Two wide receivers’ blockbuster paydays have triggered a massive ripple effect across the NFL ocean, launching an offseason of discontent. Nothing happens in a vacuum in a league where respect and value are measured in dollar signs as much as touchdowns and championships.
That’s why a predictable scenario is unfolding for the stellar wide receiver class of 2019 — the Tennessee Titans’ A.J. Brown, the San Francisco 49ers’ Deebo Samuel, the Washington Commanders’ Terry McLaurin, and the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf. They are in the wake of recent market-defining deals that have left them seeking blockbuster deals of their own.
The news of blockbuster wide receiver deals has caused ripples around the NFL
That includes Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s $120 million contract and league-high $30 million average per year, Las Vegas wide receiver Davante Adams’ $140 million contract that averages $28 million annually, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ $54.5 million contract that averages $27.25 million a year, and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ $96 million contract that averages $24 million annually.
The fallout? A decision not to participate in voluntary offseason conditioning programs.
It’s an individual choice. Samuel and Brown have made decisions to not participate in the voluntary offseason conditioning programs. Metcalf plans to participate at this time. And McLaurin is attending workouts, although on a limited basis. Los Angeles Rams standout wide receiver Cooper Kupp plans to fully participate as he negotiates with the team on a third NFL contract after a breakthrough season.
They’re also regarded as a strategy. By withholding services at a time when there are no financial consequences (unlike training camp when $40,000 daily fines are incurred), there’s no risk involved for the player. There’s also less chance of suffering an injury while contract negotiations eventually unfold. In short, there’s no real reason for panic. Time is on the NFL teams and the agents representing the standout wide receivers’ side.
Skipping weightlifting sessions or deleting social media references to teams really doesn’t have a lot of teeth, but it does create a lot of headlines, drama, and angst from the teams’ respective fan bases.
NFL executive and agent predicts deals to unfold
One NFL executive not involved in these respective situations predicted Tuesday night that the following scenarios will unfold:
“I believe the Titans are absolutely going to pay A.J. Jon Robinson takes care of his guys, look at his track record. A.J. deserves a good deal. It’s just a matter of time before it happens. McLaurin, again, very deserving, very productive. Who else is Washington going to pay? That’s the guy. Clearly, that’s just a matter of figuring it all out and making the numbers work.
“Deebo is so crucial to Kyle Shanahan’s offense because he can do so many things. I can’t see them trading him, but I could see that situation being a problem. It’s all about compromises. From what I had heard, Metcalf is going to be there. There have been a lot of trade rumors about the Seahawks wanting to trade him. My understanding is that none of that was true.”
An NFL agent who doesn’t represent the wide receivers predicted that ultimately deals will be struck.
The salary cap, currently set for $208 million this year, could rise as high as $225 million next year.
“This is primarily happening now because of the other wide receiver contracts,” he said. “One guy gets paid, and the other players want more, the same or similar. The salary cap keeps going up, and the money is only going to go up higher and higher.”
Rookie deals are set to expire
Samuel, Brown, McLaurin, and Metcalf are all heading into the final year of their rookie contracts. Other than Metcalf and McLaurin, they’re not planning to participate.
An All-Pro selection, Samuel has a ton of value as a wide receiver who doubles as a running back. Would he be willing to make $25 million annually? Would the 49ers be willing to go to that number? Probably so. The 49ers rewarded tight end George Kittle previously with a five-year, $75 million contract.
Brown has been outspoken on social media about his situation, including writing on social media an apparent reaction to fans upset that he’s upset: “I’m a diva and a bad teammate all of a sudden, lol ok. Do what you have to do then and so will I.” Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons stuck up for Brown, replying to his tweet: “You deserve everything that God have in store for you! Never been a negative guy nor a bad teammate!”
Brown’s production has declined, but he has dealt with injuries and a slip in play from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He’s still an extremely valuable young player. Robinson already said during the NFL owners meetings that he is hopeful of signing Brown to an extension.
Metcalf has a lot to prove in the wake of Russell Wilson being traded to the Denver Broncos. Physically dominant, Metcalf has 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns since entering the league for the highest production of any of the class of 2019 wide receivers.
McLaurin, a former third-round draft pick, had 1,053 receiving yards last season for his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He caught 77 passes and 5 touchdowns.
A different approach from Kupp
Meanwhile, Kupp, due $14.5 million in 2022 and $14.25 million in 2023, is also in line for an extension.
Kupp doesn’t sound like a man determined to be the highest-paid at his position, though.
That’s despite leading the NFL with 145 catches, 1,947 yards, and 16 touchdowns before catching the game-winning touchdown in a Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and being named the MVP of the game.
“I don’t think that’s really kind of the approach that I take,” Kupp told Los Angeles reporters. “I definitely think there’s a place you want to be. There’s a place that you feel like is fair, a place for me and for this organization.
“I’m not trying to beat anybody. I’m not trying to compare myself to anyone else. It’s more about being in a place that’s just right for both sides.”