Drafting well is the most important component to building a competitive roster in the NFL. But when you draft good players, keeping them on your team as foundations of the roster is arguably just as important. This week’s 6-Pack details which six players who are playing under expiring contracts should sign long-term extensions this summer.
I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.
Let’s crack this thing open.
Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks
Get this done yesterday, Seattle. Remember the Earl Thomas thing…
Wagner is an elite football player, who is the face of Seattle’s defense. At 28 years old, Wagner has plenty of good football ahead of him and he’s been named to five consecutive Pro Bowls.
The Jets' five-year, $85 million deal with CJ Mosley redefined the market for linebackers but Seattle shouldn’t hesitate to make sure Wagner becomes the league’s highest paid second level defender in the very near future.
As it stands, Seattle has the most salary cap space available in 2020 (according to Spotrac) so there are no excuses for not getting this deal done.
Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
I love the influx of talent to the Chiefs’ defense this year, a unit that failed them in 2018. The additions of Alex Okafor, Frank Clark, Emmanuel Ogbah, Tyrann Mathieu along with draft picks Juan Thornhill and Khalen Saunders should change the dynamics of the defense. But the face of the unit? That belongs to superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones who racked up 15.5 sacks in 2018.
One of the most exciting, young defensive playmakers in the league, there is no way you let him sniff free agency. Kansas City does have some limitations when it comes to available salary cap space, but doing whatever it takes to accommodate the lucrative demands Jones will have should be a high priority. I’d get it done as soon as possible.
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Paired with Drew Brees, Thomas immediately became a No. 1 wide receiver for New Orleans and one of the NFL’s most prolific pass catchers. In just his first three seasons, Thomas has tallied 321 receptions for 3,787 yards and 23 touchdowns, increasing his totals in receptions and yards every season. Named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl in 2018, Thomas caught a league-high 125 passes.
Slated to have over $40 million in cap space (top-10 in the NFL) next season, working in Thomas should be no problem. Don’t fool around with the franchise tag, New Orleans, get one of the NFL’s brightest young offensive weapons locked up for the long haul.
Grady Jarrett, DT, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is living dangerously with its interior defensive line situation, but it does have one of the league's elite defensive tackles in Jarrett. A disruptive and rock-solid run defender, Jarrett had his best season in 2018 as a pass rusher proving he is a complete defender. Pressure up the middle comes at a premium in today’s NFL and Jarrett generates it at a high level.
Scheduled to play under the franchise tag, Atlanta has until July 15th to negotiate an extension with Jarrett. They’d be wise to do so.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
Once upon a time, the Houston Texans held the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft and selected a pass rusher from the Carolina’s by the name of Mario Williams. Houston let Williams walk in free agency and he went on to rack up 43 sacks in four seasons with his new team.
Don’t let history repeat itself, Houston. If you aren’t going to take your offensive line seriously, please invest in your pass rush and extend Clowney. Named to three consecutive Pro Bowls, Clowney dealt with injuries early in his career but has consecutive seasons of at least nine sacks.
Brandon Scherff, OL, Washington Redskins
Had it not been for a torn pec in Week Nine, Scherff would have strung together three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons after receiving those honors in 2016 and 2017. Washington has had issues retaining its own in recent years and inking Scherff to a long-term extension would go a long way in changing that narrative.
The No. 5 overall pick in 2015, Scherff is a dynamic run and pass blocker with no restrictions. And you don’t draft a guard in the top-five for him to become one of the best players at his position in the league and for him to walk after his rookie deal. Scherff’s earned a long-term extension and Washington should reward him this summer.