A year ago, identifying the NFL’s largest free agent contract wasn’t so easy. If you looked at a list of the biggest contracts by overall base value, Denver’s Aqib Talib topped the list at $57MM over six years. However, Talib only ranked third among free agents in per-year salary, and he didn’t even crack the top 10 in fully guaranteed money.
This time around, there’s less ambiguity. A player of Ndamukong Suh‘s stature rarely reaches the open market, so it’s no surprise that his new contracts blows away the field when it comes to overall value, annual average, and fully guaranteed money. After Suh, Darrelle Revis, who opted for a long-term contract this time around rather than settling for another short-term deal, places second on each list.
After those two top-tier free agents though, the lists diverge a little, as you’ll see below. One thing seems certain though, when comparing this year’s data to 2014’s — teams were more willing to pay top dollar for the best players on the market in 2015. A year ago, only Revis and DeMarcus Ware earned eight-digit annual salaries in free agency, and both players were on fairly short contracts. This year, five players signed for $10MM per year or more, and all of those players are on at least four-year contracts.
Similarly, a year ago, Branden Albert‘s $20MM guarantee topped all free agents — the Dolphins’ tackle was the only player to receive at least $20MM in fully guaranteed money. This time? Not only does Suh’s guaranteed money nearly triple Albert’s, but Revis’ almost doubles it, and a total of eight players were guaranteed at least $20MM.
We could point to a number of factors for that increase in spending. Most notably, the top of this year’s free agent class was simply more impressive than 2014’s class; additionally, the cap is in the rise, which means player salaries are too. Whatever the reason, a handful of clubs were willing to roll the dice this offseason on big-time free agent contracts that will be on their books for years.
While the lists below include players who neared free agency before ultimately re-signing with their own teams – think Jerry Hughes or Kareem Jackson – it doesn’t include a number of other big-name free agents. Greg Hardy‘s one-year, $11.312MM deal with the Cowboys isn’t included in the group of contracts with the largest per-year salaries, since most of his money is tied to per-game roster bonuses, which Hardy won’t earn while he’s suspended.
Meanwhile, franchised players like Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Justin Houston, and Jason Pierre-Paul would also crack that list of top annual average salaries if they accept their one-year offers. But so far, none of those players has actually signed his franchise tender, as I outlined yesterday.
Without further ado, here are the biggest free agent contracts of 2015:
Largest contracts by overall base value:
- Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): $114.375MM, six years
- Darrelle Revis, CB (Jets): $70.121MM, five years
- Byron Maxwell, CB (Eagles): $63MM, six years
- Jeremy Maclin, WR (Chiefs): $55MM, five years
- Devin McCourty, S (Patriots): $47.5MM, five years
- Julius Thomas, TE (Jaguars): $46MM, five years
- Jerry Hughes, OLB (Bills): $45MM, five years
- Rodney Hudson, C (Raiders: $44.5MM, five years
- Jared Odrick, DE (Jaguars): $42.5MM, five years
- (tie) Randall Cobb, WR (Packers): $40MM, four years; DeMarco Murray, RB (Eagles): $40MM, five years; Torrey Smith, WR (49ers): $40MM, five years; Mike Iupati, G (Cardinals): $40MM, five years
Largest contracts by annual average:
- Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): $19.063MM
- Darrelle Revis, CB (Jets): $14.024MM
- Jeremy Maclin, WR (Chiefs): $11MM
- Byron Maxwell, CB (Eagles): $10.5MM
- Randall Cobb, WR (Packers): $10MM
- Devin McCourty, S (Patriots): $9.5MM
- Julius Thomas, TE (Jaguars): $9.2MM
- Brandon Flowers, CB (Chargers): $9.1MM
- Jerry Hughes, OLB (Bills): $9MM
- Rodney Hudson, C (Raiders): $8.9MM
Largest contracts by fully guaranteed money:
- Ndamukong Suh, DT (Dolphins): $59.955MM
- Darrelle Revis, CB (Jets): $39MM
- Charles Clay, TE (Bills): $24.5MM
- Jeremy Maclin, WR (Chiefs): $22.5MM
- (tie) Devin McCourty, S (Patriots); Byron Maxwell, CB (Eagles): $22MM
- Julius Thomas, TE (Jaguars): $21MM
- Kareem Jackson, CB (Texans): $20MM
- (tie) DeMarco Murray, RB (Eagles); Brandon Flowers, CB (Chargers): $18MM
- Jerry Hughes, OLB (Bills): $17.625MM
- Jared Odrick, DE (Jaguars): $17MM
Data from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.