By: Lucas Kochevar
The Wide Receiver Market Reset
The extension of Stefon Diggs couldn't come at a better time because, as I noted last week, I'm talking wide receivers getting paid. The WR1 in Buffalo got paid this week with an extension for four years' worth $104 million, while getting around $70 million in guaranteed money. Diggs wasn't the only guy to get paid this off-season as we saw Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill get traded and extended to the biggest contracts in the league for wide receivers. The contracts look absolutely absurd and, before I let you know what they are annually, I want to highlight why the wide receiver market is absolutely ridiculous.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, you can examine ten guys that I would qualify as successful. In '19, another ten guys were drafted and have been successful, including star WRs Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, and DK Metcalf. In '20, there was nine guys that have contributed to their teams with Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb leading the way for this class. Finally, in '21, there was eight guys that can prove to be solid guys in the league as Ja'Marr Chase was the clear star. This quick detour was to show the talent that has been taken from the draft. It's very clear to see that you can draft starters from rounds one through seven, also if their developed properly. Something that I feel like I've heard from the past couple seasons is that "This WR class is LOADED," and I tended to agree every time. As we approach another draft cycle, it's not the same as before, but it's still overwhelmingly positive towards the first eight to ten guys. Here's the list of guys that I would be happy if my team drafted, in no particular order:
-Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
-Chris Olave, Ohio State
-Drake London, USC
-Treylon Burks, Arkansas
-Jameson Williams, Alabama
-John Metchie II, Alabama
-George Pickens, Georgia
-David Bell, Purdue
-Christian Watson, North Dakota State
-Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
-Wan'Dale Robinson, Kentucky
-Justyn Ross, Clemson
-Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
Seems like a lot of guys, right? It's because every year the NFL welcomes this much talent at wide receiver! Now, I'm not saying all the guys I listed are going to be pro bowlers, but it's a number of guys that show traits of starting potential. There are so many guys being introduced into the NFL throughout the draft and the players get cheaper the later they are drafted.
Back to Tyreek and Davante, they are going to be making annually $30 million and $28.5 million, respectively. It's not a knock on these two guys, they are clearly 1A and 1B in the grand scheme of things. Hill is one of the fastest players the league has seen and Adams has been the best all-around receiver in the league for the past two years. The issue is that they are getting paid out of this world money for a position that can really be replaced in one or two drafts. The Chiefs and Packers saw these two guys as replaceable, otherwise they would have held on to them and waited another year until they had to trade them. The draft is a crapshoot with talent, but these two guys staying completely healthy as they age is also a risk. There is also the point that could be made regarding the salary cap rising. My counter to that is do you really see the cap rising that high in the next couple years? It'll go up, but it won't be enough to justify paying these guys this high.
When looking at other deals that guys around the league got, you can point to high level guys in Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, and D.J. Moore. All three guys got deals that were around the 3-year, $60 million range. This is still a substantial amount for guys that aren't bonafide top five guys, but they all have shown talent and promise to produce. All three guys are also younger. Also, something I would like to point out is Cooper Kupp's contract. It isn't a debate that Kupp had the best season out of any offensive guy last season. He is getting paid $15 million next year and isn't in the top ten of wide receivers getting paid. His contract is a couple of years old, however, at age 29, he is unlikely to get as high a number as a guy like Adams got, at age 30. Even if he does, it'll be on a different team and the immediate reaction would likely see it to be an overpay.
In the end, their talent can't be disputed, but the value to their production can be. If you can draft a guy to produce half their production at $1.5 million, compared to their $30 million price tag, you would do that every time. The wide receiver market for top guys is entirely out of hand and needs to reset to a lower number. This type of situation has already happened to running backs and it's rare to see one drafted in the first round. Perhaps, the Diggs contract extension, with a lower annual salary and higher guaranteed money, will help teams structure the contracts better. I'm all for getting your money, but the market has to correct itself, until that salary cap number can justify these guys getting these numbers.
The Next LK Volume: The Rams Road to Repeating