Shoutout to DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys for becoming the third-highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. But that won’t last long. 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 eight players likely to become very rich in the next 12-24 months.
1. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
The 30-year-old Super Bowl champ is one of the most clutch players in the league, and now he’s entering a contract year. It’s obvious he’s gunning to become the highest-paid player in NFL history. It’d be shocking if he weren’t making more than $30 million per season starting in 2020.
2. Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill
Since he wasn’t a first-round pick, there’ll be no fifth-year option for Hill in 2020. That means the All-Pro speedster could hit the market just beyond his 26th birthday next March. Regardless of whether the Chiefs let that happen, he’ll be in for big bucks. Unless he’s hit with the franchise tag, Hill will likely become the league’s first $20-million-a-year wide receiver.
3. New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas
Thomas is in the same position as Hill. The 2016 second-round pick doesn’t have a fifth-year option and is entering the final year of a rookie deal that has already included three 1,100-yard campaigns in as many years. If the 26-year-old builds on an All-Pro 2018 season, he’ll also push the $20 million mark in 2020.
4. Houston Texans EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
If Lawrence is worth $21 million a year right now, a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl season from Clowney at the age of 26 would give him a shot to make Khalil Mack-type money going forward. Mack makes $23.5 million a year, but he signed that deal when the salary cap was $177.2 million. When Clowney’s franchise tag expires next spring, the cap should be close to $200 million.
5. Indianapolis Colts OT Anthony Castonzo
It’s so hard to find steady, proven left tackles these days. It might be the thinnest position in the NFL. And the steady Castonzo is proven but still young for that position at age 30. If he hits the market when his contract expires next year, he’ll likely earn as much as Trent Brown, who recently signed a shocking deal with the Oakland Raiders worth $16.5 million a year.
6. Washington Redskins G Brandon Scherff
The 27-year-old two-time Pro Bowler continues to have Hall of Fame potential. If he can stay healthy in 2019, he’ll likely cash in and become the highest-paid interior offensive lineman in league history in 2020 (barring the franchise tag).
7. Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones
Teams love paying rising stars, and the converted safety is coming off a breakout season in which he was one of the best cornerbacks in football. He’s turning into a superstar as he enters his option year, and with another big campaign like that he’ll likely become the first corner in NFL history to earn more than $15 million a year.
8. Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner
You were shocked when off-ball linebacker C.J. Mosley landed a deal worth $17-million a year with the New York Jets? Mosley isn’t even in Wagner’s orbit. He and Luke Kuechly are the best two non-rushing linebackers in the league, and now the 28-year-old’s contract is slated to expire in the spring of 2020. He’ll likely command more than $20 million a year.