NFL contracts for superstar players get larger with virtually every new contract that is signed.
The Dallas Cowboys have their own players to sign soon, and the emphasis should be on “soon”.
This article is part two and is dedicated to the defensive side of the ball. To read about the offense's players worthy of extensions, click here.
Draft picks from 2020 are entering the last year of their contracts, with the 5th-year team option available for 1st-round picks.
The Cowboys' negotiating strategy is usually to make an initial offer below market value.
This creates a wide financial disparity between their offer and the amount that the player and agent are asking for.
The problem with this negotiating strategy is the rest of the league doesn't pause while Dallas attempts to hammer out a deal.
Other NFL teams sign players to record-setting deals during the long negotiations that the Cowboys are known for.
Often, the player signed to the record deal is not as talented as other players around the league who are also negotiating new contracts.
One team overpaying creates a domino effect of other teams having to top that contract for a player who has better on-field production.
The Dallas Cowboys have two defensive players who could reset the top of the market at their respective positions.
CB Trevon Diggs
Years left on contract: 1
Average annual salary/NFL rank: $1.58 million/79th
Trevon Diggs was drafted with the 51st overall pick from the University of Alabama in the 2020 NFL Draft.
His current average salary from his rookie deal is less than his teammates Jourdan Lewis and Kelvin Joseph.
Diggs' production since being drafted speaks for itself.
The above graphic is sorted by most interceptions from a cornerback since Diggs was drafted in 2020.
Trevon is tied for the most interceptions in the NFL since 2020, alongside Los Angeles Chargers CB J.C. Jackson.
Those 17 career interceptions include a whopping 11 during his 2021 sophomore season, tying a Cowboys single-season franchise record set by Everson Walls in 1981.
Notable names on this list he has outperformed include Jalen Ramsey, James Bradberry, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Xavien Howard.
Ramsey, Howard, and Jackson all fall in the top eight of average annual salary for the cornerback position.
The reason the Cowboys should extend Diggs soon is that the salaries on this list are not the only new contracts they will be competing with.
Notable cornerbacks who are also up for contract extensions include Cameron Dantzler, Jaylon Johnson, C.J. Henderson, Jeff Okudah, and Kendall Fuller.
You might scoff at these names, thinking their production couldn't get them near enough to sniff what Trevon has done on the field.
However, Diggs and his agent will be watching these names closely.
If there is one thing you can bet on, it is that bad teams with salary cap space will overpay average players.
It happens every season, and agents of the top-tier players use those contracts to their advantage.
Dallas needs to get this deal done before the season starts.
LB Micah Parsons
Years left on contract: 2 (3 with 5th-year team option)
Average annual salary/NFL rank: $4.269 million/54th
You might be asking yourself “Why is Micah Parsons on this list when he still has two years left on his rookie deal?”.
Technically, Parsons is not eligible for an extension until after the 2023 season is complete, but already planning for this is the urgency I want the Cowboys to have.
An argument can be made that Micah is already the best defensive player on the planet with only two NFL seasons under his belt.
Parsons has stuffed the stat sheet in his first two seasons, compiling 26.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, and 56 quarterback hits.
Those stats have earned him NFL All-Pro 1st team honors in each of his two seasons played.
He is also technically still listed as a linebacker by the Cowboys, even though he spent nearly 80% of his snaps as a defensive end in 2022.
Agents use every advantage to get the best possible deals for their players.
If another year goes by with Parsons lining up primarily as a pass-rushing defensive end, it won't matter if the Cowboys list him as a linebacker on the depth chart.
His agent will demand defensive end money.
It might seem silly to spend money on a player two years before a team is required to, but take a look at the current highest-paid defensive players in the NFL.
At a glance, which of these players has a higher impact than Micah Parsons?
Aaron Donald, T.J. Watt, and Myles Garrett are the only players on the same dominant level as he.
Would Micah and his agent agree to a contract worth $30 million a year if offered to them immediately after the conclusion of the 2023 season?
Adding that contract to the books early might sting for the Cowboys, but it would be a bargain three years from now when the highest-paid defensive player is making $35-40 million annually.
It might not be a popular opinion, but preparing to offer Micah Parsons a record deal at the conclusion of the 2023 season would be a smart move, and cheaper than a record deal in 2026.