The list of highest-paid edge rushers has evolved continuously over the previous few NFL offseasons. Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, and T.J. Watt have reshaped the market at the upper end. With the top of the market now reaching average annual values (AAV) of around $30 million a year, which players make up the top 10 in terms of the highest-paid edge rushers in the NFL right now?
The highest-paid edge rushers in the NFL
We have already seen the list of highest-paid edge rushers change during the 2022 NFL offseason. Let’s take a look at how the landscape stands on March 9, 2022, in terms of the top 10 highest-paid players coming off the edge.
T9) Harold Landry III, Tennessee Titans | AAV: $17.5 million
Many people expected Harold Landry III to be on this list because he would be playing on the franchise tag in 2022. However, the Titans did not use the tag and instead agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $87.5 million with Landry.
In a somewhat strange twist, Landry would actually be higher on this list if he had been tagged. Nevertheless, Landry is getting $52.5 million in guaranteed money. Additionally, at just 25 years of age, Landry will potentially have another chance to negotiate a big contract in three or four years.
T9) Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints | AAV: $17.5 million
Tied for ninth in terms of the highest-paid edge rushers — but on the other end of the spectrum in their career — is Cameron Jordan. The 2022 season will be Jordan’s age-33 season, and he is due to count $23.181 million against the cap. The overall deal when Jordan signed it was a three-year contract extension worth $52.5 million.
The 2022 season is actually the first of those years of the contract extension. However, the deal has an intriguing structure. Jordan’s cap numbers in the next two years are $23 million, and then it drops to $10 million in 2024. Unless the Saints are contemplating moving on from Jordan next offseason, expect that deal to be restructured at least once, if not twice, before it is over.
8) Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions | AAV: $18 million
There’s no way of sugarcoating it. Trey Flowers’ contract was the product of a weak free agent EDGE class and an overzealous former Patriots coach trying to establish his culture in Detroit. The five-year, $90 million contract has somewhat hung around the neck of Flowers like an anchor ever since.
There’s a chance we see the Lions move on from Flowers ahead of the 2022 season. They could release him for $12.853 million in dead money. That would see them save more than $10 million in cap space this season and save them more than $17 million in cash in 2022 alone.
7) Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $20.8 million
We move swiftly on to another contract that the player has not really lived up to. Coming off a 14-sack season with the Seahawks in 2018, Frank Clark has managed just 18.5 sacks in the three seasons since being traded to the Chiefs. But the Chiefs will likely say the five-year, $104 million contract extension paid for itself when Clark had 5 sacks in the postseason run to winning their Super Bowl.
Kansas City has the opportunity to move on from Clark’s deal this offseason. He is due to count $26.3 million against the salary cap with $19 million in base salary. There is the option to restructure the deal and save some cap space. However, he already has a $27 million cap number in 2023, and anything they add in a restructure will make releasing him next year more costly.
T-5) DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $21 million
DeMarcus Lawrence is another player who has struggled to make an impact since signing his contract to put him in the mix along with the highest-paid edge rushers in the NFL. The overall terms of the deal were for five years worth $105 million. In the three years since the deal came into effect, Lawrence has just 14.5 sacks and only managed seven games in 2021.
He is much discussed as a potential cap casualty for the Cowboys. Still, with $19 million in dead money if they release him, a restructure might be a better option. Unfortunately, that would push a cap number that is already $29 million in 2023 over the $30 million mark. It would also increase the cost of the void year in 2024.
T-5) Leonard Williams, New York Giants | AAV: $21 million
The Giants initially franchise-tagged Leonard Williams in the 2021 offseason but later agreed on a three-year deal worth $63 million. The contract was an interesting one — Williams was coming off an 11.5-sack season in 2020, somewhat forcing the Giants’ hand.
The problem for the Giants is that they cost-controlled the first year with a $9.4 million cap number. Therefore, the bill now becomes due on this deal with a $27.3 million cap number in 2022. It will be interesting to see how the new regime in New York handles this contract. Do they restructure in 2022 and commit to keeping Williams in 2023, or do they ride out this year and move on next offseason?
4) Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears | AAV: $23.5 million
It seems like forever ago when Khalil Mack was traded to the Bears and signed his six-year, $141 million contract. For a while, that deal remained the benchmark for the EDGE market, but Mack has since been surpassed atop the list of highest-paid edge rushers.
The contract has already been restructured twice, and subsequently, the Bears are potentially in a tough situation with the pass rusher. He managed just seven games last year. And at 31 years old, he has a dead money charge of $24 million if he is released this offseason. However, his cap number of $30.15 million is massive. The question for the Bears is, do they restructure or bite the bullet and hope to move on next offseason?
3) Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns | AAV: $25 million
When Myles Garrett hit the $25 million/year mark with his new extension, there was some talk it would take a while to beat. Yet, he was soon surpassed as the highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL — not once but twice.
His five-year, $125 million extension does not really start to impact the Browns’ cap until next year. In 2022, his cap number is just $12.961 million.
However, in 2023 and onward, the average cap number is a touch below $30 million. In 2023 itself, that cap number jumps all the way to $29.176 million before climbing to $32.129 million in 2024.
Given the level of his play right now, it’s premature to talk about the Browns moving on. But if injuries start to bite as he heads towards 30 years old, this contract could look messy in the later years.
2) Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers | AAV: $27 million
Just two weeks after Garrett moved the market in terms of the highest-paid at EDGE, Joey Bosa took the level even higher. His five-year, $135 million contract contained a $35 million signing bonus and a total of $102 million in potential guarantees. The last of those guarantees comes into play when his 2023 salary ($24 million) becomes fully guaranteed on March 20, 2022.
Those guarantees ensure that Bosa will at least play out the first three years of this deal. The final two years of the deal will see Bosa with $22 million and $25.36 million in cash. However, with the way this EDGE market has moved recently, those numbers may seem like bargains for the Chargers.
Who is the highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL?
After taking less than two weeks to take the crown of the highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL, Bosa managed to hold onto it for over a year. However, it became apparent in the 2021 offseason that the deal would be surpassed. Let’s look at who surpassed it and why the deal is for fewer years than others on this list.
1) T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers | AAV: $28 million
T.J. Watt signed a four-year, $112 million contract a matter of days before the 2021 NFL season. At the time, he was entering the final year of his rookie contract. Thus, that extension will take effect officially from 2022. He received just over $35 million as a signing bonus and $80 million in guarantees.
The four-year element is intriguing compared to the others just below him on this list. On one hand, it seems like Watt could have gotten a fifth or sixth year. Nevertheless, he’ll be 31 when this deal ends and could even command a bigger number yet again. Pushing his free agency further into his 30s could hurt his earning potential on a third contract.