July 2020 was a big month for some of the NFL’s best defensive players. The last superstar to be rewarded with a lucrative long-term extension was Chargers Joey Bosa’s defensive ending. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 concept followed his rookie deal for another five years for $ 135 million. His guaranteed $ 102 million sets a record for defenders in a variety of positions.
That makes Bosa the new highest-paid defensive player ever in the NFL. Two weeks ago, both Brown’s defensive ending Myles Garrett (No. 1 overall in 2017) and Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (No. 37 overall in 2016) were rewarded for performing in the top four.
MORE: The NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks
All three are now in the exclusive company of those who recently signed mega deals for them. That includes three big names of former former NFL defenders of the year – the Rams’ Aaron Donald, the Bears’ Khalil Mack and the Texans’ JJ Watt.
Here’s a rundown of the three main criteria for measuring the league’s most well-compensated impact defenders. Most are known for their ability to go to the quarterback from the outside or the inside.
NFL’s highest-paid defensive players
|1.||$ 27 million||Joey Bosa, DE||Chargers|
|2.||$ 25 million||Myles Garrett, DE||Browns|
|3.||$ 23.5 million||Khailil Mack, OLB||Bears|
|4.||$ 22.5 million||Aaron Donald, DT||Rams|
|5. (tie)||$ 21 million||DeMarcus Lawrence, DE||Cowboys|
|5. (tie)||$ 21 million||DeForest Buckner, DT||Foals|
|7.||$ 20.8 million||Frank Clark, DE||Leaders|
|8.||$ 20 million||Chris Jones, DT||Leaders|
|9.||$ 19.016667 million||Von Miller, OLB||Broncos|
|10.||$ 18 million||Trey Flowers, DE||Lions|
Bosa and Garrett set the market again in terms of annual salary. Garrett eventually got $ 10 million less over five years ($ 125 million), which is good for Bosa’s $ 2 million per season advantage. Bosa is the better player overall and deserves that status above Garrett.
Mack and Donald, the respective general numbers 5 and 13 in the 2014 NFL concept, remain strong with their previous expansions as DPOYs. Mack got his current contract (six years) from the Bears two years ago after being traded by the Raiders. That same summer of 2018, the day before, Donald got his deal (seven years).
Buckner was too expensive for the 49ers, so they exchanged him in March and he was immediately paid long-term by the Colts. Jones was given four years for $ 85 million about a week after Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes got a $ 503 million transcendent 10-year contract.
- Fully guaranteed money on signing
|Rank||Guaranteed at signing||Player||Team|
|1.||$ 78 million||Joey Bosa, DE||Chargers|
|2.||$ 60 million||Khail Mack, OLB||Bears|
|3. (tie)||$ 50 million||Myles Garrett, DE||Browns|
|3. (tie)||$ 50 million||Aaron Donald, DT||Rams|
|5.||$ 48 million||DeMarcus Lawrence, DE||Cowboys|
|6.||$ 46 million||Byron Jones, CB||Dolphins|
|7.||$ 43.805 million||Frank Clark, DE||Leaders|
|8.||$ 43 million||CJ Mosley, ILB||Jets|
|9.||$ 42 million||Von Miller, OLB||Broncos|
|10.||$ 40 million||Trey Flowers, DE||Lions|
Bosa’s contract was loaded in every possible way. It’s still astonishing to see how much the Bears gave out to Mack to keep him so high despite all the deals in the two years since. That Garrett was able to match Donald here is quite impressive.
Byron Jones, and non-reigning Patriots DPOY Stephon Gilmore, is the only defensive defender to make the top 10 with every metric after being expelled from the Cowboys. It’s surprising to see Mosley here – he’s only played two games for the Jets since they pulled him away from the Ravens in 2019.
The Lions are hoping for bigger things from Trey Flowers after spending the former Patriot in last year’s free service. A notable omission from all three lists is Cardinal’s edge rusher Chandler Jones, who hails from a dominant season of 19 sacks. He plays on the five-year $ 85.5 million deal he signed in 2017, making him $ 16.5 annually with a guaranteed $ 31 million at signing
|1.||$ 141 million||Khail Mack, OLB||Bears|
|2. (tie)||$ 135 million||Joey Bosa, DE||Chargers|
|2. (tie)||$ 135 million||Aaron Donald, DT||Rams|
|4.||$ 125 million||Myles Garrett, DE||Browns|
|5.||$ 114.1 million||Von Miller, OLB||Broncos|
|6.||$ 105 million||DeMarcus Lawrence, DE||Cowboys|
|7.||$ 104 million||Frank Clark, DE||Leaders|
|8.||$ 102.6 million||Fletcher Cox, DT||Eagles|
|9.||$ 100.005425 million||JJ Watt, DE||Texans|
|10.||$ 90 million||Trey Flowers, DE||Lions|
This is the largest number associated with a contract renewal, but it is not always the best because the market changes quickly. Bosa is strong here, too, and Mack is on track to earn everything from Chicago.
Cox signed his seven-year contract with Philadelphia in 2016. Watt has two years left on the deal he already signed in 2014, which is likely to end his career in Houston.
While Byron Jones surpasses all corners of the field with guaranteed money in drawing, the Eagles’ Darius Slay is ahead of an average annual salary of $ 16,683 million, making Slay No. 20 among defensive players. There is also one defensive back that has more overall value on his contract than Jones. The Washington Football Team gave Landon Collins safety a $ 84 million six-year deal to leave rival Giants last year.
Either way, there’s no question that pass rushers and backfield disrupters are the more valued player than covermen in the current defensive NFL. Salaries will continue to rise, with Joey’s brother Nick eventually becoming the highest-paid defensive player in the league for the 49ers.