Time for NFL's highly paid receivers to prove their worth
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp and even Christian Kirk are among the wide receivers who reset the market for just how well the NFL pays the best at that position this year.
Now comes the tough part: Proving they're worth all those millions.
Hard work piling up lots of catches, yards and touchdowns and helping their teams win matters most.
Nobody knows that better than these receivers whose bank accounts now are bulging. Adams, who talked for years about being the NFL's highest-paid receiver, can't wait to show he deserves the record-setting $140 million deal Las Vegas gave him.
“For me, I attack it," Adams said. "I’m in the business of maximizing everything I do, so I’m definitely looking forward to, like I said, leaving my footprint, doing everything I can to hopefully allow this team to win a lot of games.”
Adams' production certainly shows he's worth the Raiders giving him a five-year deal. Adams has led the NFL with the most catches (432), yards receiving (5,310) and touchdown receptions (47) over the past four years.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said the only other option to writing a very large check is drafting a player, which is certainly cheaper. The risk is what scouts and coaches saw on tape of a player in college doesn't always translate to the NFL.
“The guys that usually you can count on are the guys who have done it at this level, and that’s why you have to pay for it,” Shanahan said. “And you have to hope the character and what they’re made of and what really drives them will continue to get what they put on tape.”
That’s why the pay scale for NFL wide receivers skyrocketed this year with teams signing eight to contracts worth at least $72 million each and three of those reached $100 million or more. Adams set the new standard with Hill and Brown all getting deals worth at least $100 million.
Hill topped the guaranteed money Adams got after being traded by Green Bay to Las Vegas. Miami guaranteed the Cheetah $72.2 million after being traded by Kansas City for an NFL-high $30 million average per year. Hill is coming off a season where he caught 111 passes for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns.
He's trying to be a veteran leader for the Dolphins by embracing being called out by first-year coach Mike McDaniel for any mistakes.
“If Coach is calling out like, the fifth, sixth receiver who’s barely getting reps, he’s going to feel some type of way,” Hill said. "But if he’s able to call me out and then call that guy out again, that guy is going be like, ‘OK, he’s calling out ‘Reek’ so I need to pick up my (game).′”
Stefon Diggs just missed the $100 million receiver club with his $96 million contract keeping him in Buffalo. The exploding receiver market didn’t help Buffalo, which knew Diggs deserved a new deal even with two years left on his original contract. And Diggs insists the money only motivates him more.
“I want to prove that I’m one of the best receivers in the league," Diggs said. "I’m a part of one of the best teams in the league and I’m chasing. I’m back chasing again. I love to chase, though because you have something to work for or look forward to each and every day.”
These deals rewriting the receiver market make Kenny Golladay’s $21.1 million salary cap hit look like a good value for the New York Giants, though his 2021 production with just 37 catches for 521 yards and no touchdowns shows the gamble teams are taking.
The NFL has 14 wide receivers averaging $20 million this season, while Seattle's D.K. Metcalf gets $31 million in cash this season.
Metcalf joined Kupp and others with three-year deals that could get them another big payday. Metcalf plans to work more on being a leader now that he is secure with his contract, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll is thrilled to have someone he calls a star on the rise signed through 2025.
“This young man is a cutting-edge performer in all ways, the way he applies himself, his expectations, the way he’s willing to work, and there is nothing that he’s not willing to do to get to the best of his abilities and potential,” Carroll said. “But it’s not just about football, and it’s not just about sports. It’s about how he attacks everything that he’s going for.”
Exactly what the Seahawks — and others — are paying big money to see.
— AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writers John Wawrow, Dan Gelston, Tim Booth contributed to this report.