NFL All-Bargain Team: Tom Brady, Justin Jefferson and Nick Bosa spotlight the league’s underpaid stars



The NFL does not lack advantageous contracts. Given how short the average NFL career is — according to Statista, the average player plays just over three seasons — market uncertainty often pushes players to sign less than ideal deals.

For every player who signs a mammoth contract (Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins), there are legions of players who are tied down to teams on far worse financial terms.

Some of these players are real superstars. Others are reliable starters. But they all have one thing in common: they earn nothing close to their market value.

MORE: Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott and the most overpaid players of 2022

With that, here’s The Sporting News revealing their NFL All-Bargain team:

QB: Tom Brady

  • Total contract value: $15 million
  • GO TO : $15 million
  • Total guarantees: $15 million (100%)

TB12 is one of the greatest players in NFL history. His current contract does not correspond to this status.

Brady will earn $15 million this season. It’s not a silly change, but it doesn’t reflect his true value on the pitch.

For comparison, quarterbacks who will make more money than Brady this year include Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold and Carson Wentz. Imagine saying that a few years ago.

Brady and the Bucs agreed to renegotiate his deal after announcing his decision to return for a 23rd season, freeing up $9 million in cap space. And while he still earns a living wage, it could – should – be more.

AR: Jonathan Taylor

  • Total contract value: $7.83 million
  • GO TO : $1.96 million
  • Total guarantees: $4.22 million (53.9%)

Taylor only played three seasons in the league, so it’s understandable why he’s on this list. Nonetheless, the 23-year-old cemented his status as one of the league’s leading running backs last year when he rushed for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns, both league highs.

Despite the screaming numbers, Taylor will earn less than $8 million during his rookie contract with the Colts.

Salaries for running backs across the league are falling, as teams have placed less and less value on rushers in recent years. Christian McCaffrey, the league’s highest-paid fullback, earns just over $16 million a year. It’s comparable to mid-level broads like Kenny Golladay, Robbie Anderson and Allen Robinson.

MORE: Why Colts’ Jonathan Taylor won SN NFL Offensive Player of the Year

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WR: Justin Jefferson

  • Total contract value: $13.12 million
  • GO TO : $3.28 million
  • Total guarantees: $13.12 million (100%)

Much like Taylor, J Jettas’ place on this list is dictated by his youth. After being selected 22nd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jefferson put up numbers that would make the greatest fumbles in NFL history jealous. He had 3,016 receiving yards in his first two seasons, more than any other player in NFL history.

Despite all of his exploits, Jefferson only earns a hair over $3 million a season. Unlike many players on this list, all of his money is guaranteed.

But Jefferson’s profile in the league is much higher than his salary suggests.

MORE: How Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs Went Before Justin Jefferson

TE: TJ Hockenson, Lions

  • Total contract value: $19.82 million
  • GO TO : $4.95 million
  • Total guarantees: $19.82 million (100%)

Hockenson has quietly become one of the best tight ends in the league since entering the league in 2019. The former Iowa amassed 723 receiving yards in his second season in the league and 583 yards in just 12 matches last year. He’s gotten off to a strong start in 2022 and was arguably Jared Goff’s favorite target in the Lions’ first five games. He’s on pace for a career-best season.

Hockenson has the talent to be paid over $4.95 million AAV. This figure makes him the 27th highest paid tight end in football.

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OT: Tyron Smith, Cowboys

  • Total contract value: $97.6 million
  • GO TO : $12.2 million
  • Total guarantees: $22.12 million (22.7%)

The 31-year-old stalwart signed a whopping eight-year contract with the Cowboys in 2014. But the two-time All-Pro tackle, a member of the Hall of Fame All-2010 team, plays a privileged position and his best revenue. , Trent Williams of the 49ers, earns nearly twice as much as Smith in terms of AAV.

Injuries no doubt slowed Smith, but he did an admirable job protecting Dallas passers. When healthy, few tackles are as reliable.

G: Mike Onwenu, Patriots

  • Total contract value: $3.5 million
  • GO TO : $874,369
  • Total guarantees: $202,476 (5.78%)

The Patriots are treading water amid QB Mac Jones’ ankle injury, and one of the main reasons is their successful running game. And Onwenu played a big part in that, opening holes for Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris.

Onwenu showed his skills after coming on to replace Shaq Mason, a starter on two Super Bowl teams led by Tom Brady in New England. With the running game looking increasingly legit and rookie replacement QB Bailey Zappe able to do the proper readings, it’s clear that Onwenu’s deal is looking more and more like a bargain.

C: Tyler Linderbaum, Ravens

  • Total contract value: $13.24 million
  • GO TO : $3.3 million
  • Total guarantees: $13.24 million (100%)

He’s only played five games in the NFL, so caveats are certainly in order. But Linderbaum fits like a glove to coordinator Greg Roman’s system.

Whether it’s pass blocking for Lamar Jackson or blocking for fullback JK Dobbins, Linderbaum looks every bit like the player Baltimore expected when he spent a first-round pick on him in April.

If he’s able to carry on, Linderbaum’s four-year rookie contract will look like a steal.

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PRO: Nick Bosa, 49ers

  • Total contract value: $33.55 million
  • GO TO : $8.39 million
  • Total guarantees: $33.55 million (100%)

There’s something about those Bosa brothers, huh? In just four seasons, younger brother Nick has already propelled himself to the top of the league’s totem pole. Last season was his best; he had 15.5 sacks in 17 games playing at both ends of the line.

The 49ers smartly picked Bosa’s fifth-year option for the 2023 season at $17.8 million. But make no mistake, when he hits the free agent market, he’ll be worth way more than his current AAV.

DT: Jeffery Simmons, Titans

  • Total contract value: $12.66 million
  • GO TO : $3.16 million
  • Total guarantees: $12.66 million (100%)

He’s not one of football’s most recognizable D tackles, but Simmons has left a big impression on the league since joining the Titans in 2019.

Simmons’ numbers suggest he is one of the best nose tackles in the league. That includes 8.5 sacks in 2021. But the 25-year-old only earns $3.16 million a year, a figure that puts him well behind some of the league’s best players in his position.

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LB: Micah Parsons, Cowboys

  • Total contract value: $17.08 million
  • GO TO : $4.27 million
  • Total guarantees: $17.08 million (100%)

There hasn’t been too much excitement in Dallas in recent years. Parsons is a successful player during this period.

The 23-year-old is already one of the best linebackers in the game. He is a threat against the run and the pass. He racked up 13 sacks as a rookie en route to All-Pro honors. That puts him in Lawrence Taylor territory.

Parsons will inevitably sign a much bigger deal in the future. But given the nature of rookie contracts in the NFL, it’s hard to think of a better value than him.

MORE: Micah Parsons sacrifices pacing over story

CB: AJ Terrell, Falcons

  • Total contract value: $14.3 million
  • GO TO : $3.58 million
  • Total guarantees: $14.3 million (100%)

The number of young talents who have entered the league in recent years has been surprising. Terrell was the latest player to break into stardom last year. He led the league in holding quarters to one 39% completion rate when targeted.

Terrell has time to climb the cornerback totem pole, but given his team-friendly rookie contract — Terrell is expected to earn a base salary of around $1.9 million in 2022 — he deserves his place on this list.

S: Antoine Winfield Jr., Bucs

  • Total contract value: $7.3 million
  • GO TO : $1.275 million
  • Total guarantees: $3.827 million (52%)

Winfield is a Super Bowl champion at 24 and his career has gone from strength to strength. He’s started every game he’s played, he locks down midfield and he delivers smashing shots.

That’s not too bad for a player who is expected to earn less than $2 million in 2022.