The landscape of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL seemingly shifts dramatically every single offseason. Who is the highest-paid WR in the NFL, and which other receivers round out the top 10 at the position?
The highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL | 6-10
Which wide receivers sit in the bottom half of the top 10 when it comes to average annual value (AAV)?
10) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | AAV: $16.5 million
Mike Evans’ five-year contract extension is worth $82.5 million. He received $38.3 million in guaranteed money at signing.
Entering 2021, Evans has three years left on his deal and will count $16.6 million against the cap. When he signed the deal, Evans was the third highest-paid WR in the league. Releasing Evans after the 2021 season would see the Buccaneers left with $8.8 million in dead money.
9) Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears | AAV: $17.88 million
After a turbulent few years in Chicago, the Bears somewhat shocked the NFL world when they franchise tagged Allen Robinson. While Robinson is a talented receiver, it seemed like the relationship had diminished to a point where the Bears would let him walk. However, Robinson is set to spend the 2021 season in Chicago, where he will count $17.88 million against the Bears’ salary cap.
T-6) Kenny Golladay, New York Giants | AAV: $18 million
After a long week of free agency, Kenny Golladay joins the list of highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. Golladay joins Tyreek Hill and Odell Beckham on the $18-million-a-year mark. Compared to the money that was handed out to other receivers in 2021 NFL free agency, Golladay has done extremely well. Golladay signed a four-year deal worth $72 million that could rise to $76 million. Of that $72 million, $40 million is guaranteed.
T-6) Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $18 million
The Kansas City Chiefs signed speedster Tyreek Hill to a three-year deal worth $54 million. The contract included $22.5 million in guaranteed money at signing (a total of $35 million in guaranteed money).
Hill has two more years remaining on his deal and will have a cap hit of $15.9 million in 2021. The Chiefs can realistically move on from Hill ahead of the 2021 or 2022 season with relatively limited dead money.
T-6) Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns | AAV: $18 million
When Odell Beckham signed his deal with the New York Giants, it had a value of $90 million across five years. At the time of signing the deal, Beckham topped the list of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. However, while the contract’s value is $18 million per year, the deal is significantly cheaper for the Browns.
When Beckham was traded from the Giants, they absorbed $16 million in dead money. Therefore, the Browns have Beckham on their books at $15.4 million per year across the life of the contract. In 2021, Odell Beckham will have a salary cap number of $15.8 million. After the 2021 season, the Browns can move on from Beckham without incurring any dead money on their salary cap.
The highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL | 2-5
Which wide receivers make up the top five in terms of the highest-paid at the position?
5) Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints | AAV: $19.25 million
Michael Thomas signed a five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth $96.3 million. However, the deal is heavily backloaded, with an average cap value of $21.2 million in the final four seasons.
Thomas will be the third-highest-paid wide receiver in terms of cap number in 2021 at $18.8 million. The Saints will struggle to move Thomas until after the 2022 season. Releasing or trading Thomas next offseason would incur $14 million in dead money.
4) Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $20 million
Last offseason, Amari Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million deal. Cooper became the first receiver to sign a $100 million deal in the history of the NFL. The balance of the deal sees Cooper’s cap hit sitting at $22 million in each of the final four years of the deal.
While that number makes him the second-highest-paid among wide receivers in terms of salary cap hit, the Cowboys do have an out in the deal after the 2021 NFL season. Releasing Cooper after 2021 would leave the Cowboys with just $6 million in dead money.
3) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers | AAV: $20.03 million
Allen is set to enter the first year of his four-year, $80.1 million contract extension. His cap number in 2021 sits at a relatively low $15.7 million. However, that number will climb to $19.2 million, $21.7 million, and $25.8 million over the next three seasons. Allen’s contract contained $26.5 million in guarantees at signing, with $43 million in total guarantees.
The Chargers could potentially release Allen after the 2021 season. Doing so would leave $8.1 million in dead money in 2022.
2) Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons | AAV: $22 million
The former highest-paid WR in the NFL struggled to stay on the field in 2020. After missing seven games through injury last season, Jones will be the highest-paid wide receiver in terms of cap number at $23.1 million in 2021. Jones’ deal is a three-year contract extension worth $66 million, with the first year of the deal being 2021.
The Falcons’ first real opportunity to move on from the deal would be ahead of the 2023 season. Even then, the Falcons would be left with $7.8 million in dead money.
Who is the highest-paid WR in the NFL?
1) DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals | AAV: $27.25 million
Topping the list of highest-paid wide receivers is Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins number averages out to an incredible $27.25 million per year across the two-year extension. However, the structure of the deal keeps Hopkins affordable in 2021. Hopkins will count just $12.5 million against the Cardinals’ salary cap in 2021.
In 2022, that number more than doubles to $25.1 million before climbing further to $27.2 million in 2023. Yet, the Cardinals have a potential out in the deal after 2022. The Cardinals would be left with $15.5 million in dead money but would save a further $34.4 million in cash over the deal’s final two years.
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