Matthew Stafford

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap once again ballooned by more than $10MM, rising from its $208.2MM perch to $224.8MM. Factoring in the pandemic-induced 2021 regression, the NFL’s salary risen has climbed by more than $42MM since 2021.

This has allowed teams more opportunities for roster additions and opened the door for more lucrative player deals — at most positions, at least. However, it does not look like this season will include a $40MM player cap number. The Browns avoided a record-shattering Deshaun Watson $54.9MM hit by restructuring the quarterback’s fully guaranteed contract, calling for monster figures from 2024-26.

Here are the largest cap hits for teams on the offensive side going into training camp:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $39.69MM
  2. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $36.6MM
  3. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $30.98MM
  4. Jake Matthews, T (Falcons): $28.36MM
  5. Trent Williams, T (49ers): $27.18MM
  6. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $26.83MM
  7. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $26.61MM
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $23.8MM
  9. Amari Cooper, WR (Browns): $23.78MM
  10. Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers): $23.69MM
  11. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $23.67MM
  12. Joe Thuney, G (Chiefs): $22.12MM
  13. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $22MM
  14. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $22MM
  15. Daniel Jones, QB (Giants): $21.75MM
  16. David Bakhtiari, T (Packers): $21.29MM
  17. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $20.25MM
  18. D.J. Moore, WR (Bears): $20.17MM
  19. Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): $20MM
  20. Brian O’Neill, T (Vikings): $19.66MM
  21. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $19.35MM
  22. Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): $19.1MM
  23. Braden Smith, T (Colts): $19MM
  24. Josh Allen, QB (Bills): $18.64MM
  25. Courtland Sutton, WR (Broncos): $18.27MM

As should be expected, quarterbacks dominate this list. Mahomes’ number checks in here despite the Chiefs restructuring his 10-year, $450MM contract in March; the two-time MVP’s cap hit would have set an NFL record had Kansas City not reduced it. The Chiefs did not restructure Mahomes’ deal last year, but if they do not address it — perhaps via a complex reworking — before next season, Mahomes’ $46.93MM number would break an NFL record.

The Titans have not touched Tannehill’s contract this offseason, one that included some trade rumors months ago. This is the final year of Tannehill’s Tennessee extension. Mahomes and Tannehill sat atop this ranking in 2022.

Cousins is also heading into a contract year, after the Vikings opted for a restructure and not an extension this offseason. Cousins does not expect to discuss another Minnesota deal until 2024, when he is due for free agency. Two relatively low cap numbers have started Wilson’s $49MM-per-year extension. The Denver QB’s cap number rises to $35.4MM in 2024 and reaches historic heights ($55.4MM) by ’25. The subject of a Goff extension has come up, and it would bring down the Lions passer’s figure. But Goff remains tied to his Rams-constructed $33.5MM-per-year deal through 2024.

Jackson and Jones’ numbers will rise in the near future, with the latter’s contract calling for a quick spike in 2024. Next year, the Giants QB’s cap hit will be $45MM. Watson’s 2024 hit, as of now, would top that. The Browns signal-caller is on the team’s ’24 payroll at $63.98MM. Long-term consequences aside, the Browns can be expected to once again go to the restructure well with Watson’s outlier contract.

The Raiders did not backload Garoppolo’s three-year contract; it only climbs to $24.25MM on Las Vegas’ 2024 cap sheet. The Bills did backload Allen’s pact. Its team-friendly years are done after 2023; the six-year accord spikes to $47.1MM on Buffalo’s cap next year. The Cowboys have gone to the restructure well with Prescott. Like Watson, the Cowboys quarterback is tied to a seemingly untenable 2024 cap number. The March restructure resulted in Prescott’s 2024 number rising to $59.46MM. Two seasons remain on that $40MM-AAV extension.

Another notable cap hold that should be mentioned is Tom Brady‘s. When the Buccaneers did not sign the again-retired QB to another contract before the 2023 league year, his $35.1MM dead-money figure went onto Tampa Bay’s 2023 cap sheet. The Bucs will absorb that entire amount this year. Brady’s 2022 restructure, after retirement No. 1, led to the $35.1MM figure forming.

Were it not for another O-line-record extension, the Tunsil number would have come in at $35MM this year. Matthews signed an extension last year. Moore would have come in higher on this list were he still on the Panthers, who took on $14.6MM in dead money to move their top wideout for the No. 1 overall pick. Sutton came up regularly in trade rumors, with the Broncos wanting a second-round pick for the sixth-year veteran. The former second-rounder’s high base salary ($14MM) hinders his trade value.

