Le'Veon Bell, Kirk Cousins can expect to set salary standard at their positions in 2018

Derek Carr will average $25 million annually after the Oakland Raiders signed their young quarterback to a record extension last month. 

Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell will be the NFL's highest-paid running back in 2017.

But nobody re-set that financial bar Monday, when the deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term deals passed.

Yet in the cases of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins — and also Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson — negotiations next year will create ripple effects for future salaries at their respective positions. (Players now resigned to playing with the franchise tag cannot resume negotiations until after the season.)

Here are some of the top players at those positions whose contracts are scheduled to expire at the end of the season:


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1. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions): He’s just 29, boasts exceptional arm strength, comes off arguably his best season and is primed to cash in at just the right time. An extension in Detroit seems to be the most likely outcome, as the Lions won’t want to let Stafford hit the open market. His next deal will almost certainly break Carr’s record.

2. Cousins (Redskins): His camp didn't submit a counteroffer in negotiations with Washington, a hint that Cousins may want to play elsewhere. If Cousins reaches free agency, he could compete with Stafford to become the highest-paid player in league history — especially if Stafford signs first.

3. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints): Even at 38, he clearly still has a few years of good football left. If the Saints let him get away, Brees could provide a contending team needing help under center a shot to compete. He'd likely fetch a two- to three-year deal and would still come at a premium.

4. Jimmy Garoppolo (New England Patriots): He'll almost surely be a prized commodity, likely to command more than the four-year, $72 million pact similarly unproven Brock Osweiler received from the Houston Texans in 2016. The Patriots could also franchise Garoppolo, a move they used on former backup quarterback Matt Cassel in 2009 before trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs.

5. Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings): Much will depend on the recovery of Teddy Bridgewater from a significant knee injury suffered last year. But if Bradford plays well, he could be in line for another massive contract, though one that probably won't quite reach the threshold of Carr, Stafford or Cousins.

Running backs

1. Bell (Steelers): Whether Pittsburgh eventually re-signs him, or if he winds up testing the market, Bell’s next contract will almost certainly set the benchmark for all other running backs.

2. Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons): He's been angling for an extension, which could come as soon as training camp. While Freeman is an excellent, multi-skilled back, he probably won't get paid on par with Bell since his time-share situation with Tevin Coleman depresses his touches and impact.

3. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals): Hill has been a consistent presence even while splitting touches with Giovani Bernard. But the Bengals invested big in the draft when they selected talented Joe Mixon in the second round, so Hill’s 2017 tape may be for other teams.

4. Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers): Entering a contract year under a new regime, Hyde has to stay healthy and re-establish his worth — and quickly. He has been a bright spot on a roster lacking talent. But because the Niners drafted Joe Williams, Hyde’s best bet for a big contract may be to field outside offers.

5. Eddie Lacy (Seattle Seahawks): After struggling with his weight and injuries, Lacy’s career in Green Bay ended after he signed a one-year, prove-it deal with Seattle. Maybe a change of scenery was what he needed, but now he has to show he is worth more than the $4.25 million the Seahawks gave him.


1. Malcolm Butler (Patriots): Consistently one of the top corners in man coverage and capable of trailing No. 1 wideouts, Butler, 27, should fetch an offer that will make him among the highest-paid — if not the richest — cornerback in the NFL.

2. Xavier Rhodes (Vikings): He has blossomed into one of the league's top, young players after allowing a league-low 41.8% completion rate on passes thrown against him last season. Whether he receives the franchise tag, negotiates an extension, or tests the market, Rhodes is due for a huge pay day.

3. Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams): He may have the highest salary ($16.7 million) of any corner on this list after getting franchised for two consecutive years, but Johnson, 27, continues to be a player with unfulfilled potential. He boasts excellent size and athleticism but needs to become more consistent in order to land a lucrative, multi-year deal.

4. Brent Grimes (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): He'll be 34 this season but continues to be a reliable defender. Because of that advancing age, his salary likely won’t be as high as others at his position, and he'll likely have to take a shorter deal.

5. Vontae Davis (Indianapolis Colts): After a subpar 2016, he needs to bounce back in a contract year. He’s still fairly young at 29, so his earning power is still decent at a premium position.


Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes

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