For star first round picks the 5th year extension is usually just a worst-case scenario safety net. As far as the 2014 class that means this is the big money offseason and with J.J. Watt getting worn down by injury, this includes the two best defensive players in the NFL, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack.
Both contracts should be record-setting for defensive players. The question is which domino falls first and how does it affect the other’s negotiations.
As for Donald, he already made a partial play for his extension last off-season by holding out. For Donald with a 5th-year extension value of around $6.89 million, that’s not even a safety net. Mack’s $13.8 million at least gives the Raiders that safety net but one which they hope will be unnecessary. A new deal also allows them to spread out the money and create cap space for the coming year. There is also the difference between the interior linemen and the edge rusher with the edge rusher viewed as being more valuable.
Mack has Von Miller’s deal to use as a basis and is the next guy up with team’s having more cap room you could add 10%-15% to come up with a fair offer. Chandler Jones was the more recent edge rusher to get paid and got five years at $82.5 million with $51 million in guarantees but he is a notch below Mack and Miller. I think Donald is so far superior to the next best interior linemen (probably Fletcher Cox) that a fair offer for him should be significantly higher than the others.
The dilemma is this: Do you strike first or wait for the other guy to strike first?
It’s quite possible that even if you do want to strike first the players camp may want to wait, arguing that their guy is more valuable. Mack is the edge player but Donald is special with his interior penetration. Either one can single-handedly wreck a game.
It’s an interesting little “cat and mouse game” but it doesn’t make that much of a difference because both players will very soon be extremely wealthy individuals.