NFL training camps begin this week, which means the focus turns to the field. But there is still much off-field business to be done before the start of the 2021 season, and each year that business includes contract extensions for teams' key players.
Whether it's a young quarterback getting paid big money for the first time, an offensive or defensive lineman elevating the salary ceiling for his position or just an important player the team wants to lock up before he gets too expensive, the NFL is dotted with players for whom the two months between now and the start of the season could be extremely rewarding.
A few factors make this year's crop of potential contract candidates interesting. First, there were six designated franchise players who didn't get extensions before the July 15 deadline, which means all six will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring. The potential for, say, Washington's Brandon Scherff to reset the offensive line market after playing on two straight franchise tags could prompt a team to extend its star offensive lineman before the price goes up.
Second, the salary cap dropped this year as a result of NFL revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced every team to recalibrate its contract plans and should continue to affect the timing and structure of deals done this summer. It's possible a team might be more inclined to extend a player for the purpose of dropping this year's cap number or next.
And third, due to the shortened preseason, some teams will have two full weeks between their final preseason game and their first regular-season game. It's possible that could provide more time to negotiate some deals that otherwise might have dragged on into the season.
All of that said, we wanted to take a look at some of the players who could be in line for big extensions between now and the start of the season, and what type of money each could get. Please bear in mind that this is not intended as a comprehensive list and, if your favorite player isn't on it, that's not because we don't like or respect your favorite team. We're trying to hit some of the more notable names. Let's start with some of the big-money guys: