There are fewer than 30 days until the NFL Draft but it has already been a wild offseason. Not only have we seen a bunch of movement around the league at quarterback, but there have also been some pretty significant moves involving wide receivers, as well. Moves that the likes of Stefon Diggs and Terry McLaurin, perhaps, have taken notice.
Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, both of whom many consider to be among the best receivers in the NFL, not only changed teams but got lucrative new contracts, too. With the wide receiver market having been reset, we may see other big-name receivers in line for huge contracts of their own.
The madness really all started with Christian Kirk. The former Cardinals receiver was coming off a year in which he set career-highs in receptions (77) and receiving yards (982). While that’s a solid season, Kirk was usually more of a third option for the Cardinals in a receiver room that included DeAndre Hopkins and, until last year, Larry Fitzgerald. Even coming off one of his best seasons, he was never considered one of the league’s best.
Then the Jaguars dropped a bomb on the wide receiver free agency market.
Jacksonville signed Kirk, who was 26th in the NFL in receptions and 27th in receiving yards, to a four-year, $74 million deal. If a non-elite receiver like Kirk could secure that big of a payday, what was stopping some of the bigger names from locking in a nine-figure deal?
Well, the answer was nothing. Nothing was stopping them.
After the Kirk contract, the Packers and Chiefs knew there was no way they’d be able to sign Adams and Hill, respectively, to the extensions they’d now be looking for. Especially not with each team committing so much money to their quarterback. So, Green Bay traded Adams to the Raiders, where he got his massive $141.25 million extension for five years. The Chiefs followed suit soon after, and Hill cashed in with a four-year, $120 million contract himself.
Other wide receivers have taken notice and some locked into team-friendly deals now may be looking to get out. One of the most notable examples is Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs.
After the Hill trade, the Buffalo receiver took to Twitter, saying “It’s always business… never personal,” which left many wondering if he was unhappy with his current situation with the Bills. Diggs is still playing on the extension he signed with the Vikings in 2018: a five-year, $72 million deal for an average annual value of $14.4 million.
For a receiver as important to his team as Diggs is, that’s a very team-friendly deal. So team-friendly, in fact, that the Bills’ lead pass-catcher doesn’t even crack the top 20 in average annual contract value among all NFL receivers. To reiterate, Diggs, who led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards in 2020, is making less annually than Robby Anderson and Adam Thielen.
For now, Bills General Manager Brandon Beane doesn’t seem too worried.
“We’ve got Stefon for two years, so we know that,” he said. “At the right time we’ll work with his reps and see if there’s something to be done that works for him.
While the Bills technically do have Diggs under contract through 2023, who’s to say he doesn’t demand out to get a deal more akin to that of Adams’ or Hill’s? As the NFL becomes a more and more pass-heavy league, the value of having good receivers increases and teams are starting to pay up for the best of the best. Diggs is one of the next men in line to get paid what he’s owed.
Another receiver who will be getting a big pay raise soon, perhaps in this offseason or next, is the Commanders’ Terry McLaurin. In an organization that’s been filled with turmoil since he’s joined the team, McLaurin has been the one constant on the field.
The young receiver is entering his fourth year, coming off three straight seasons with over 900 receiving yards, including back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2020 and 2021. He’s also scored 16 touchdowns in that span. Those are some seriously impressive feats given the aforementioned turmoil in Washington. Off-the-field issues within the organization aside, Washington has had eight different quarterbacks throwing to McLaurin in just the three years he’s been in the NFL. His production never slowed.
With the wide receiver market completely reset, the Commanders may have a hard time keeping McLaurin around with an extension. Where he once may have been looking for a contract in the range of $15-18 million per year, he’s now likely worth $20 million or more annually.
We have already seen how different the wide receiver market is now, thanks to the Jaguars and Kirk, and how it has affected the movements of other elite wide receivers around the league. At this point, it’s only a matter of time before other receivers in that top tier get their bag.