Each NFL Franchise’s Richest QB Contract

The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.

On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Jay Cutler, January 2014. Seven years, $126.7MM. $38MM fully guaranteed

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Carson Palmer, December 2005. Six years, $97MM. $30.8MM fully guaranteed

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

In trading this contract to the Jets in April, the Packers restructured the deal. Rodgers’ exit will still tag the Pack with $40.3MM in 2023 dead money.

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ 2020 extension checked in with a higher AAV ($33MM) but did not approach his initial Minnesota pact for guarantees.

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Chad Pennington, September 2004. Seven years, $64MM. $23MM guaranteed.

The Jets have signed three quarterbacks to deals involving more guaranteed money, but each of those contracts — for Mark Sanchez (2009), Sam Darnold (2018) and Zach Wilson (2021) — was a rookie pact.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Contract Details: Watson, Adams, Stafford, Jones, Maye, Reed, Joseph-Day, Bozeman

Here are the latest details from contracts recently agreed to across the league, starting with the Browns’ fully guaranteed deal for their new quarterback.

  • Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): Five years, fully guaranteed $230MM. Everything else about Watson’s Cleveland arrival is complicated; his contract is not. Following the 2022 season, in which the Browns reduced his salary to $1MM due to the likely forthcoming suspension, Watson is set to make $46MM in base salary from 2023-26, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes.
  • Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): Four years, $160MM. The Rams are keeping Stafford’s base salaries down in the near future; they reside at $1.5MM for both 2022 and ’23, per OverTheCap. The team gave its quarterback a $60MM signing bonus, Ian Rapoport of tweets. There are no void years on this deal, which includes $49.5MM, $50.5MM and $49.5MM cap numbers from 2024-26.
  • Davante Adams, WR (Raiders): Five years, $140MM. Adams’ deal surpasses DeAndre Hopkins‘ $27MM-per-year pact, but it is essentially a three-year, $67.5MM accord, Florio notes. Only $22.75MM is guaranteed at signing, but by early 2023, $42.9MM in injury guarantees shift to full guarantees. The Raiders have Adams tied to a $3.5MM 2022 base salary, helping for cap purposes, with a $20MM roster bonus representing part of that $42.9MM guarantee in 2023. Adams’ 2023 salary is set to be $6MM. His 2025 and ’26 salaries — $35.6MM apiece — are nonguaranteed.
  • Chandler Jones, OLB (Raiders): Three years, $51MM. The Raiders guaranteed Jones $32MM, with’s Howard Balzer noting the deal includes an $8.5MM roster bonus (Twitter link). The Raiders, who have Jones tied to base salaries of $4MM in 2022 and $7.5MM in 2023, tacked on two void years for cap purposes.
  • D.J. Reed, CB (Jets): Three years, $33MM. Reed collected $10.5MM guaranteed at signing and will count just $4.6MM against the Jets’ cap this year, Rich Cimini of tweets. Reed is set to count $14.2MM against the Jets’ 2023 and ’24 caps.
  • Marcus Maye, S (Saints): Three years, $22.5MM. Originally reported as three years and $28.5MM, Maye’s deal does include $14.5MM guaranteed, per Spotrac (on Twitter). Maye’s 2022 cap hit is just $2.6MM, and the Saints included two void years. Maye’s cap hits for 2023 and ’24 are $8.6MM and $8.7MM, respectively.
  • Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT (Chargers). Three years, $24MM. Joseph-Day will receive $16.5MM guaranteed, which is up from initial reporting here. His 2022 and ’23 base salaries — $2.5MM and $6.5MM — are guaranteed, Aaron Wilson of tweets.
  • Bradley Bozeman, OL (Panthers): One year, $2.8MM. Bozeman will receive a $1MM signing bonus and a $1MM base salary, Aaron Wilson of tweets.

Rams Extend QB Matthew Stafford

The Rams announced Saturday they have reached an extension agreement with Matthew Stafford. The sides agreed on a four-year deal, Adam Schefter of tweets.

Despite Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson reshaping the quarterback market this month, Stafford’s new deal — four years, $160MM, per Schefter — does not push Rodgers’ for AAV or Watson’s for guarantee value. Stafford indeed becomes the latest $40MM-per-year quarterback, and although the 13-year veteran’s latest extension does not enter the Rodgers-Watson realm for AAV, Ian Rapoport of reports the Los Angeles QB will collect $135MM guaranteed on this deal (Twitter link).

