Money has been flying around the NFL this offseason. Lots and lots of unprecedented cash. Which leads me to ponder: Who ELSE deserves to get paid?
My mind immediately goes to the best players from the 2018 and '19 draft classes, those guys who remain on rookie deals that they've significantly outperformed.
Now, two names you won't find on the list below: DK Metcalf and Kyler Murray, a pair of 2019 draftees. Metcalf is worthy of big, fat extension ... but honestly, I think Seattle is undergoing a rebuild and should trade the big-bodied speed merchant. As for Murray, well, I'd like to see him finish a season strong for once in Arizona. And quite frankly, I think the 24-year-old has some maturing to do before the Cardinals make him the unquestioned face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
So, who does deserve an immediately financial windfall? Here's my list, Schein Nine style. As you'll see right off the bat, 49ers GM John Lynch could be very, very busy in the coming months.
I appreciated Kyle Shanahan's late-season rant on how Bosa should've been talked about more as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He's right. I couldn't believe I was only one of a handful of AP voters who gave Bosa a first-team All-Pro nod. The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2020. How'd he respond in 2021? Do 15.5 sacks and a league-high 21 tackles for loss sound good to you? Oh, and the guy added four more sacks in three playoff games.
Bosa is a rock, a star -- a freakin' rock star! He's the best player on a roster loaded with greats. Bosa sacks the quarterback, pressures the QB, stops the run, sets the tone. The price is only going up on one of the game's premier edge rushers. Fun fact: This bona fide game-wrecker doesn't even turn 25 until October!
Yeah, I know he recently scrubbed the 49ers from his social media. That's en vogue for young players seeking new money. I guess I'm officially the old man yelling at kids to GET OFF MY LAWN, because it's an action that strikes me as silly and, at this point, rote. But unless Deebo photoshops himself in a Rams jersey, he's going to get paid. And rightfully so. Samuel is a certified freak, both catching and running the ball. The man just racked up 1,405 receiving yards, led the NFL with an average of 18.2 yards per catch and scored eight rushing touchdowns. He's one of the most unique talents in the league today.
Back on radio row at the Super Bowl, Deebo spoke to me at length about how much he loves playing in San Francisco and playing for Shanahan. Meanwhile, Shanahan and Lynch both stressed their desire to get a long-term deal done last month. Samuel's gonna get his money -- the only question is when. And the answer: Probably after Bosa gets his.
OK, this situation's a little different. The Ravens, as they've repeatedly stated this offseason, absolutely want to pay Lamar. And Jackson, by all accounts, is quite happy in Baltimore. But the quarterback, who serves as his own agent, seems content approaching his contract on a year-to-year basis -- and thus, maximizing his earnings à la Kirk Cousins. Or LeBron James. Asked last month what he's learned from watching the NBA legend's career, Lamar provided quite a sound bite.
"Everything. Being a champion. I feel like that's the one thing I wanna take from him, if anything else. Being a champion and being a billionaire," Jackson said on UNINTERRUPTED's The Shop. "That's just what I've been thinking about since I was a little kid. Being a billionaire and being a champion."
That quote might raise some eyebrows, but in talking to Lamar on my SiriusXM Radio show last year, I never got that sense that he's at all distracted by contract talk -- or really anything. At age 25, Jackson already has an MVP under his belt, and his skill set remains one of the most electric we've ever seen. He's truly one of one. Yeah, the Ravens just missed the playoffs for the first time in the Lamar era, but they were hit with a wild rash of injuries. A mulligan is in order. If I'm Baltimore, I extend a blank check and see what kind of dollar figure would compel Jackson to sign. He's that good.
With Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill changing teams and concurrently resetting the receiver market this offseason, Brown's name recently came up in the trade rumor mill. But Titans head coach Mike Vrabel shut that down earlier this month.
"Not as long as I'm the head coach," Vrabel said when asked on The Rich Eisen Show if Brown was on the trade block. "I love A.J. professionally, personally. I've gotten to know him well as his coach and enjoy seeing him as much as I possibly can. Saw him here working out here earlier, said hi. As long as I'm the coach here, I would want to have A.J. Brown on my football team."
That mirrors what GM Jon Robinson has been saying. And no wonder: Brown is excellent, with 2,995 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons. And I'd argue he hasn't even reached his full potential yet. Scary thought, with Tennessee's loaded roster.
The Colts captain sets the tone in Indy with his energy, attitude and utterly dominant play. Say what you will about positional value, but Nelson is one of the best pure football players in the game today. In four NFL seasons, he's made four Pro Bowls. He's been first-team All-Pro three times, second-team once. He's become must-see TV as a left guard, for God's sake!
Do you think it's a coincidence that Nelson's running back just led the league in rushing by a whopping 552 yards? Jonathan Taylor is a spectacular individual talent, no doubt, but he'd be the first to heap praise on the road grader in the No. 56 jersey. And Nelson will be vital for new Colts quarterback Matt Ryan, who isn't exactly nimble of foot.
The 2019 first-rounder fully rounded into stardom this past season. If you don't believe me, ask Joe Burrow and the Bengals. Simmons absolutely terrorized the eventual AFC champions in a tight Divisional Round loss, racking up three sacks and eight total tackles in a dominant display for an interior defensive lineman.
Simmons is strong, physical and gets better every single year. At age 24, he was just one of the best players on the AFC's No. 1 seed. Like A.J. Brown on offense, Simmons is a true cornerstone of Tennessee's defense.
"Scary Terry" can flat out fly and make plays. The receiving numbers from his first three seasons -- 3,090 yards and 16 touchdowns -- are impressive in any context. But when you also consider the revolving cast of quarterbacks Washington has rolled out in this span, McLaurin's production is astounding. Imagine if the Commanders actually build a viable offense around him, one that forces opposing defenses to pay attention to players not wearing No. 17.
Earlier this month, Washington coach Ron Rivera downplayed the urgency for a new deal with the wideout.
"I think the biggest thing is just (telling) everybody patience," Rivera said to The Athletic. "We've got plenty of time."
Why wait? McLaurin's a great player and representative in the community. Those are big things, especially for a franchise that hasn't exactly showered itself in glory of late.
Has everyone been paying attention to what happens if you don't take care of your own guys in Green Bay in a timely manner? On the heels of the Davante Adams debacle, Alexander must be shown the love he richly deserves as one of the very best pure cover men in football. While a shoulder injury cost him much of the 2021 campaign, expectations heading into 2022 remain sky high. Just ask Packers GM Brian Gutekunst.
"With Ja, he's going to go where some of the receivers are going to go and he's going to follow those guys in different packages. He can do everything," Gutekunst said in March, via USA Today. "That's a nice luxury for us to have."
Having a guy who can do everything is indeed a nice luxury to have. So lock him up!
Carolina has struggled to earn national relevance in recent years, so non-Panthers fans will be forgiven if they're not privy to Mr. Burns' work. Since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2019, though, he has quickly established himself as one of the game's most talented young pass rushers, thanks largely to his blazing speed off the edge. His sack totals in Years 1 through 3: 7.5, 9 and 9. Fresh off his first Pro Bowl bid and about to turn 24, Burns seems destined for a legit breakout season where jumps well into the double-digits in sacks. If/when that happens, the price tag JUMPS.
Carolina's defense became solid last year. Keeping Burns around is vital to the Panthers' long-term success.