In sports, sometimes being the highest paid player at your position (or in this case, your side of the ball) isn't about actually being the best. It's about timing, being the most recent. Don't get me wrong, a player still must be good, but in a sport with an escalating revenue pie, salaries will always go up.
Right before the start of the 2014 season, the Texans made defensive end J.J. Watt the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, extending his deal for six more years, with guaranteed money barely exceeding Mario Williams' previous defensive player high of $54 million.
In theory, the move prevented Watt from reaching free agency at any point in the near future (although the Texans could have theoretically used team options and franchise tags to keep him through the 2017 season).
What would've happened if Watt ever reached free agency? Well, the brief free agency adventures of now former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh likely tell us.
It would've been nuts, like "quarterback money" nuts.
On Sunday afternoon, ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen reported that, barring a breakdown in negotiations, on Tuesday, the first day free agents can sign with new teams, Suh will ink a six year deal worth $114 million, $60 million of which will be guaranteed.
And THAT will now become the standard bearer for defensive players.
Suh's deal would exceed Watt's on every level -- total money, average per season, and most importantly, guaranteed money. It had been reported since late last week that the Dolphins were supremely confident that they would be landing Suh (which makes a bit of a mockery of the "legal vs illegal tampering" distinction, no?), whose key criteria for a new employer reportedly included going to a state with no state income tax. Florida has none.
The Lions had decided over a week ago not to deploy the franchise tag on Suh, as that would've guaranteed him a $26.9 million salary for the 2015 season.
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Watt's deal was essentially a six year extension of his existing deal, and was for six years and $100 million, an average of $16.6 million per season. Suh's deal averages $20 million per year the first three seasons and $19 million over the life of the deal.
With Suh now off the market, Randall Cobb re-signing with the Packers, and Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Justin Houston all receiving the franchise tag, this likely puts Darrelle Revis into the on deck circle as the biggest plum potentially available in free agency. The Patriots have until today to decide on his option for next season.
It's widely believed they will opt out of his deal, making the All Pro cornerback a free agent.
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