After kicking things off with the best contract for each AFC team, we now shift our attention to the NFC. The former conference saw aggressive spending this offseason, with a handful of teams loading up with talent on both sides of the ball to make playoff runs. On the other side, the NFC largely experienced an offseason of contraction, with the top contenders the exceptions.
Surplus-value contracts could help push teams such as the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Green Bay Packers over the top, or help the rest of the teams in the conference exceed expectations and make a deep run of their own.
Let's examine the best value deals for each NFC club headed into the 2022 season.
Jump to a team:
ARIZONA CARDINALS: EDGE MARKUS GOLDEN (TWO YEARS, $5 MILLION | ONE YEAR, $2.25 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
We highlighted in 2021 how the two-year term of Golden’s deal might be the best component for Arizona, as he could put up big numbers playing alongside Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt and still have another year remaining. That’s exactly what happened: Golden earned his best season-long grade since 2016 with a 73.5 mark. He tallied 44 quarterback pressures and 11 sacks on the season and will now play for near league minimum in 2022, with his presence especially important following the loss of Jones in free agency.
ATLANTA FALCONS: WR/HB CORDARRELLE PATTERSON (TWO YEARS, $10.5 MILLION | $5 MILLION TOTAL GUARANTEED)
Cornerback Casey Hayward Jr.’s two-year, $11 million pact signed this offseason was also in consideration here, as he looks to mentor and create a formidable duo opposite rising star cornerback A.J. Terrell. His transition to a different defensive scheme will be interesting to monitor, but the savvy veteran will more than likely figure it out in short order.
Cordarrelle Patterson, on the other hand, is as comfortable as can be in Arthur Smith’s offense entering Year 2 after a true breakout campaign predominantly at running back. Patterson earned a career-best 81.3 grade in 2021, fighting for three yards per attempt after initial contact by a defender, a top-20 mark in the league.
It also doesn’t hurt that he has a legitimate case as the best kick returner in NFL history to boot.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: C BRADLEY BOZEMAN (ONE YEAR, $2.8 MILLION | $1 MILLION TOTAL GUARANTEED)
The Panthers did well with multiple offensive line additions this offseason, also inking a solid multi-year pact with right guard Austin Corbett after he won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. Add in first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu, and the Panthers could potentially turn a unit that's been a major weakness for a few years into a relative strength.
At the center of it all is Bozeman, coming off a career-best 73.3 grade while earning 70.0-plus grades as a pass protector and run blocker in Baltimore. Perhaps most importantly, Bozeman has hardly missed any snaps in each of the past three seasons.
CHICAGO BEARS: S DEANDRE HOUSTON-CARSON (ONE YEAR, $1.77 MILLION FULLY GUARANTEED)
This was probably the toughest decision of any of the 32 teams, with the Bears undergoing a complete roster overhaul heading into 2022. Edge defender Robert Quinn is coming off a remarkable 2021 campaign with 18.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, but he battled injuries that hampered production in his first season with the club.
Several low-cost additions this offseason could provide good value for Chicago, including linebacker Nicholas Morrow coming off an injury, slot cornerback Tavon Young, center Lucas Patrick and wide receiver Byron Pringle. All of that said, safety/special teams ace DeAndre Houston-Carson — the longest-tenured Chicago Bear outside of long snapper Patrick Scales — seems to find a way to make an impact whenever he gets on the field.
Houston-Carson played by far his most snaps on defense (420) in a season in 2021, earning a very respectable 78.0 overall grade with an 80.4 coverage grade to go along with three pass breakups and a pick-six. While he’ll be back to focusing primarily on special teams, he provides great depth at safety in a pinch.
DALLAS COWBOYS: LT TYRON SMITH (EIGHT YEARS, $97.6 MILLION | TWO YEARS, $28.1 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
When we look back at the 2010s decade of the NFL, this contract will land on the list for best values across the entire league. It’s hard to overstate just how much surplus value Smith has provided the Cowboys since signing his eight-year extension in 2014.
Smith has generated 1.92 PFF Wins Above Replacement since 2014 (fourth among tackles) while never receiving more than $11.08 million in cash in any season.
