The landscape of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL seemingly shifts dramatically every single offseason. Who is the highest-paid WR in the NFL, and which other receivers round out the top 10 at the position?
The highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL | 6-10
Which wide receivers sit in the bottom half of the top 10 when it comes to average annual value (AAV)? Which players are clinging onto the bottom of the list and could be shifted off this offseason?
10) Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams | AAV: $16.25 million
At the beginning of the 2020 season, Robert Woods signed a four-year contract extension worth $65 million. As part of the deal, Woods received $18.5 million guaranteed at signing and a total of $32 million in guarantees. He has a $3.5 million roster bonus fully guaranteed for 2022, and his salary for the season becomes guaranteed on March 20.
Following his torn ACL during the 2021 season, the Rams could move on from Woods. His salary does not appear to be guaranteed for injury, and LA could save $3.6 million in cap space by moving on ahead of March 20. They would also save the $10 million in cash owed to Woods this year.
9) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | AAV: $16.5 million
Mike Evans’ five-year contract extension is worth $82.5 million. Evans received $38.3 million in guaranteed money at signing. Those guarantees finished back in 2020, and the deal runs through 2023 with two void years built-in after that.
Entering 2022, Evans has two years left on his deal and will count $20.62 million against the cap. When he signed the deal, Evans was the third highest-paid WR in the league. Releasing Evans before the 2022 season would see the Buccaneers left with $17.72 million in dead money.
8) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks | AAV: $17.25 million
Last offseason, Tyler Lockett and the Seahawks agreed to a four-year extension worth $69 million. The contract contained a $19 million signing bonus and had $37 million in guarantees. His salary in 2021 and 2022 are both fully guaranteed, as was the option bonus that was paid on February 18.
The $13 million option bonus and $19 million signing bonus offer Lockett some protection for the next couple of years. The Seahawks would incur $21.15 million in dead money if they moved on from him after the 2022 season. As it stands, Lockett will have a $10.05 million cap number in 2022. That will rise to $16.75 million in 2023 and $23.95 million in 2024 and 2025.
T-6) Kenny Golladay, New York Giants | AAV: $18 million
Despite a tough 2021 free agency period for wide receivers, Kenny Golladay did manage to join the list of the highest-paid at the position. Golladay’s four-year deal is worth $72 million, with $28 million guaranteed at signing. A further $3 million in salary and a $4.5 million roster bonus in 2023 will become guaranteed on March 18, 2022.
Golladay carries a $21.15 million cap number in 2022 and $21.4 million in each of the final two years of the deal. There is also a void year built into the deal. Therefore, even when Golladay is a free agent in 2025, he will still cost the Giants $3.4 million against the cap.
T-6) Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $18 million
In 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs signed speedster Tyreek Hill to a three-year deal worth $54 million. The contract included $22.5 million in guaranteed money at signing (a total of $35 million in guaranteed money).
Hill has one more year remaining on his deal and will have a cap hit of $20.7 million in 2022. The Chiefs could move on from Hill for $2.65 million in dead money this offseason, but it seems much more likely that Kansas City signs Hill to an extension and spreads that $20 million cap number around a little.
The highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL | 2-5
Which wide receivers make up the top five in terms of the highest-paid at the position? Could we see Davante Adams join this part of the list somewhere this offseason?
5) Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints | AAV: $19.25 million
Michael Thomas signed a five-year deal with the New Orleans Saints worth $96.3 million. However, the deal is heavily backloaded, with an average cap value of $24.9 million in the final three seasons.
Despite not playing in 2021, Thomas will be the second-highest-paid wide receiver in terms of cap number in 2022 at $24.7 million. There has been some talk that Thomas could move this offseason. However, whether he is released or traded, he would leave the Saints with $22.7 million in dead money — unless they do it post June 1.
4) Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $20 million
Another player who has been much discussed when it comes to his future is Amari Cooper. In 2020, Amari Cooper signed a five-year, $100 million deal, becoming the first receiver to sign a $100 million deal in the history of the NFL. The balance of the deal sees Cooper’s cap hit sitting at $22 million in each of the final four years of the contract.
While that number makes him the third-highest-paid among wide receivers in terms of salary cap hit, the Cowboys do have an out in the deal. Releasing Cooper in the 2022 offseason would leave the Cowboys with just $6 million in dead money. That drops to $4 million in 2023 and $2 million in 2024.
3) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers | AAV: $20.03 million
Keenan Allen is in the second year of his four-year, $80.1 million contract extension. His cap number in 2022 is the seventh-highest at the position at $15.7 million. That number will climb to $21.7 million and $25.8 million over the next two seasons.
Allen’s contract contained $26.5 million in guarantees at signing, with $43 million in total guarantees. His 2022 salary is fully guaranteed, but the Chargers have options after that. If they wanted to move on from Allen next offseason, it would cost just $5.4 million to get the third highest-paid wide receiver off their books.
2) Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans | AAV: $22 million
The former highest-paid WR in the NFL struggled to stay on the field in the past two years. Julio Jones was set to be the highest-paid WR in terms of cap number at $23.1 million in 2021. However, the trade changed the optics a little, with $7.75 million remaining with the Falcons. The Titans also restructured his contract, reducing his cap number in 2021 to $4.1 million.
Jones’ cap number appears to be on the low side at $14.3 million. However, he still has $10 million in dead money for the Falcons in 2022, which is due to the prorated signing bonus remaining on his deal. Jones has two void years in his deal and will leave $5.6 million in dead money when his contract voids in 2024.
Who is the highest-paid WR in the NFL?
Who sits atop the list when it comes to the highest-paid WR in terms of AAV? Additionally, is there a chance that we see that number threatened this offseason?
1) DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals | AAV: $27.25 million
Topping the list of highest-paid wide receivers by some distance is Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins’ number averages out to an incredible $27.25 million per year across the two-year extension.
The new contract does not even really begin until 2023, but the Cardinals will start feeling the effects of the cost in 2022. This season, Hopkins will carry a cap number of $25.05 million — assuming they do not make any adjustments.
The Cardinals have a potential out after 2022, but it would cost $15.5 million in dead money. Yet, that would be a saving of $11.7 million compared to the $27.2 million cap number Hopkins is due to have next season. It’s hard to see how even Davante Adams can top the number and become the highest-paid player at the WR position.