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Projecting end-of-season extensions for 2017 draft picks, 2018 undrafted free agents — Part 1

Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki (88) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

With the home stretch of the 2020 NFL season around the corner, business tends to pick up across the league as clubs look to extend players before the offseason arrives. There are many reasons to do so, one simply being that front offices can dedicate more time and attention to other needs. 

Another big reason is that a portion of a new signing bonus can be allocated to the 2020 season even though the player won’t technically reach the new years of the deal until 2021 or later. This enables teams to have less potential dead money on the back end. Dead money is prorated signing bonus money in later years of contracts that remains on the cap even after a player is cut, which can take up valuable cap space with zero return from a production standpoint.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to beat the league to market whenever you can. One such example is Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker, whom Detroit extended just before the season for four years, $60 million ($15 million average per year). While Decker is not quite the player that Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley is, Stanley’s five-year, $98.75 million ($19.75 million APY) extension signed just one month after Decker’s is much larger. Detroit selected Decker 10 picks after Stanley in 2016, so it’s not like draft status had a huge influence there, either.

While we’re on the topic of quality young tackles in the NFL, let’s get to our first projection.

T Taylor Moton, Carolina Panthers

Moton kicks off this list for a reason: At this point, Carolina should be calling his agent repeatedly until a deal is struck. With every passing week, Moton’s price is steadily rising. What complicates matters a bit is that Carolina leads the NFL in dead money for 2020 with over $51 million in cap space allotted to players no longer on the roster (Matt Kalil and Trai Turner are at the top of a long list that includes Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton, as well). As a result, the Panthers have only about $5 million in cap space currently.

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