB Shaquill Griffin - 3 years/ $40 million - $29 million guaranteed
Griffin has been praised for his leadership on and off the field. He seems like a natural fit in the defensive scheme. At 25, he will, hopefully, be a cornerstone for the Jags for years to come.
TE Chris Manhertz - 2 years/ $6.65 million - $4.25 million guaranteed
Manhertz has started to shed away from being just a blocker and is showing promise as a receiver. He looks quicker this year and should finally fit into the role of TE1.
WR Phillip Dorsett - 1 year/ $1.1 million
Another bargain player blossoming was Dorsett, who was close to being on the chopping block. He has matured with his speed and has found hands and body control to match.
DT Roy Robertson-Harris - 3 years/ $23.4 million - $14 million guaranteed
Roy Robertston-Harris had a quiet NFL career in Chicago and seems poised to break out. He has got the traits and style to rush the passer from multiple angles and alignments. The hope is that he can contribute in pass coverage and be a focal point in the defense.
LT Cam Robinson - 1 year/ $13.75 million - $13.75 million guaranteed
Robinson could be gone for good after this season, so the Jaguars will hope to get all they can out of him. With a rookie QB, you would want the best to protect him, and that is currently still Robinson. They likely won't give him a multi-year NFL contract.
OLB Bud Dupree - 5 years/ $82.5 million - $35 million
The Titans needed a true pass rusher to round out the defense and found one in Dupree. The Steelers couldn't pay him a sizeable NFL contract even though he was worth every dime. His tally of 19.5 sacks in his last two NFL seasons is what the Titans need after they had just 19 sacks in all of 2020.
WR Julio Jones - 3 years/ $66 million - $64 million guaranteed
Tennessee also needed another threat at WR and got an NFL contract inked for Julio Jones. With AJ Brown, Jones won't have to push as hard as he did in Atlanta and will be comfortable with being a WR2. He'll be able to maximize his production and stay away from injury too.
LT Taylor Lewan - 5 years/ $80 million - $50 million guaranteed
Once Lewan is finished with rehab and back on the field, this will make sense as a great NFL contract. Lewan is a three-time Pro Bowler and a crucial part in making Derrick Henry successful and keeping Ryan Tannehill safe.
RB Derrick Henry - 4 years/ $50 million - $25.5 million guaranteed
It seems like an obvious answer. Henry's NFL contract is up in 2024, and he will be 30. With his style of play, it's likely that he will be past his prime and starting to slow. The Titans are going to be able to get their money's worth out of him and not be stuck with the shell of an athlete.
DE Denico Autry - 3 years/ $21.5 million - $9 million guaranteed
Autry is coming to Tennessee to bolster the pass-rush and should help with the lack of sacks. He had the 12th -est sack score of all IDLs in the NFL last year.
Five best NFL contracts - AFC West
CB Kyle Fuller - 1 year/ $9.5 million - $9 million guaranteed
Fuller had a great showing with Chicago and comes to Denver in hopes of continuing his momentum. There is some competition now, with Pat Surtain behind him. If he does lose his starting role, the Broncos still have a talented CB on an affordable NFL contract.
RB Melvin Gordon - 2 years/ $16 million - $13.5 million guaranteed
Gordon is labeled as the starter for now, but it's Javonte Williams' to take. The former Charger seems poised to be a starter throughout the NFL season and looks as if he's in prime shape. There's a high probability that Williams may not fully take over this year, so Gordon is a good RB to have till then.
DT Shelby Harris - 3 years/ $27 million - $15 million guaranteed
Harris has a new NFL contract and returns to a system he's familiar with. He's not a sack machine but focuses more against the run. In their division, a strong DT is needed.
CB Ronald Darby - 3 years/ $30 million - $19.5 million guaranteed
Darby is in his fourth team in seven years and is looking to make a big impact with Denver. He had zero INTs last year but was productive and forced a league-best 20 incompletions.
WR Tim Patrick - 1 year/ $3.38 million
In just his third NFL season, Patrick tripled his production from year two and had six touchdowns. He isn't in the starting lineup but played well enough to see ample field time and could even jump KJ Hamler in the lineup.
