NBA Free Agency Frenzy: NFL Players Worthy of a Max Contract

Photo: USA Today

From the constant swirling rumors to the insane levels of pettiness, there is no offseason that packs more entertainment than the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving are the three biggest names on the free agent market and all three are assured to receive a max contract.

A max contract is the highest total that a player can receive. The number hovers around $32 million a year, a value that's much higher than any position in the NFL, outside of quarterback. Despite that, all NBA contracts are fully guaranteed, which is a clear advantage over the only certain portions of guaranteed dollars included in NFL deals.

With that being said, with the NBA free agency frenzy scheduled to begin at 6 pm EST today, using the NBA's contract structure, what NFL players would be worthy of a max contract slot?

Here's my list:

Quarterback - Patrick Mahomes

Fresh off of a 50 touchdown and Offensive MVP campaign, Mahomes took the league by storm in his first year as a full-time starter. Officially eligible for a contact extension following next season, if he has a near repeat performance, it's realistic to think that he could be the first NFL player to receive a contract in excess of $200 million. From the Chiefs face of the franchise to the latest athlete to don the cover of Madden 20, there's no doubting his worth as a max contract player.

Other Candidates: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck


Running Back - Saquon Barkley

The selection of Barkley came with plenty of backlash and scrutiny, but there was hardly anything to complain about with the product on the field. Simply put, Barkley was special and quickly proved his worth as the No. 2 overall selection. Still relatively young and arguably already the best rusher in the game, Barkley would receive a max contract from most teams in the league that are in need at the position.

Other Candidates: Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara


Wide Receiver - DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown

There are plenty of possible mixtures here as the top two candidates, but not including Hopkins or Brown was impossible. The Texans receiver is coming off of a season where he recorded 115 receptions and zero drops. While it has been a tumultuous offseason for Brown, his talent on the field has never been the question. Many still would crown him as the best in the game. Because of their effects on the offense, both would be fully deserving of a max contract.

Other Candidates: Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Michael Thomas, and Mike Evans


Tight End - Travis Kelce

Kelce has long been considered arguably the best tight end in the business. Praised for his versatility and being a consistent threat as a pass catcher combined with run blocking, he's the top choice here for the tight end group even though there's a fair argument for a couple others.

Other Candidates: Zach Ertz and George Kittle


Offensive Tackle - David Baktiari and Tyron Smith

Offensive tackle rankings are always a fluctuating list due to the difficulties of consistency on a yearly basis. Tyron Smith has battled injuries that have sidelined him for a couple games each of the past few seasons, but he's still the best in the business when healthy. Baktiari is considered by many as the best left tackle in the game. Quietly getting the job done, there's little worries about the blindside of Aaron Rodgers. Taking that into consideration, they were the top two options here.

Other Candidates: Trent Williams, Mitchell Schwartz, and Lane Johnson


Guard - Zack Martin and Quenton Nelson

One of the younger combinations on this list, Martin and Nelson are without question two of the best guards in the league. After being the No. 6 overall pick of the 2018 draft, Nelson has quickly established himself as a foundational piece and Martin has been the model of consistency since suiting up for the Cowboys.

Other Candidates: David DeCastro, Kevin Zeitler, Brandon Scherff, Marshall Yanda, and Shaq Mason


Center - Jason Kelce

Known for his nimbleness and athleticism, Kelce's presence alone has helped uplift the Eagles offensive front into one of the best units in the league. At the heart of the group, his leadership, movement skills, and consistency are what makes him worthy of a max slot.

Other Candidates: Travis Frederick and Alex Mack


Defensive Tackle - Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox

If there's one player throughout the league who's without question worthy of a max deal it is Aaron Donald. A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and four-time All-Pro selection, he is an unstoppable force on the interior. In a similar boat, Fletcher Cox is the anchor of the Eagles interior defensive front. His combination of size, athleticism, and craftiness makes him an easy and deserving candidate. 

Other Candidates: J.J.Watt and Akiem Hicks


Edge Rusher - Khalil Mack and Von Miller

Two of the leagues best, Mack took the league by storm following his trade to the Chicago Bears. The transaction and his effect on the entire unit showed just how much his presence can be felt. Miller on the other-hand exemplifies everything it means to be a true pass rusher. An added incentive of being a closer stamps his case as he seems to always come up with timely plays to seal victories for his team.

Other Candidates: Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, Myles Garrett, Cameron Jordan, Joey Bosa, DeMarcus Lawrence, Danielle Hunter, Jadeveon Clowney, and Frank Clark


Linebacker - Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, and Darius Leonard

Kuechly has been the staple of the Panthers defense since being drafted in 2012. As the clear leader and centerpiece, he has the sideline-to-sideline range that teams covet. After a rebuild on the fly in Seattle, Wagner has remained at the epicenter of Pete Carroll's defense. His versatility as a run defender as well as in coverage help him make the top of this list. After being a second-round selection a year ago, Leonard took the league by storm. Leading the NFL in tackles, he became a first-team All-Pro selection and has now positioned himself as one of the best young defenders in all of football. 

Other Candidates: Deion Jones, C.J. Mosley, and Jaylon Smith


Cornerback - Jalen Ramsey and Stephon Gilmore

Ramsey's 2017 season helped him elevate into elite status and he's been all of that and more since then. Known for his gigantic personality and no nonsense playing style, he's become one of the most popular players in the league. On the flip-side, Gilmore is the exact opposite. A true quiet assassin, there's a legit argument to be had that he's the best corner in the game right now, but because of his laid back nature, many NFL fans wouldn't recognize him with his helmet off.

Other Candidates: Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris, Jr., Darius Slay, Marshon Lattimore, Xavien Howard, Kyle Fuller, and Byron Jones


Safety - Jamal Adams and Derwin James

Adams has quickly become among the leagues best. He oozes confidence and his coverage skills, consistent tackling and value as a blitzer are evident. James has already proved to be one of the biggest steals of the first-round of last years draft. A true jack-of-all trades type of safety, he doesn't have to be labeled with a position because of the multitude of hats that he wears within the Chargers defense.


Other Candidates: Eddie Jackson, Malcolm Jenkins, Harrison Smith, and Earl Thomas






Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Jordan Reid is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Gaining experience from various lenses of the game, he has previously served as a college quarterback, position coach, and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina Central University. He now serves as a Color Commentator for FloSports, covering both high school and college football games around the country while also being the host of The Reid Option Podcast.

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