A closer look reveals this deal moving to $43MM per year, with Rapoport adding the pact includes additional years to help the Rams with their salary cap (Twitter link). This makes the extension, effectively, a three-year, $129MM pact. At $43MM annually, Stafford will tie Josh Allen. But Allen got to that price point by giving the Bills six true years on his extension. Stafford reaching $43MM AAV on a three-year re-up is certainly a good deal for a player who still has just one Pro Bowl on his resume. Of course, Stafford’s 2021 postseason overshadows his previous low-accolades Detroit run.

Stafford elevated the Rams to their second Super Bowl title, guiding a game-winning drive to down the Bengals. The longtime Lions starter did not miss a game in his first Rams season and played well in the playoffs. In 21 games last season, Stafford cleared 6,000 yards and threw 50 touchdown passes. The former No. 1 overall pick went from having never won a playoff game to leading his new team to four victories in one postseason, reshaping his career trajectory and putting him on course for this big-ticket extension.

When the Lions extended Stafford in 2017, his $27MM-per-year deal represented the QB high-water mark by $2MM annually. Quarterbacks’ earning potential has changed considerably in the years since; Rodgers is now attached to deal worth more than $50MM per year, while the Browns gave Watson an astonishing $230MM fully guaranteed. Stafford becomes the NFL’s sixth $40MM-per-year player. Considering where Rodgers and Watson took the market, Stafford certainly could have commanded more. This deal stands to help the Rams build around him, to some degree.

It will be interesting to see how Stafford’s cap numbers look, as the Rams have an Aaron Donald contract matter to address. The sides have engaged in discussions, and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler adds (on Twitter) they have made progress. Donald is expected to receive a raise on his $22.5MM-per-year deal, one that has since been surpassed by several defenders.

Rams Prioritizing Matthew Stafford Extension, Discussing Aaron Donald’s Deal

The Rams’ cornerstone offensive and defensive players are under contract for 2022, but each could be attached to new deals by Week 1. Sean McVay called a Matthew Stafford extension and the addressing of Aaron Donald‘s contract top offseason priorities, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (on Twitter).

Stafford’s Lions-constructed deal runs through the 2022 season, but after the strong-armed passer led the Rams to a Super Bowl win in his first Los Angeles season, he will soon be rewarded. Combine buzz has put Patrick Mahomes‘ $45MM-per-year price on the radar for Stafford, Rodrigue tweets.

The 13-year veteran will soon join Mahomes, Josh Allen and Dak Prescott in the NFL’s $40MM-AAV club. This would be a notable increase from Stafford’s current $27MM-per-year accord — an NFL record by a $2MM margin when he signed it in 2017. Stafford, 33, is on L.A.’s books at $23MM in 2022; that figure is nonguaranteed. An extension can be constructed to reduce that cap number and give the Rams more room, potentially to retain the likes of Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. The Rams are currently $21MM over the projected 2022 cap.

Donald’s situation is a bit more complicated. The future Hall of Fame defensive tackle waged a holdout in 2017, missing two games, and landed a then-record-breaking extension a year later. Per usual with NFL contracts, Donald’s $22.5MM-per-year deal has since been dwarfed. Khalil Mack topped it days later in 2018, and T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett have since surpassed it. Donald, who won his second and third Defensive Player of the Year awards on this contract, is this generation’s defining defender and is going into his age-31 season.

Donald’s age and the state of the market makes this contract issue understandable, and it may have factored into the surprise retirement talk, though Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says that was not the case (video link). The Rams are discussing Donald’s contract, and GM Les Snead said he is not concerned about the seven-time All-Pro D-tackle retiring (Twitter link via Rodrigue). That could be because the Rams are, according to Rapoport, planning to give Donald a “big raise.”

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Matthew Stafford Nixed Trade To Panthers

Shortly after the Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford via trade from the Lions, Stafford admitted that there were teams he did not want to play for. We recently heard that one of those teams was the Panthers, but we did not know how close Detroit and Carolina came to a deal.

As Ian Rapoport of reports, many believed that the Panthers — who were aggressive in their pursuit and who offered their first-round pick (No. 8 overall), a fifth-rounder, and Teddy Bridgewater — would be the ones to land Stafford. Indeed, the deal was reportedly just about done. But when Stafford learned of his would-be new home, he consulted with his family and told Lions brass that he did not want to go to Carolina.

