As the salary cap continues to rise by about $10 million a year, star players continue to leapfrog one another with big-money deals. Who’s next? Here are 10 players likely to become very rich in the next 12-24 months:
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes: The league’s most dominant young player will inevitably become the highest-paid player in NFL history, but he’s still under contract for two more years. The Chiefs have to decide whether to give him a deal worth close to $40 million a year right now, or wait and risk owing him a lot more than that in 2021 or 2022.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: Prescott and the Cowboys have seemingly been negotiating his next contract for about two years. The two-time Pro Bowler’s 97-to-36 career touchdown-to-interception ratio should earn him a contract worth more than $30 million annually. He’s not as accomplished or talented as Mahomes, but he has more leverage with his rookie contract expired and the franchise tag in place.
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson: Watson is in the same position as Mahomes at the three-year mark, except he’s obviously also a lot less accomplished. It’s a little odd nobody is talking about his next deal, but Mahomes casts a large shadow. Among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 career pass attempts, the 24-year-old is the fourth-highest-rated passer in NFL history.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin: The 24-year-old is entering a contract year after exploding with 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019. Only Michael Thomas averaged more receiving yards per game than Godwin, who dropped just one pass on 121 targets. He might have to prove it for one more year, but if he does, he’ll make more than $20 million per season on his next deal.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle: In the last two seasons, the 2017 fifth-round pick has averaged a ridiculous 1,215 yards per season and 14.0 yards per reception. He was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and a first-team All-Pro in 2019. Considering he’s only 26 ahead of a walk year, he’ll almost certainly become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history soon.
Baltimore Ravens OT Ronnie Stanley: The Notre Dame product doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he just became a first-team All-Pro at one of the game’s most important position ahead of a walk year at the age of 26. That’s perfect. The stars are aligned for Stanley to become the first $20-million-a-year offensive tackle in NFL history.
Los Angeles Chargers edge Joey Bosa: The two-time Pro Bowler and consistent game-wrecker looks like the next edge defender in line to get paid as he prepares for the option year in his rookie deal. He registered 31 quarterback hits as a 16-game starter in his age-24 2019 campaign, and one strong year should give him a chance to push for Khalil Mack money in 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones: The game’s best interior defensive lineman not named Aaron Donald is one huge year on the franchise tag away from making as much as Donald did three years earlier ($22.5 million a season). Cap inflation helps.
Buffalo Bills CB Tre’Davious White: The game’s best young cornerback is one of just three NFL players with more than 10 picks and more than 40 passes defended since coming into the NFL in 2017. Problem is, he still has two years remaining on his rookie deal. If he can build on an All-Pro 2019 campaign, he’ll likely command at least $18 million per year.
New York Jets S Jamal Adams: A product of the same round of the same draft class as White, Adams also became an All-Pro safety in 2019. He might already be the best safety in the NFL. In a year or two, he’ll land a deal worth at least $16 million per season.