Setting expectations for top defensive ends

NFC West teams might think twice before handing their top defensive ends contract extensions worth $49 million over four years.

Signing those players for $17 million over two years would be more palatable.

They could, in theory, do both of the above. That is what the Miami Dolphins did with Cameron Wake, handing him a deal that could range in value from $17 million to $49 million.

The details, laid out Thursday by the Palm Beach Post, carry interest in the NFC West as defensive ends Chris Long, Chris Clemons and Calais Campbell enter contract years.

"Wake's contract, originally reported as a four-year extension worth $49 million and $20 million guaranteed, is really a two-year extension that will pay him $17 million," Ben Volin writes. "He received a $7 million signing bonus, and his base salaries -- $615,000 in 2012, $3.6 million in 2013 and $5.8 million in 2014 -- are fully guaranteed."

Scouts Inc. ranked Clemons 37th and Wake 47th among current NFL players in the Top 50 pieceInsider Matt Williamson put together during the 2011 season (NFC West angle here). Campbell fell into the "others of note" category. Long earned "up-and-comer" status.

I circled back with Williamson this week for his updated thoughts on where those players stand. He upgraded Wake based on pass-rushing skills.

"Campbell is certainly different than the other three because he is a bigger five-technique 3-4 defensive end," Williamson said. "But I think Wake is the best player out of Wake, Long and Clemons. In fact, I would rank those guys in that order right now.

"But Long is the youngest and just coming into his own. I would expect Long to get even more than Wake (because of his age) and Clemons to get a notch below what Miami gave Wake. Wake is a big-time pass-rusher."

The relative youth of Long and Campbell put them in better position to command longer-term deals.