DETROIT LIONS: LT TAYLOR DECKER (FOUR YEARS, $59.65 MILLION | THREE YEARS, $42.65 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
Detroit has a formidable tackle tandem in Taylor Decker and 2021 first-round pick Penei Sewell, and between Decker’s strong value extension and Sewell’s rookie deal, the Lions will get tremendous surplus value from both over the next three years.
Injuries kept Decker off the field to start the 2021 campaign, but he eventually picked up right where he left off, earning a 75.5 overall grade with an 84.0 pass-blocking grade. Over the past four seasons, Decker has allowed pressure on just 5.3% of pass-blocking reps, a top-20 mark among left tackles. The former first-round pick is set to bookend one of the stronger offensive lines in the NFL in 2022.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: S ADRIAN AMOS (FOUR YEARS, $36 MILLION (ONE YEAR | $7.9 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
Amos is entering the final year of his free agent deal signed with the Packers in 2019, and he’s been one heck of an addition even without considering they also signed him away from the rival Chicago Bears.
Over the past three seasons, Amos’ 89.5 grade ranks fourth among safeties, with his 92.8 coverage grade also fourth and his 26 forced incompletions over the span the top mark at the position.
LOS ANGELES RAMS: T ROB HAVENSTEIN (FOUR YEARS, $32.5 MILLION | ONE YEAR, $7.25 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
The timing of Rob Havenstein’s extension in 2018 made the deal a heist within a year, as Trent Brown and Lane Johnson subsequently signed deals with the Raiders and Eagles, respectively, for twice the annual value. The right tackle market has continued to grow at an exponential rate as the NFL has steadily moved away from a long-held notion that left tackles were worth significantly more than right tackles.
Since signing the extension, Havenstein’s 86.1 run-blocking grade ranks sixth among right tackles, with 13.3% of his run-blocking snaps earning a positive grade — a top-10 mark at the position.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: LB ERIC KENDRICKS (FIVE YEARS, $50 MILLION | TWO YEARS, $19 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
The top of the linebacker market is now double the average annual value of Kendricks’ five-year extension signed in 2018, and even though he’s coming off his lowest-graded season since his rookie campaign, Kendricks remains one of the better off-ball linebackers in coverage across the league. Over the past three seasons, his 91.2 coverage grade ranks second at the position — trailing only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lavonte David. Not to mention, Kendricks' 18 forced incompletions since 2019 form the top mark at the position.
Edge defender Za'Darius Smith was in consideration here, as well. His three-year, $42 million pact is potentially just a one-year, $9.5 million deal — with $3 million of his 2022 compensation tied to per-game roster bonuses, as well. Even after missing almost the entire 2021 season, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Smith racked up 144 quarterback pressures and 26 sacks over the 2019-20 campaigns with the rival Green Bay Packers.
An improved front four in front of Kendricks could also help him bounce back and have another big season in 2022.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: WR JARVIS LANDRY (ONE YEAR, $3 MILLION FULLY GUARANTEED)
Landry changed representation this offseason after he was let go by the Cleveland Browns, and a strong market for his services didn’t materialize. He ultimately returned home to Louisiana on a one-year flier as he looks to revamp his career headed into his 30s.
Landry started off his NFL tenure with seven straight seasons of at least 70 receptions, 750 receiving yards and a 70.0-plus receiving grade before injuries hampered him in 2021. But make no mistake, he’s still an incredibly reliable slot receiver in this league. He pushed the slot receiver market to new heights after receiving the franchise tag from the Miami Dolphins and subsequently getting traded to the Browns, with whom he signed a five-year, $75.5 million extension in 2018.
Landry represents a great value within a new-look Saints wide receiver trio, and he could get back to the market and cash in once more with a productive season in the Big Easy.
NEW YORK GIANTS: G MARK GLOWINSKI (THREE YEARS, $18.3 MILLION | $11.4 MILLION TOTAL GUARANTEED)
The Giants have had a revolving door along their interior offensive line the past several years, and they went out and got a known commodity in Glowinski to line up next to first-round rookie Evan Neal at right tackle.
