The pandemic and empty stadiums didn't stop NFL teams from rushing to pay premium talent like Aaron Donald tossing blockers aside on the way to the quarterback. After a slow few months of business, front offices spent more than $1.1 billion on big contract extensions since August.
The game's two best tight ends got paid.
A top-five quarterback got paid.
This is not 2011.
By training camp, teams had come to grips with the expected salary-cap shortfall in 2021 and simply shrugged. The Chiefs, Steelers, Falcons, Eagles and Saints all project to be $10 million or more over next year's projected cap of $175 million. But restructuring contracts and cutting veterans is always the easy part. It comes down to having an owner willing to spend hard cash on players every year.
And paying your best players resonates with the locker room and accentuates the win-now mantra these teams preach inside their buildings.
More messages will be sent. Based on calls around the league, here are the players who are next in line for extensions and under-radar possibilities at every position, along with a reset of the current highest-paid player at every position.