• Philadelphia Eagles DI Javon Hargrave: A projected extension for the veteran Hargrave would be around $51 million over three years.
• Houston Texans EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: The edge defender is on a hot streak as of late and could earn himself an extension similar to what former Texan Jacob Martin signed this past offseason.
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The Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns got out ahead of us here, checking off key offseason business as Christmas presents for a pair of offensive linemen. Packers versatile offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins — our No. 5 free agent — signed a four-year, $68 million extension with incentives tied to playing tackle, perhaps a subtle indication about Green Bay's thoughts surrounding tackle David Bakhtiari’s situation going forward. Cleveland tackle Jack Conklin — our No. 18 free agent — signed a four-year, $60 million extension to stay with the Browns less than a year after agreeing to a pay cut on his 2022 salary.
Many more teams and players/agents are working behind the scenes to get deals done before free agency begins, and they’ll help us to better define the upcoming marketplace. Jenkins effectively becomes the second-highest-paid guard in the NFL at $17 million per year, behind only Indianapolis Colts star guard Quenton Nelson.
By this time of the year, we generally have an idea of what the following year’s salary cap will be, but there’s a bit of a delay as the league irons out ancillary agreements that will impact that number. The biggest example is the recent deal between the NFL and Google/YouTube for NFL Sunday Ticket, which should have the salary cap projections bullish, above $220 million and perhaps higher.
With deals starting to trickle in, we look to project a few more extensions that could get signed before the free agency frenzy gets underway.
We’ve already discussed Eagles cornerback James Bradberry as a player who could sign a new deal before the 2022 season ends, as the busiest team in the league will be extremely busy once again this offseason working to retain several key pending free agents.
Hargrave may be at the top of that list as he continues his dominant pass-rushing spree, with his 91.8 pass-rush grade over the past two seasons trailing only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones, and his 13.8% pressure percentage ranking second.
If longtime Eagles interior defender Fletcher Cox doesn’t return in 2023, that’s all the more reason to retain an important contributor on the interior. Philadelphia added two veteran interior defenders in Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph midseason, which signals they feel they can still add more help up front even after trading up in the first round for Jordan Davis. Hargrave fits perfectly going forward next to Davis, who is already a force against the run as he works his way more and more into the rotation.
The main reason the Eagles, as well as the Minnesota Vikings with Dalvin Tomlinson, would be smart to get deals done before the offseason is because of the pending market explosion at interior defender. This offseason’s version of the wide receiver market from last year will be the first-round interior defenders from the 2019 draft class: the New York Jets’ Quinnen Williams, Miami Dolphins’ Christian Wilkins, New York Giants’ Dexter Lawrence and the Tennessee Titans’ Jeffery Simmons, among several others. Hargrave’s projection below mirrors the three-year, $49.5 million extension Atlanta Falcons interior defender Grady Jarrett signed this past offseason.
Projected contract: Three years, $51 million ($17 million per year), $35.5 million total guaranteed
Tight ends outside of Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens stars Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews are effectively matchup-specific weapons with wild swings in production on a week-to-week basis, but Engram has now had two 100-plus yard outings in the past three weeks en route to becoming a very reliable target for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He’s been exactly what head coach Doug Pederson envisioned when bringing him aboard on a one-year flier this offseason, ranking third in receptions (68) and fourth in receiving yards (723) among tight ends through Week 16, both career highs.
Engram will never be a plus as an inline blocker, but that’s not what is being asked of him in a role much better suited for his skill set. While he’s prone to the occasional drop, you don’t often find fluid athletes at his size. Engram’s 449 yards after the catch are second to only Kelce, and he’s garnered 39 targets over the past four games during Jacksonville’s recent winning streak. Engram has shown enough to deserve a multi-year deal in the second tier of tight end contracts.
Projected contract: Three years, $36 million ($12 million per year), $23.5 million total guaranteed
There have been very few constants along this New York Jets offensive line the past few seasons, but Connor McGovern has been one of them, rarely missing even a single snap during his three-year tenure. After a down first year in 2020, McGovern has earned a 75.3 cumulative grade over the past two seasons, working alongside more offensive line teammates and in front of more quarterbacks than probably any center in the NFL over that span.
McGovern is a good field general in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s outside-zone rushing attack, with his 78.7 run-blocking grade and 15.3% positively graded run-block rate both top-15 marks among centers over the past two seasons. With more turnover to come, keeping McGovern in the fold could help stabilize a unit that awaits the return of guard Alijah Vera-Tucker from a torn triceps injury.
Projected contract: Three years, $25.5 million ($8.5 million per year), $15.5 million total guaranteed
Eluemunor has bounced around the NFL in recent seasons, ultimately reuniting with head coach Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas this offseason after the two crossed paths in New England over the 2019-20 campaigns. To start the season, Eluemunor was part of a competition to earn the right tackle job. After a shaky start, Eluemunor found his footing, with his 80.7 pass-blocking grade since Week 7 the fifth-best mark among right tackles. He's allowed just a 3.0% pressure rate on true pass sets over the span, trailing only Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson and Tampa Bay Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs.
Eluemunor has historically been a solid pass protector at swing tackle, but he’s also earned a 74.9 run-blocking grade in 2022 that’s a career best by more than 10 grading points, and his 15.7% positively graded run-block rate is the fourth-best mark among right tackles on the season.
Eluemunor’s height (6-foot-4) and shorter arms (33.25 inches, 23rd percentile at tackle) have prevented him from breaking through as a year-to-year starter, but he’s overcome physical limitations throughout his career to provide a high floor as a pass protector on the right side and is someone worth keeping around with a younger offensive line still developing at several spots.
Projected contract: Two years, $7.5 million ($3.75 million per year), $4 million total guaranteed
Okoronkwo is coming off the best game of his season, and perhaps career, in Week 16, with seven total pressures — including two sacks and five hurries — to go along with three tackles for loss against the Tennessee Titans. Okoronkwo has earned an 83.9 pass-rushing grade this season with a 19.6% pass-rush win rate that ranks 12th among edge defenders this season and a 14% pressure percentage that ranks 22nd.
The limiting factor for Okoronkwo is his playtime thus far in his career, with his 437 snaps in 2022 a career high by almost 200 snaps. He landed in Houston this season after starting his career with the Los Angeles Rams and has progressively improved as his role has expanded, registering 18 pressures over his past four games. However, there is nonetheless a very small sample size to work off here.
Okoronkwo is a rangy athlete who fits well as a rotational outside linebacker and isn’t a complete liability against the run, earning 70.0-plus grades in back-to-back seasons. This deal is mirrored after another former Houston Texans edge defender in Jacob Martin, who had a similar stretch to close out the 2021 season before ultimately signing a three-year, $13.5 million contract.
Projected contract: Three years, $15 million ($5 million per year), $6.5 million total guaranteed