Who Are the Highest-Paid Defensive Tackles in the NFL in 2023?

Who are the highest-paid defensive tackles in the NFL heading into the 2023 season? Here are the top 10 DTs based on average annual salary.

Now that the 2023 NFL offseason has arrived, who are the highest-paid defensive tackles in the league? Interior defenders are rarely as paid as much as their edge-defending counterparts, but the top of the defensive tackle market has significantly increased in recent years. Which DTs have the NFL’s highest annual average value (AAV)?

Who Is the Highest-Paid Defensive Tackle in the NFL?

Aaron Donald is the best defensive tackle in the NFL and one of the greatest defensive players in league history, so it’s only fitting that he’s the highest-paid interior defender in terms of AAV at $31.67 million. After Donald indicated retirement was a possibility last offseason, the Rams — in an unprecedented move — essentially ripped up the three years and $57.3 million remaining on his contract and gave him a new three-year deal worth $95 million.

Donald has a $15 million roster bonus for 2023 that will guarantee on March 16. His 2023 $13.5 million salary for 2023 and $5 million roster bonus for 2024 will guarantee the following day. Donald’s 2024 salary and option bonus, totaling $30 million, will become guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2024 league year. His contract contains two void years in 2025 and 2026.

highest-paid defensive tackles

Highest Paid Defensive Tackles 2-10

2) Quinnen Williams, New York Jets | AAV: $24 million

Donald’s average annual value doesn’t figure to be topped any time soon, but Quinnen Wiliams is now the second-highest-paid defensive tackle in the league after agreeing to an extension with the Jets in July. Williams will receive $96 million over a four-year term, while his $66 million in total guarantees represent a new high-water mark among DTs.

Williams was already on the books for a $9.6 million cap figure in 2023 under the terms of his fifth-year option. With four additional years tacked onto his contract, Williams is now under contract in New York through the 2027 campaign.

3) Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans | AAV: $23.5 million

Fresh off back-to-back second-team All-Pro nods, Jeffery Simmons secured the bag from the Titans during the 2023 offseason. The former first-round pick landed a four-year, $94 million extension that includes the most fully guaranteed money ($47.83 million) of any defensive tackle in the NFL.

That guarantee is made up of a $24 million signing bonus, base salaries in 2023 ($1.33 million) and 2024 ($16.5 million), and a partial salary guarantee ($6 million) in 2025. The other $11.5 million of Simmons’ 2025 salary is already guaranteed for injury but will fully guarantee in March 2025, which should become a trigger point in the deal.

T-4) Daron Payne, Washington Commanders | AAV: $22.5 million

Although Donald’s contract with the Rams may be viewed as an outlier in NFL circles, Daron Payne helped the rest of the defensive tackle market when he agreed to a four-year, $90 million extension with the Commanders just before the start of free agency. Payne, who had been assigned the franchise tag, will receive $55.01 million guaranteed at signing.

Payne’s cap charge for 2023 will be $10.01 million, nearly half what it would have been on the franchise tender. His guarantees are comprised of his 2023 salary, 2023 workout bonus, 2024 salary, and $9 million of his 2025 salary. Payne will have a $5 million roster bonus due on the third day of the 2026 league year.

Washington could theoretically exit Payne’s contract after the 2025 season and turn it into a three-year, $67.6 million deal with $7 million in dead cap, but the club will obviously hope Payne is still playing well into his age-29 campaign.

T-4) Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants | AAV: $22.5 million

Dexter Lawrence was scheduled to hit free agency in 2024, but the Giants made sure he’ll be around for the long haul by signing him to a four-year, $90 million extension that mirrors Payne’s deal with the division-rival Commanders.

Lawrence will reportedly receive $60 million in total guarantees — not full guarantees — which should tie him with Chris Jones for third among defensive tackles, behind only Payne and Donald.

T-6) Javon Hargrave, San Francisco 49ers | AAV: $21 million

The 49ers struck early in the 2023 free agent period, signing former Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million contract that contains $40 million guaranteed at signing. Hargrave will see a significant increase over the $13 million annual salary he earned with Philadelphia.

Every facet of the first two years of Hargrave’s contract — his salaries, signing bonus, per-game bonuses, option bonus, and even workout bonuses — is fully guaranteed. His cap charges will be north of $26 million in 2025 and 2026, but San Francisco could theoretically exit the contract after the 2024 season (although they’d incur more than $18 million in dead money).

T-6) DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts | AAV: $21 million

DeForest Buckner agreed to a four-year, $84 million extension after being dealt from the 49ers to the Colts in 2020. That deal included nearly $40 million in guarantees: Buckner’s 2020 salary, 2020 roster bonus, and 2021 roster bonus.

Buckner now has two years remaining on his contract, with cap charges of around $20 million each season. He is set to earn a $1 million roster bonus on March 19.

T-6) Leonard Williams, New York Giants | AAV: $21 million

Like Buckner, Williams has also been traded. He was sent from the Jets to the Giants in 2019, then accepted the franchise tag from Big Blue in 2020. The Giants tagged Williams again in 2021 before ultimately signing him to a three-year, $63 million deal.

New York has since restructured Williams’ pact and added a 2024 void year. As he enters the final year of his contract, Williams’ 2023 cap charge sits at an astounding $32.26 million, tops among interior defenders and the 11th-highest figure in the entire league. The Giants could add more void years and push Williams’ money into the future, but reports have suggested an extension is more likely.

9) Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $20 million

Chris Jones held out for the entire summer and preseason and missed Week 1 of the 2023 regular season as he awaited a new contract from the Chiefs. While Jones and Kansas City agreed to a revised one-year deal heading into Week 2, the veteran defensive tackle didn’t get much in the way of concessions.

Jones’ base salary will stay at $19.5 million, although he forfeited 1/18th of that total by skipping the season opener. He can earn $1 million for playing 35% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps and another $1 million for 50% playtime.

Jones can also collect $1.25 million for 10 sacks, another $500,000 for 15 sacks, and $1 million for first-team All-Pro and Super Bowl appearances. If he wins the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award and K.C. wins the Super Bowl, Jones will get $2 million.

10) Jonathan Allen, Washington Commanders | AAV: $18 million

Jonathan Allen’s cap hits in Washington have been relatively low throughout his career, but that will change when his cap charge jumps to $21+ million in 2023 and stays there for the next three seasons.

Allen saw $2.5 million of his $14 million 2023 salary become fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year, but that was the only remaining guarantee in his contract. He can earn $1 million per season in per-game roster bonuses and $500,000 per year in workout bonuses.

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