During Glowinski’s four years with the Indianapolis Colts, he earned grades above 60.0 in each season, with 64.0-plus run-blocking grades to boot. He provides a solid veteran presence on a young offensive line, much like he did with the Colts' young and talented group over the past few seasons.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: T JORDAN MAILATA (FOUR YEARS, $64 MILLION | $40.85 MILLION TOTAL GUARANTEED)
Mailata earned the No. 1 spot on our list of best contracts across the entire NFL, so he had to be the Eagles' selection here. Philadelphia has a solid list of candidates, including tight end Dallas Goedert, cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Kyzir White.
When lined up as a left tackle in 2021, Mailata earned an 86.0 pass-blocking grade and a 90.7 run-blocking grade, one of just three left tackles to record 85.0-plus marks in both facets last year. He earned a positive grade on 15.7% of his run-blocking snaps, fifth among left tackles, and a negative grade on just 9.4% of such snaps, which ranked sixth.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: DI POONA FORD (TWO YEARS, $12.345 MILLION | ONE YEAR, $8.325 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
This was a tough decision for a Seahawks roster in a state of flux, and interestingly enough, Ford currently has the largest cap hit on the team in 2022 at $10.075 million. The former undrafted free agent signed what was effectively a one-year extension last offseason in lieu of playing the 2021 season on a restricted free agent tender, and he delivered his fourth straight 73.0-plus season grade with a bump up in snaps played (802).
Ford has also found himself playing more snaps lined up as a three-technique the past two seasons, which has unlocked his pass-rush ability. He tallied 61 quarterback pressures from 2020-21 compared to just 17 from 2018-19. The undersized Ford is an important piece of a Seahawks defensive front, and his versatility has added a new dimension to his game.
Seattle recently extended nose tackle Bryan Mone and still has elder statesman Al Woods playing at a high level, but perhaps an extension before the season could be in the cards for Ford as he continues to round out his game.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: S JIMMIE WARD (THREE YEARS, $28.5 MILLION | ONE YEAR, $9.5 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
Ward has been arguably the most reliable run-defending safety in the NFL since signing this extension back in 2020, with his 85.9 run-defense grade ranking fifth at the position on top of earning back-to-back 90.0-plus tackling grades. Ward has earned a negative grade on just 1.4% of his run-defense snaps over the past two seasons, the top mark among safeties, with zero missed tackles, per PFF charting.
He tends to play deeper than some of the safeties we’d associate with stout run defense who line up closer to the line of scrimmage, so we’re not saying he’s the best down-for-down run-defending safety necessarily, but when he has an opportunity to make a play on the ball carrier, he makes it almost every single time.
In coverage, Ward’s 79.8 grade across the past two seasons ranks 18th. He’s a model of consistency on the backend and has played a huge role in the 49ers' secondary amid a ton of turnover at the cornerback positions in recent years.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: WR MIKE EVANS (FIVE YEARS, $82.5 MILLION | TWO YEARS, $28.5 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
Evans’ rank among wide receivers in…
- PFF Wins Above Replacement generated since 2014: fourth
- Receiving yards since 2014: third
- Explosive receptions since 2014: second
- Touchdowns since 2014: first
And last but not least … Evans’ contract rank among wide receivers in average annual value: 17th.
Don’t need much more of an explanation than that.
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: DI JONATHAN ALLEN (FOUR YEARS, $72 MILLION | FOUR YEARS, $51.5 MILLION IN CASH REMAINING)
Washington wanted to see one more year from Jonathan Allen before extending him heading into his fifth-year option season in 2021, and the team should be glad it didn’t wait any longer. Allen was a dominant force in 2021, with his 90.9 pass-rush grade ranking third among interior defenders and his 67 quarterback pressures placing second. Over the past two seasons combined, Allen’s 90.9 pass-rush grade and 114 quarterback pressures both rank fourth at the position, cementing himself as one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL while entering his prime.
Fellow NFC East interior defender Leonard Williams signed one of the most player-friendly deals in the league just months earlier, inking a three-year, $63 million extension with the New York Giants coming off a great 2020 campaign. Comparing the contracts and production illustrates the value Washington is getting here.
Cornerback Kendall Fuller was a worthy candidate here as well, but Allen’s deal getting done before Los Angeles Rams phenom Aaron Donald got an unprecedented $40 million raise will age quite well over the next few years as the market continues to grow.