The heart of NFL free agency is now behind us, with the bulk of activity and major contracts having been signed in the past few days. Several moves have changed the financial landscape of the league, especially in terms of which players are the highest-paid at their respective positions.
What’s the new pecking order around the NFL? Which of these contracts could influence future contracts?
Here’s an updated look at the NFL players who make the largest average annual salaries at each position”
* Excluding current franchise tag recipients
Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($35M)
This has changed about a dozen times the last couple years, but it looks like Wilson could be locked in until Patrick Mahomes gets his new deal from the Chiefs. It would be surprising if Mahomes didn’t get close to $40 million a year.
Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys ($15 million)
Some figure Derrick Henry’s next contract will trump Elliott’s, but teams appear to be learning their lesson with running backs. None of the league’s nine highest-paid backs participated in the 2019 NFL playoffs.
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers ($5.3 million)
The four-time Pro Bowler is a tremendous difference-maker, but it’s still pretty wild that he makes almost twice as much as every other fullback in the league.
Wide receivers: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($22 million) / Amari Cooper, Cowboys ($20 million)
This really makes you think about how much freakin’ money Dallas is spending on its quarterback, running back, and No. 1 wide receiver. That said, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas probably deserve the top two spots.
Tight end: Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns ($10.5 million)
Hooper is rising, and he hit free agency at just the right time. But it won’t be long before he’s overtaken by George Kittle.
Left tackle: Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis Colts ($16.5 million)
The steady blind-side protector will be tasked with keeping Philip Rivers safe. He’s the anchor of the best offensive line in the NFL.
Left guard: Andrew Norwell, Jacksonville Jaguars ($13.3 million)
This big-money deal hasn’t exactly worked out for the Jags. Joe Thuney is about to make close to $15 million on the franchise tag.
Center: Rodney Hudson, Las Vegas Raiders ($11.3 million)
The steady 30-year-old is basically tied with Mitch Morse of the Bills ($11.1 million).
Right guard: Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles ($14.1 million)
He barely edges out Zack Martin ($14 million even), while Brandon Scherff is about to make close to $15 million on the franchise tag.
Right tackle: Lane Johnson, Eagles ($18 million)
The three-time Pro Bowler is worth every dollar in Philly. He ranks just ahead of Trent Brown of the Raiders ($16.5 million).
Edge-rushers: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears ($23.5 million) / DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys ($21 million)
It’s a little surprising this hasn’t changed this offseason, but Yannick Ngakoue and Shaquil Barrett are still dealing with franchise tags. It’s only a matter of time before a pass-rusher hits the $25 million mark. Watch for T.J. Watt next year.
Interior defensive linemen: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams ($22.5 million) / DeForest Buckner, Colts ($21 million)
Indianapolis is gambling that Buckner will become another Donald in a new setting. But watch for the tagged Chris Jones to trump that contract soon.
Off-ball linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Seahawks ($18 million) / C.J. Mosley, New York Jets ($17 million)
Now that Luke Kuechly has retired, these probably are the best two inside linebackers in the NFL. Mosley had a rough opening year with Gang Green, though.
Cornerbacks: Byron Jones, Miami Dolphins ($16.5 million) / Xavien Howard, Dolphins ($15.1 million)
Safe to say Dolphins head coach Brian Flores heavily values his defensive backfield.
Safeties: Eddie Jackson, Bears ($14.6 million) / Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans ($14.1 million)
Both are young studs, so there’s no big surprise here. Still, it won’t be long before Justin Simmons and Jamal Adams trump them.
Placekicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens ($5 million)
The league’s best team last regular season doesn’t have a single non-kicker on this list, which says a lot. Tucker is one of the best of all time, though, so there’s no questioning his $5 million average annual salary.
Punter: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints ($4 million)
This is also the Saints’ first appearance on this list, and they’re damn good too. Take note!
Multiple appearances: Cowboys (3), Seahawks (2), Colts (2), Bears (2), Eagles (2), Dolphins (2)