Where Deshaun Watson ranks among the 25 most expensive contracts in the NFL

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Browns have a new franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, and they paid handsomely to get him.

Watson will get a new five-year contract worth $ 230 million, which is fully guaranteed. That by far is the most guaranteed money ever given to a player in the NFL.

But where does his contract rank among the most expensive in the league?

There are a few ways to answer that question. Among them is total money and guaranteed money. But here, we’re looking at the average annual value of the player’s contract.

It’s not necessarily what the player gets every year. However, it’s a very good gauge of the value of a player and the contract they signed based on money and term.

Here is a look at the top 25 players in the NFL based on average annual value. All contract numbers are according to Spotrac.com.

24 (tied). DT DeForest Buckner, Colts ($ 21 million AAV)

The Colts gave up a premium to acquire Buckner from the 49ers and paid him big money with a four-year, $ 84-million contract. He has rewarded them with two great seasons.

Buckner was an All-Pro in 2020 and a Pro Bowler in 2021.

24 (tied). DE Leonard Williams, Giants ($ 21 million AAV)

Williams has developed nicely into a key piece for the Giants on defense. He will begin the 2022 season in the second year of a three-year contract worth $ 62 million.

If things go south for the Giants, however, they can get out of the contract after this season and only have to eat $ 8.3 million in dead cap.

23. OT Laremy Tunsil, Texans ($ 22 million AAV)

Tunsil enters the 2022 season in the second year of a three-year deal that paid him $ 66 million. He’s represented a stable presence on a team that has undergone a lot of turmoil over the past couple of seasons.

AP

22. DT Aaron Donald, Rams ($ 22.5 million AAV)

Donald might be the best defensive tackle in NFL history, and he finally got himself a Super Bowl ring this past season. He enters the 2022 season on the fourth year of a six-year contract worth $ 135 million.

He will turn 31 before the season but is still worth every penny.

21. OT David Bakhtiari, Packers ($ 23 million AAV)

Bakhtiari has two years left on a four-year contract that is paying him $ 92 million. But he played just one game last season and only 12 the year prior.

The Packers could free up about $ 21.4 million in cap space if he’s cut after the 2023 season.

20. OT Trent Williams, 49ers ($ 23.01 million AAV)

At 34, Williams is just entering the second season of a massive six-year deal worth roughly $ 138 million. But he’s still playing at a high level after being named an All-Pro in 2021 for the first time in his career.

The good news for the 49ers is that Williams’ contract is structured so that if Williams falls off, he can be let go for a decreasing cap hit each year. In fact, they could cut him prior to the 2026 season and free up more than $ 33 million in space.

18 (tied). DE Maxx Crosby, Raiders ($ 23.5 million AAV)

Crosby got handsomely rewarded for a breakout season with a four-year contract worth $ 94 million. He’s already had 25 sacks in his first three seasons and won’t turn 25 until Aug. 22. He’s got a chance to make his deal look like a bargain if he continues his trajectory.

18 (tied). OLB Khalil Mack, Chargers ($ 23.5 million AAV)

The Chargers have quite the talented, yet expensive pass-rush duo between Mack and Joey Bosa, who we’ll get to shortly. Mack has three years left on a six-year contract worth $ 141 million.

This year, he only had a cap hit of $ 8.75 million and his dead cap goes all the way down to $ 4.5 million in 2024, which is the final year of his contract.

16 (tied). QB Derek Carr, Raiders ($ 25 million AAV)

Now we get to the quarterbacks. Carr is in the last year of his five-year deal worth $ 125 million. But after the trade for Davante Adams, it’s very likely that Carr is going to get an extension and rocket further up this list in the months to come.

Myles Garrett

AP

16 (tied). DE Myles Garrett, Browns ($ 25 million AAV)

The big money is going to kick in soon for Garrett after he signed a five-year, $ 125 million deal after the 2020 season. $ 100 million of that money is guaranteed.

His cap hit is set to skyrocket from almost $ 13 million in 2022 to about $ 29.2 million in 2023.

15. OLB Joey Bosa, Chargers ($ 27 million AAV)

Here’s the other half of that expensive pass-rush duo of the Chargers. Bosa is entering the second year of his five-year deal worth $ 135 million, which includes $ 102 million guaranteed.

He’s been to the Pro Bowl three years in a row, which makes him worth the money.