Though the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft did not have a no-trade clause, the Lions heeded his wishes. The 49ers and Colts were also said to be on Stafford’s list of approved destinations, but Rapoport hears that he would have tried to veto any trade that would have sent him anywhere other than the Rams. If Los Angeles’ offer did not compare with those of other suitors, Detroit probably would not have been able to accommodate the former face of its franchise, but ultimately the Rams ponied up two future first-rounders, a third-rounder, and Jared Goff, which the Lions determined was a good enough return.

By all accounts, Stafford had a terrific training camp, and his first season with his new team kicks off tonight against the Bears (who also pursued a trade for their longtime division rival).

49ers, Colts Were Also On Matthew Stafford’s Destination List

The Rams paying up for Matthew Stafford led to numerous quarterback dominoes falling this offseason. Stafford is close to debuting with the Rams, who are among the NFC frontrunners, but he would have been fine being traded to two other teams earlier this year.

After Stafford asked the Lions to trade him in January, he listed the 49ers and Colts — in that order — behind the Rams on his destination wish list, according to Seth Wickersham of Both teams entered the sweepstakes, with Kyle Shanahan confirming the 49ers’ interest, but neither’s offer approached the Rams’ proposal of two future first-rounders and change.

The Colts discussed Stafford with the Lions but were a bit leery about the 33-year-old passer’s long-term trajectory. They are not believed to have offered their 2021 first-round pick for the 12-year veteran. Indianapolis ended up sending Philadelphia a 2021 third-rounder and a 2022 pick that could well become a first for Carson Wentz. The 49ers were not believed to have been one of the six-plus teams to submit offers for Stafford, though Shanahan studied the QB while he was on the trade block and expressed disappointment upon learning the Rams acquired him. San Francisco then traded two future firsts and change to move up to No. 3 overall for Trey Lance.

Stafford also said there were teams he wanted to avoid. The Patriots are believed to be one, and Wickersham adds the Panthers were another. Carolina did offer its first-round pick — No. 8 overall — along with Teddy Bridgewater and a fifth-rounder. Carolina’s involvement here eventually led to Bridgewater being traded to another unsuccessful Stafford suitor — Denver — and Sam Darnold going to the Panthers. The Rams acquiring Stafford also led Washington, which offered its first-round pick as well, to move elsewhere. The Lions-Rams deal certainly served as the 2021 offseason’s pivot point.

Although Stafford did not have a no-trade clause, the Lions accommodated him after a lengthy January meeting when he asked to be dealt. Stafford initially went to Lions ownership about the trade request, Wickersham adds, noting that the team execs in that meeting were surprised but understood the veteran passer’s position as another rebuild approached.

Shanahan: 49ers Aimed To Acquire Matthew Stafford

During a year of major quarterback movement, the 49ers experienced a particularly interesting offseason. San Francisco surrendered a historic haul to move up for Trey Lance. Had the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes ended a bit differently, Lance would be preparing to take the starting reins for another team.

Kyle Shanahan confirmed the 49ers were in the mix for Stafford. The fifth-year HC spent multiple weeks studying Stafford, whom the Lions made available in late January. The 49ers are one of several teams to be interested in the former No. 1 overall pick, but the Rams ended up finalizing an agreement to land him on the night of Jan. 30 — to Shanahan’s chagrin.

I was studying it all. … I remember looking through it because everybody was telling me it was a possibility,” Shanahan said, during an appearance on The Ringer’s Flying Coach podcast with Sean McVay and Peter Schrager (via, of a potential trade to acquire the 12-year veteran. “Stafford’s the man. I studied him hard coming out of college, and you always play against him, so you know how good he is.

“But to know he might be available and to spend two weeks really watching him, Sean, yeah, he’s better than I realized.”

The 49ers are not believed to have made a firm offer for Stafford, but the 33-year-old passer knew of San Francisco’s interest. Washington and Carolina did make offers — each involving first-round picks and change — while Denver’s proposal included a first-round pick swap. At least six teams sent the Lions proposals. The Rams ponied up for Stafford to replace Jared Goff, sending Goff, two first-rounders and a 2021 third for Detroit’s longtime starter.

