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Which 2017 NFL first-rounders should get paid next?

Which 2017 NFL first-rounders should get paid next?
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Patrick Mahomes broke both the bank and the internet, quite literally. The Kansas City Chiefs superstar signed a brand-new 10-year, $503 million extension that will keep him at Arrowhead through the 2031 season, but the question is, which 2017 NFL first-rounders should be paid next?

Two years after hoisting an MVP title and a Lombardi Trophy, Mahomes will earn over half of billion dollars to keep the franchise relevant. But while KC fans and critics will rejoice or curse the 24-year-old swimming in the dough like Scrooge McDuck, the attention turns back to the 2017 NFL Draft class. 

Several stars like Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, Detroit’s Kenny Golladay, or San Francisco’s George Kittle will have to be paid this offseason, players from the first round still have their fifth-year option. Keep in mind Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Mahomes all were paid after their third year, yet they are still under rookie deals. But while still affordable, teams might feel the pressure to extend stars now and pay later rather than have their worth expand thanks to a record-setting season.

I.E., Dak Prescott.

Fourteen of the 32 first-round prospects will be up for a contract extension after having their options declined. Even in a breakout year, don’t expect the megadeals to come their way anytime soon. The 18 other rising stars will have another year to prove their worth and add a few more dollar signs to their next check.

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Which 2017 first-round picks are set for a contract extension?

Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

From one quarterback to another, Deshaun Watson certainly made his intentions clear to be paid on Monday evening. Granted, the Texans won’t have to pay him until 2022, but with each touchdown thrown, another zero will be added to the end of the paycheck. Going 24-13 as the starter while throwing back-to-back 26 touchdown season, the former Clemson star is one win away from being the all-time leader in playoff wins for the franchise.

The Texans traded away their top wideout DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. Watson’s arsenal includes a past-prime running back and several question marks as the wide receiver position. If Houston somehow picks up their third consecutive AFC South title, Watson could roughly earn $40 million per season. Bill O’Brien would be smart to pay the Pro Bowl QB his asking price now before it only erupts after 2021.

Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett 

If you were to take out the Mason Rudolph incident, Myles Garrett would easily be the next name to be paid this offseason. Since being drafted No.1, the former Texas A&M sensation has proven that despite two Pro Bowl quarterbacks were available, he might have been the right call. A Pro Bowl, All-Pro nod, and 30.5 sacks later, Garrett certainly has passed the top pick expectations.

Related | What are the factors impacting a Myles Garrett extension in 2020?

The Browns recently restructured Olivier Vernon’s contract, likely leading to their exit on the Jadeveon Clowney race. With the money saved, Andrew Berry will likely start negotiating a deal with Garrett long-term to make him one – if not the highest-paid – pass rusher. Cleveland has missed plenty with their first-round picks in the past, so letting Garrett walk would be almost a more significant mistake for the retooled franchise.

Pittsburgh Steelers OLB T.J. Watt 

Pass rushers will always be offered the massive deals thanks to their ability to terrorize the backfield. Much like older brother J.J., T.J. Watt has been the Steelers’ face on defense since looking like a steal with the No.30 pick. Over the past two years, the 25-year-old has tallied at least 13 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and six forced fumbles, leading the NFL with eight in 2019.

Pittsburgh has always identified itself as a defensive force, dubbing the “Steel Curtain” persona. The franchise will have one year to decide if Bud Dupree will stick around with a unit that includes Watt, Cameron Heyward, Joe Haden, and rising stars Devin Bush Jr. and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If the Steelers let him walk, that frees up space to give the potential future Defensive Player of the Year a contract well above the average mark.

Buffalo Bills CB Tre’Davious White 

They say nailing your first pick says plenty on an NFL coach’s tenure. If that’s the case, Sean McDermott might be sticking around with the Bills thanks to the Tre’Davious White selection. Despite trading the No.10 pick that would become Mahomes, White has been a shutdown corner that has transformed him into one of the league’s elite defenders.

Three seasons into being Stephon Gillmore’s replacement, White has produced better numbers than the now New England Patriot. With 12 interceptions, 43 pass deflections, and an All-Pro nod on his young resume, the former LSU star had a record-setting year in 2019. While White was the final of five cornerbacks drafted in the first round, he should be the first to be paid a lucrative deal.

New Orleans Saints CB Marshon Lattimore 

Outside of White, Marshon Lattimore might be the most consistent cornerback from the 2017 class. A bonafide star since being drafted out of Ohio State, the Saints’ shutdown corner has finished with at least a dozen pass breakups and one interception during that time. Throw in the two Pro Bowl nods and Rookie of the Year honors; this should be a priority come free agency.

Covering stars like Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, and D.J. Moore six times a year a tall task. Lattimore has been the one cornerback who consistently puts a damper on the passing attack for the three NFC South squads when facing him on Sundays. The Saints will need to free some cap space, but expect Lattimore to be paid first as the division’s wide receivers should decide the standings for years to come.

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