Friday marks the only major day of consequence left before the start of training camp, as teams are faced with the deadline to reach a contract extension with players who were designated with the franchise tag in March. If the respective parties can’t come to a deal before then, the players will be forced to play out the 2016 season under the tag. Last year, we saw mega-deals come to fruition on the day of the deadline, including the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, and Justin Houston inking new contracts. This year's class has just as much starpower hanging in the balance of these negotiations.
Here I’ll project whether each of the players can reach agreement on a new deal and for what value based on a combination of the latest news and reports, recent history, and each teams cap situation.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears
The Bears sure are going to pay the price for waiting to get this one done. The wide receiver market has exploded in the past calendar year after a slew of mega-deals reset the going rate for number one level receivers. Two years ago, Jeffery's former teammate Brandon Marshall signed a three year, $30 million extension. Jordy Nelson signed a deal in the same price range that summer. Both are arguably superior players to Jeffrey, but recent deals from T.Y. Hilton, Doug Baldwin, and Keenan Allen have raised the bar for second tier receivers. Ryan Pace hasn’t been in Chicago long enough for us to have a good inclination of how willing he is to compromise to retain top tier talent. Even though reports suggest an extension may be unlikely, the Bears lack of proven talent behind him should force them to retain their handgrown talent.
Projection: 5 Year, $67.5 Million Extension, $30 Million Guaranteed
Von Miller, Broncos
We’ve heard about this one all year long. This deal, or lack of therof, has caused ripples throughout the entire Broncos offseason, namely Brock Osweiler leaving for Houston in free agency and the lack of progress toward an Emmanuel Sanders extension. Miller is looking for a deal that will make him the highest paid non-quarterback ever, and deservedly so after his dominant performance during last year's Super Bowl run. The Broncos don’t have a ton of cap room to work with, but John Elway isn’t about to let a future Hall-of-Famer walk out the door. The two sides seem to be closing in on a deal, with many of the specifics seemingly set after the Fletcher Cox deal set the benchmark for upper echelon defensive players.
Projection: Six Year, $114.5 Million Extension, $68 Million Guaranteed
Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was one of the feel good stories of the 2015 season, winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award after battling cancer throughout the 2015 offseason. As much as he might mean to Kansas City, an extension seems unlikely. The two sides are reportedly not talking and still remain far apart on a new deal. The value for a high-end safety is north of $10 million per year after Earl Thomas and Harrison Smith signed new deals. The Chiefs just don’t have that kind of cap space — they're strapped over the next two years with less than $5 million available for 2017. The numbers don’t add up.
Projection: No Deal.
Muhammad Wilkerson, Jets
There's almost no way that this one is getting done. The Jets are strapped to the brim for cap space after Mike Maccagnan splurged last offseason to repair his depleted roster. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s potential new deal won’t help matters. Wilkerson is the best player on the Jets roster, but the team is loaded on the defensive line. They still need to get a new deal done with Sheldon Richardson and just spent the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Draft on Leonard Williams. Both sides still aren’t talking and Wilkerson has come out publicly to talk about his frustrations. He’s going to cost at least as much as Cox to lock up, which the Jets are in no place to do.
Projection: No Deal
Trumaine Johnson, Rams
With a dearth of picks at their disposal after the infamous RG III trade, the Rams built one of the most exciting defenses in the league almost exclusively through the draft, with Trumaine Johnson being one such pick. Even though the team still has the blockbuster Aaron Donald deal coming up in the next couple of years, as well as potential Greg Robinson and Tavon Austin extensions, they have plenty of cap room to work with. There isn’t a lot of information out there on negotiations yet, but it’d be surprising if Los Angeles let homegrown talent get out the door, especially with their lack of draft picks in the next two years.
Projection: 5 Years, $56 Million Extension, $20 Million Guaranteed
Justin Tucker, Ravens
I don’t have a hot take on this one. Expect the Ravens to lock up a building block-type player like they always do. Tucker is one of the best few kickers in the league, there’s no reason for Ozzie Newsome to let him get away.
Projection: 4 Years, $18 Million Extension, $7 Million Guaranteed
Kirk Cousins, Redskins
There’s no incentive for either side to get this deal done anytime soon. Kirk Cousins isn’t going to accept any lowball offer the Redskins might throw his way. His play over the back half of last season showed that he has the potential to perform at a high level when the surrounding talent is there, but the sample size is frighteningly small. Washington needs to wait and see if Cousins can be a franchise quarterback. If he proves to be that, they’ll have no problem signing him to a nine-figure contract extension. Signing him now risks putting the team in cap hell and, worse yet, quarterback purgatory.
Projection: No Deal