That was frustrating. I was in Cabo,” Shanahan said of the Rams’ acquiring Stafford, who joined McVay in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the time of the agreement as well. “… I remember Saturday I was so stressed out and finally we talked to someone, it was seven at night, and they’re like, ‘No, nothing’s happening (with a trade) at the earliest until tomorrow, so you can finish your night.’

Half an hour later, my buddy calls me and is like, ‘I’m just telling ya, if you want Stafford, you need to get a hold of him right now.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? We just talked to people. I can sleep on this. We’ll talk to them tomorrow.’ ‘I’m just telling you, you need to talk to him right now.’ And then it was all over.”

McVay added that the Rams-Lions trade came together faster than he expected. The Rams are now eyeing a five- to eight-year partnership with their recently acquired QB.

January’s Stafford proceedings led the 49ers to look to the draft for a potential upgrade on Jimmy Garoppolo. They joined the Rams in trading their 2022 and ’23 first-round picks for a quarterback, sending those to the Dolphins to move up nine spots for Lance. If the 49ers’ plans go accordingly, the NFC West will feature Stafford-Lance matchups for the next several years. The teams’ competition for Stafford certainly adds intrigue to this rivalry.

Latest On Broncos’ QB Plans

Several teams have already made big splashes under center this offseason, but the Broncos have been mostly quiet. That could change soon.

Denver “isn’t sitting still at the position,” Albert Breer of writes. Breer lays out details of the Broncos’ pursuits we haven’t heard before, including the previously unreported full offer they made for Matthew Stafford. The Broncos apparently did in fact offer the ninth overall pick to the Lions, but they wanted a second-rounder back in return which quelled those talks.

Breer thinks they’ll add competition for Drew Lock in one form or another, and he mentions the Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater as a potential option. As he points out, new Broncos GM George Paton was in Minnesota when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater in the first-round. On that note, Breer has some interesting thoughts on the makeup of Denver’s new front office.

The fact that the team isn’t committing to Lock is “a pretty decent sign that John Elway has truly moved into the background,” Breer writes. He also thinks Denver’s lack of real interest in Sam Darnold is a telling sign that Elway isn’t calling the shots, since Elway was infatuated with Darnold coming out of college in 2018.

The team hired Paton to be GM earlier this offseason, with Elway getting elevated to President of Football Operations. At the time there were murmurs about how much power Elway would actually be ceding and how much he would still control the organization, but it sounds like he truly has relinquished the reins.

Snead: Rams Eyeing 5-8 Years With Stafford

Matthew Stafford‘s contract runs through the 2022 season. The Rams managed to navigate the primary free agency period without reducing their new quarterback’s cap number, but they are interested in extending Stafford.

Les Snead provided a timeline for the team’s future with Stafford. Snead envisions the 2009 No. 1 overall pick playing for the Rams well beyond his current contract, which would make sense given the cost to acquire him — multiple future first-rounders and change. The 2021 season will be Stafford’s age-33 campaign.

I don’t think we did it thinking two years,” Snead said of the trade during an appearance on The Athletic’s 11 Personnel podcast (via Rams Wire). “Based on his age, you can legitimately think five to seven, eight years if you look at what Drew (Brees) has done. I don’t know if we’re going to get into Tom Brady, right? Too many things going. But with quarterbacks of his pedigree, a lot of those guys have played into their late 30s, for sure. So that was definitely the vision with Matt.”

The Rams do not have modern experience deploying quarterbacks with Stafford’s experience. Under Snead, the team’s two primary passers — Sam Bradford and Jared Goff — did not last until age 28 with the team. Kurt Warner was out of St. Louis at 32, before his seventh NFL season. Stafford turned 33 earlier this year and has battled injuries in recent years. He missed eight games because of a back malady in 2019 — his first absences since 2011 — and detailed a few issues that bothered him last year. Stafford underwent thumb surgery recently.

Stafford’s recent injuries notwithstanding, the Rams are committed to the 12-year Lions starter. While Goff and Sean McVay‘s relationship progressively deteriorated last year, Snead insists the Rams did not want to jettison the former No. 1 overall pick for the sake of doing so. Stafford being available changed the equation.

To do a move of that magnitude involving quarterbacks, specifically involving Jared, there definitely needed to be a Matthew Stafford on the other end,” Snead said. “We were not going to be stronger by moving Jared for a draft pick, per se. That wasn’t the case, and I think it did take someone of Matt Stafford’s pedigree, ability, experience, all those things, skill set to make that move.”