Top 5 players set for big contracts

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

Nov 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

For the New York Jets this offseason, everyone is mostly talking about Muhammad Wilkerson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Who are the other players set for big pay raises?

The New York Jets are in dire straights in terms of their cap situation this season, which is night and day from last year. Currently, according Spotrac the Jets have a little over $3M in salary cap space.

Related Story: Grading every 2015 game of Ryan Fitzpatrick

While they may be in a certain salary cap purgatory now, that won’t necessarily be the case next season. The Jets should be able to make some big moves come next season with much more breathing room.

What future Jets’ stars are going to be due big pay days? Without further ado, here are the top five players set for big contracts in the future.

Next: 5. A sophomore resurgence occurred for this Jet

Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets strong safety Calvin Pryor (25) rushes Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore (17) during the first half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

5. Safety Calvin Pryor

Just a season ago, Jets fans and analysts were wondering if the Jets had drafted another long line of first round draft busts. Fast-forward a year, and the Jets have potentially one of the best up and coming safeties in the NFL.

So how much could one of the top safeties in the league garner? Instead of guessing, we were provided perhaps the market value when Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings signed a lucrative long-term deal last week.

Smith signed a 5-year $51.25M with a $10M signing bonus up front and $28.5M in total guarantees. That’s a nice deal for Smith and could set the blueprint for Pryor in the future.

Pryor brought his brash in the box style last season, by consistently laying the lumber on receiving targets. He also adding a pair of soft hands as a ball-hawk in the Jets’ defensive secondary. If Pryor continues his impressive play in year three, the Jets will have to pony up in 2019.

Next: 4. Often injured, but the potential is there

Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Clady (78) smiles on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

4. Offensive tackle Ryan Clady

Ryan Clady made this list without ever lining up for a snap with the Jets, yet. But the stage is set for the former Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

To get the money is easy for Clady, all he has to do is stay healthy but that is easier said than done. He has missed 30 of the past 48 games because of foot and knee injuries.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets’ former starting left tackle for the past decade, was getting paid to be the franchise protector. Clady has an opportunity to do the same thing for the Jets.

Clady arguably has a higher ceiling than Ferguson and as part of the trade that was facilitated between the Denver Broncos and the Jets, he took less money. But perhaps less is more, by taking less money now and proving himself, he can get paid again (Clady agreed to a restructured contract, two years for $16M).

Next: 3. From underdog to multi-millionaire?

Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets strong safety Marcus Williams (20) runs back an interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3. Cornerback Marcus Williams 

Marcus Williams, an undrafted free agent out of North Dakota State, was just happy to make the team last year. Now entering 2016, he has the opportunity to become a mega star.

According to figures and cross-referenced numbers at Spotrac, Williams is one of the least compensated players on the roster of the Jets. But all that could change with a big 2016 season, he showed the production necessary of a pay-raise last season with six interceptions (led the team) in limited opportunities.

If Williams has a huge season in 2016, due to his age and contract status, he will be a restricted free agent in 2017. Much like defensive tackle Damon Harrison was last season for the Jets.

He’s entering his third year in the league, all with the Jets. Williams is currently battling with Buster Skrine and Dee Milliner for the opposite starting spot at the cornerback position for the Jets.

Next: 2. There's no doubt he'll get paid by someone

August 11, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive Muhammad Wilkerson during practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

2. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson

In most years, Muhammad Wilkerson’s contract situation would be the storyline of the offseason. But thanks to the Ryan Fitzpatrick saga, Wilkerson’s mini-holdout has mostly been shoved under the radar.

While his absence may be going reasonably unnoticed, his contract demands haven’t been. Although Wilkerson has proved worthy of a long-term extension, the Jets haven’t provided for one reason or another.

Wilkerson will be making north of $15M thanks to the NFL’s franchise tag, unless the Jets and Wilkerson can come to terms ahead of the franchise deadline. Something they’ve been unable to do for the last two plus seasons.

There is no way that Wilkerson will leave without the Jets getting some sort of compensation. So we could be talking about the Jets tagging Wilkerson again in 2017. Regardless, Wilkerson will be getting a deal with $40M+ guaranteed from a NFL ball club, it isn’t a matter of if but simply when.

Next: 1. The best player on the Jets roster, right now

1. Defensive end Sheldon Richardson

Looking at the entirety of the Jets’ roster, it’s clear who is the next player that is going to get seriously paid. Sheldon Richardson has been talking about it since he was drafted by the Jets.

Richardson’s 5th-year option was exercised, meaning he’ll be making north of $8M dollars according to figures. Let’s just look at some of the highest paid defensive linemen in the game to get a proper evaluation.

Olivier Vernon is the most recent defensive lineman to get paid, by way of $85M with $52M+ guaranteed. But Richardson could have his eyes set on a figure set by a different defensive play-maker.

He’s worth that penny,” Richardson said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “And you know what penny I’m talking about. . . . We don’t just want J.J. Watt money. We want it all. We want Suh money. Hopefully everybody wants that type of bread in this league.”

Last year, Richardson made these comments about the Wilkerson situation, but noticed he used the term “we” when describing those contract demands. That “Suh money” he’s referring to? That’s a six-year/$115M deal that has a $25M signing bonus with $60M guaranteed.

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This is the main reason the Jets are in a pickle with Wilkerson, they know Richardson is going to be expensive. They also have a budding superstar in defensive end Leonard Williams and they can’t pay everyone. But what can be assured is that Richardson is the next Jet to get paid, hopefully he can stay out of trouble once he gets that contract he’s worked hard to earn.