Before the 2022 NFL offseason, there was just one wide receiver with an average salary over $20.5 million: Arizona Cardinals' star DeAndre Hopkins. And even he kind of had a fake deal. The Cardinals gave him a 2-year, $54.5 million extension on the top of his old Houston Texans' contract. So, while he got a $27.25 million average in new money, the Cardinals actually pay $18.8 million per year. But a flurry of new receiver deals have been signed this year, and the wide receiver market has totally changed.
The 2022 season will be a true test for the value of the position. On the one hand, analytics-inclined people argue that receivers are one of the most valuable positions in football, and nothing helps a quarterback success more than passing weapons who get open fast. More traditional analysts, though, consider that receivers are much more dependent on the environment to produce, which theoretically reduces their importance to the team and turn them into replaceable pieces.
Nine of the 10 highest-paid wide receivers in average per year in the NFL signed their contracts this offseason. But the real madness started when two well-managed teams traded their stars.
Davante Adams wanted out of Green Bay to play with Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Green Bay Packers didn't have as much effort to keep him as they had had to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers one year earlier. Green Bay traded Adams to Las Vegas for 1st and 2nd-round picks, and Adams signed a five-year extension with the Raiders who pays him $28 million per year — it's truly a three-year contract with two fake years in the end, but to be honest, most NFL contracts are like this anyway.
The numbers scared the Kansas City Chiefs, and they decided to trade Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins for 1st, 2nd, and two 4th-round picks in 2022, plus a sixth-rounder in 2023. The Dolphins gave Hill a four-year, $ 120 million extension, the first offensive weapon to receive a $ 30 million annual average in the history of the NFL.
Stefon Diggs (Buffalo Bills) and Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) also agreed to extensions.
Finally, there was also a flurry of signings for younger rising stars. DJ Moore extended with the Carolina Panthers, and the five awesome receivers from the 2019 class also got deals done: AJ Brown (Philadelphia Eagles), Terry McLaurin (Washington Commanders), DK Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks), Deebo Samuel (San Francisco 49ers), and Diontae Johnson (Pittsburgh Steelers).
The interesting point about the 2019 receivers is that, outside of AJ Brown, who got traded during the draft from the Tennessee Titans to the Philadelphia Eagles and received a four-year extension in the process, the other three players signed shorter, three-year extensions, which enables them to go back to the market with a relative young age — Metcalf and Brown are one year younger than Samuel and two then McLaurin, for what it's worth. Diontae Johnson's deal was behind in terms of average per year ($ 18.35 million), but it's a two-year extension, so he will be back on the market in 2025.
10 highest APY among wide receivers (and when the deals were signed)
1. Tyreek Hill-MIA (2022) - $ 30 million
2. Davante Adams-LV (2022) - $ 28 million
3. DeAndre Hopkins-ARI (2020) - $ 27.25 million
4. Cooper Kupp-LAR (2022) - $ 26.7 million
5. AJ Brown-PHI (2022) - $ 25 million
6. Stefon Diggs-BUF (2022) - $ 24 million
6. DK Metcalf-SEA (2022) - $ 24 million
8. Deebo Samuel-SF (2022) - $ 23.85 million
9. Terry McLaurin-WAS (2022) - $ 22.79 million
10. DJ Moore-CAR (2022) - $ 20.63 million
By the end of the 2022 NFL season, teams and analysts might have a better perspective of wide receiver's value — especially using Adams and Hill as parameters, both for the impact they'll have on new teams and how the old teams will operate without them. It's certainly going to be one of the themes of the year. Buckle up.