14. QB Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers ($ 27.5 million AAV)

2022 is the final year of Garoppolo’s five-year, $ 137.5-million contract. If he gets traded as expected with Trey Lance waiting in the wings, the 49ers will only have to eat $ 1.4 million in dead cap.

13. WR Ahead of Adams, Raiders ($ 28 million AAV)

Adams got the big contract he was looking for and he gets to reunite with his former Fresno State teammate in Derek Carr. His new deal di lui in Las Vegas is a five-year deal worth $ 140 million, making him the highest-paid non-quarterback among offensive players.

TJ Watt

AP

12. OLB TJ Watt, Steelers (about $ 28 million AAV)

Watt may be the best pass rusher in the NFL, and he’s getting paid like it. He’s beginning the first year of a four-year contract worth just more than $ 112 million.

It’s a pretty significant raise for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. After Watt, it’s nothing but quarterbacks on this list.

11. QB Ryan Tannehill, Titans ($ 29.5 million AAV)

The rest of this list is a testament to how much quarterbacks are valued in the NFL. Tannehill is heading into the final two years of a four-year deal worth $ 118 million.

10. QB Matt Ryan, Colts ($ 30 million AAV)

Ryan is headed from one domed city to another after the Falcons dealt him to the Colts on Monday. He has two years left on a five-year deal worth $ 150 million.

But because he was traded, the Falcons had to eat a massive dead cap hit of more than $ 40.5 million.

9. QB Carson Wentz, Commanders ($ 32 million AAV)

After starting his career strong, Wentz got a massive payday in the form of a four-year, $ 128-million contract. But he’s been traded twice since he signed that contract.

Washington now has him for the final three years of the deal as Wentz tries again to revitalize his career.

8. QB Jared Goff, Lions ($ 33.5 million AAV)

It’s only fitting the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has an AAV larger than that of the No. 2 pick. Back when he was with the Rams, Los Angeles signed Goff to a four-year contract worth $ 134 million.

He’s now in Detroit and still has three years left on his deal.

7. QB Russell Wilson, Broncos ($ 35 million AAV)

Wilson heads to Denver with just two years left on a four-year contract worth $ 140 million. He also carries a cap hit of $ 24 million in 2022 and $ 27 million in 2023.

It will be interesting to see what the Broncos do with Wilson and a new contract going forward.

49ers Cowboys

AP

5 (tied). QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys ($ 40 million AAV)

After a long saga with the Cowboys, Prescott finally got his big payday before the 2021 season when he and the Cowboys agreed to a four-year, $ 160-million contract. His $ 126 million guaranteed by him is the sixth-most among players in the NFL.

5 (tied). QB Matthew Stafford, Rams ($ 40 million AAV)

Stafford helped the Rams win the Super Bowl this past season. The Rams in turn rewarded him with a four-year deal worth $ 160 million.

The deal keeps Stafford in Los Angeles until he’s 39.

4. QB Josh Allen, Bills (about $ 43 million AAV)

Allen was the first, and so far the only, quarterback from the 2018 draft class to get a second contract. It was a massive one as the Bills signed him to a six-year deal worth just more than $ 250 million, with $ 150 million guaranteed.

His ascendancy the past two seasons has been very impressive and he’s well worth this deal.

3. QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs ($ 45 million AAV)

The 10-year, $ 450-million deal that Mahomes signed back in July of 2020 raised a lot of eyebrows across the sports world. Players in the NFL usually don’t sign deals that long and for that much money in total.

But you can’t argue that Mahomes isn’t worth that deal. He’s led his team to four consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances and is probably the best QB in the league.

2. QB Deshaun Watson, Browns ($ 46 million AAV)

The Browns’ contract for Watson may have changed the quarterback market for the foreseeable future because it is fully guaranteed. The five-year, $ 230-million extension is far and away the most guaranteed money an NFL player has ever gotten.

Aaron Rodgers (about $ 150.8 million) is second on that list.

1. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers (about $ 50.3 million AAV)

After again flirting with leaving the Packers, Rodgers got the contract that will probably keep him in Green Bay for the rest of his career. He got a three-year contract for about $ 150.8 million this offseason.

Even though Rodgers’ contract is no longer the largest in terms of guaranteed money, he is still the only player in the NFL with an AAV greater than $ 50 million.

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