Kansas City Chiefs
WR Tyreek Hill - 3 years/ $54 million - $35 million guaranteed
Hill has been a superstar in KC for years and scored a career-high 15 TDs last season. He's in the midst of playing out his extension, and it's good for a top team to not have to worry about a superstar's NFL contract.
FS Tyrann Mathieu - 3 years/ $42 million - $26.8 million guaranteed
The Honey Badger had a career-high six INTs last season and should fulfill his dream by retiring as a Chief. Kansas City won't have a suitable replacement if he walks after this season, so it would be wise to give him another relatable NFL contract.
QB Chad Henne - 2 years/ $3.25 million - $2.75 million guaranteed
Yes, a backup QB has made the list. Henne has been one of the most reliable backups and is a warrior on the sideline and in team meetings. People tend to underappreciate the backups, but Henne deserves respect and another NFL contract.
G Joe Thuney - 5 years/ $80 million - $46.9 million guaranteed
Kyle Long's injury makes this signing even more important, giving the Chiefs at least one solid guard. RG is uncertain for the future, but Thuney should be a mainstay for years to come.
T Orlando Brown Jr. - 4 years/ $3.5 million - $865,720 guaranteed
The Chiefs traded for Brown and will get at least a year of a bargain NFL contract. They gave up draft capital for Brown, but he is worth a first-round pick (similar to what the Steelers did with Minkah Fitzpatrick).
Las Vegas Raiders
DE Carl Nassib - 3 years/ $25.25 million - $16.75 million guaranteed
Nassib is a solid pass-rusher and great against the run. His cap hit is a bit large for his role and spot in the depth chart, but he is very versatile.
TE Darren Waller - 4 years/ $29.8 million - $10.6 million guaranteed
Waller had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and 12 TDs during that period. He has been Derek Carr's favorite target and is worth way more than his $7.5 million yearly salary from his NFL contract.
QB Marcus Mariota - 1 year/ $3.5 million - $3.5 million guaranteed
Mariota stepped in for an injured Derek Carr and showed the NFL he can still play and run an offense effectively. He was ranked as one of the top backups in the NFL. If the Raiders happen to move on from Carr, they have a very nice bridge QB in their pocket. In a worst-case scenario, he could land a solid NFL contract elsewhere.
DE Solomon Thomas - 1 year/ $3.25 million - $2.7 million guaranteed
Solomon Thomas will be given a chance to only focus on DT and play off the talented edge rushes around him. He has the potential to be the 'Comeback Player of the Year', if things work out. He's young and could have a large contract awaiting him.
CB Casey Hayward - 1 year/ $2.5 million - $2.5 million guaranteed
Hayward's veteran presence is one of his biggest traits, with so many young players in the secondary. His 74.2 passer rating allowed since 2012 is ranked third, and he has a 15.4% completion rate, which ranks first since 2012.
Los Angeles Chargers
RT Matt Feiler - 3 years/ $21 million - $14.5 million guaranteed
Feiler is known for being quite a versatile lineman and was ranked the 32nd-best guard in the NFL last year. It's impressive for someone who didn't start every game and played in different positions.
C Corey Linsley - 5 years/ $62.5 million - $26 million guaranteed
The former Green Bay star signed a large NFL contract with the Chargers and gave a major boost to the offensive line. Herbert should thrive off this new addition, as well as the run game.
TE Jared Cook - 1 year/ $4.5 million - $4.5 million guaranteed
Cook is 34 and should be hanging up any day now, but he's billed as the TE1 for LA and is talented enough to be a security blanket for Herbert.
WR Tyron Johnson - 2 years/ $1.4 million
Mike Williams seems to be on his way out after this year, especially if Tyron Johnson continues to improve. He has 4.3 speed and could crack into the starting lineup if things shake out right.
K Michael Badgley - 1 year/ $1.1 million
Badgley has regressed over the years and is only on a one-year NFL contract. There are two other kickers in the roster right now. If Badgley does get one more shot, he'll need to hit at least 82% of his FGs, or he could be cut loose. There's no risk in cutting him past this year.
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