Fantasy managers love it when their players have an added reason to produce great totals at a high level. While the most important goal of many players is to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy, winning the biggest contract possible is also high on the list (maybe even higher than a championship). So let’s take a look at which players are entering contract years and will be most motivated to prove themselves before the 2022 NFL offseason.
Note: All 2021 base salary data provided by Spotrac.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (2021 salary: $ 1,075.00): This could be the last year of what has been a Hall of Fame career for Roethlisberger, who enters the season at the age of 39. He finished as QB14 a season ago, averaging 17.8 Fantasy points per game. With most of his weapons in the passing game, Big Ben is still a QB2.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, American Football Team (2021 salary: $ 3,000,000): The Amish rifle is turning 38 years old, as its eight-team (and now nine) career has rarely seen it sign long-term deals. He averaged a little over 17 fantasy points per game a season ago, so he’ll be on QB2’s conversation as a last-round option in most 2021 draws.
Jameis Winston, Saints (salary in 2021: $ 1,000,000)Winston is entering a great year as he is the projected favorite to replace Drew Brees as the Saints’ number one quarterback. If he can find success, it could mean a big deal heading into his 28-year season. On the other hand, a perceived failed year could cost Winston initial opportunities in 2022.
Cam Newton, Patriots (salary in 2021: $ 1,500,000): This is likely to be Newton’s last season as a starter in New England, as the team chose his future franchise general, Mac Jones, in the NFL draft. Still, Newton will be looking to show that he can succeed as an NFL starter to be considered among teams seeking a starter in 2022.
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos (salary in 2021: $ 4,250,000): Bridgewater’s 2020 totals didn’t ignite the fantasy world, but he finished a respectable 18th in fantasy points among quarterbacks. He’ll fight Drew Lock for the starting job in training camp, and he could be playing to earn respect as a viable No. 1 quarterback for 2022 and beyond.
Notable: Taysom Hill, Santos; Andy Dalton, bears; Marcus Mariota, Raiders
Nick Chubb, Browns (salary in 2021: $ 3,384,000): Most attractive free agent running back, Chubb ranks fifth among free agent running backs in terms of overall salary. The Browns will have to open their wallets or franchise tag the talented Chubb, who won’t turn 25 until December. He would benefit from another great statistical season with Kevin Stefanski.
Melvin Gordon, Broncos (salary in 2021: $ 4,500,000)Gordon, who finished as RB14 a season ago, is probably playing his final season with the Broncos after the team selected his replacement, Javonte Williams. As a result, the 28-year-old will be motivated to produce to tempt other NFL teams to add him by 2022.
Raheem Mostert, 49ers (salary in 2021: $ 2,975.00): Mostert, entering his 29-year season, could have a hard time finding a prominent role in 2022 without a great 2021 campaign. The Niners selected both Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell, who are projected as the future of the team’s backfield . This could be the final NFL year relevant to Mostert’s fantasy.
Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (salary in 2021: $ 920,000): This is an important year for Edmonds as he will look to show that he can be more than a committee in his 25-year season. A successful campaign could lead to a nice new deal and a prominent role for 2022 and beyond, but Edmonds could have a hard time parting ways with James Conner.
Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (salary in 2021: $ 1,444,351)Jones led the Buccaneers running backs in touches, yards, touchdowns and fantasy points last season, but Leonard Fournette was their best running back during the postseason en route to a Super Bowl title. Jones would do well to earn that role one more time, but it seems quite likely that there will be a committee again in 2022.
David Johnson, Texans (2021 salary: $ 1,250,000): This is very likely to be Johnson’s last season as a starter in Houston, as he turns 29 this December and has seen his numbers decline. On a team that’s in rebuild mode, the Texans will undoubtedly be on the hunt for a younger character before 2022. Best for DJ is as an RB4.
Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers (2021 salary: $ 1,000,000): Fournette is coming off a great playoff run, earning the nickname “Lombardi Lenny” when the Buccaneers took home the trophy. Still, in his prime at 26, Fournette will have a hard time earning a true standout role with Jones and Giovani Bernard on the roster and on years of contract.
James Conner, Cardinals (salary in 2021: $ 1,250,000): Speaking of Conner, who signed a team-friendly deal, he’s also looking to show that he can be a productive and long-lasting running back (something he hasn’t been since 2018). A possible committee with Edmonds could damage the value of both running backs, but this duo have a lot to prove for their future NFL careers.
Notable: Nyheim Hines, Colts; James White, Patriots; JD McKissic, soccer team; Rashaad Penny, Seahawks; Phillip Lindsay, Texans; Sony Michel, Patriots
Davante Adams, Packers (2021 salary: $ 12,250,000)Adams has nothing more to prove at the NFL level, as he posted WR1 totals a season ago with Aaron Rodgers leading the way. Whether or not Rodgers returns to the Packers could determine whether Adams will return with the team in 2022 and beyond. At this point, he’s still my best fantasy catcher.
Robby Anderson, Panthers (salary in 2021: $ 8,000,000)Anderson is coming off his best season on stat sheets, finishing with 95 receptions and 1,096 yards. He’ll be reuniting with San Darnold in 2021, and another solid campaign should be a good payday in Anderson’s future. He will be a solid No. 3 fantasy wide receiver in every draft.
Allen Robinson, Bears (salary in 2021: $ 17,888,000): Robinson has been a franchisee in each of the last two seasons, during which time he has produced two seasons in the top 10 from a fantasy point of view. Going into his 28-year campaign, Robinson would benefit from a great third season in a row as he will become a true unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (2021 salary: $ 15,983,000): The Buccaneers put the franchise tag on Godwin, who will enter this season as WR2 in most fantasy drafts. He’s going to be highly motivated to produce in his 25-year season, like a big payday with Tampa Bay (or anywhere else if Tom Brady retires?). It could be right around the corner.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (2021 salary: $ 1,000,000): Smith-Schuster finished in a respectable 16th place in fantasy points among wide receivers, and will remain with Pittsburgh on a one-year deal. He has a great relationship with Roethlisberger, who is back perhaps for his final season, so a solid 2021 season could mean a lot of money for JuJu in 2022.
Will Fuller, Dolphins (salary in 2021: $ 931,765)Fuller is coming off the best season of his career, but he had to settle for a one-year contract with the Dolphins. It’s not the best place to land, as the team has a lot of mouths to feed, but Fuller would do well to do something to increase his free agent stock heading into the 2022 offseason.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (salary in 2021: $ 2,183,000): Sutton is entering his 25-year season, and it is important as he seeks to show the rest of the league that he is 100 percent and capable of being a No. 1 wide receiver. While the Broncos have many options in airstrike, Sutton has the highest ceiling and could explode in 2021.
DJ Chark, Jaguars (salary in 2021: $ 2,183,000): Chark is coming off a disappointing 2021, making this upcoming campaign even more important in terms of its value on the open market in 2022. Trevor Lawrence’s presence should help too. Chark, who is only 24, could get a lot of attention as a free agent if he has a strong 2021.
Notable: Antonio Brown, Buccaneers; TY Hilton, Colts; Mike Williams, Chargers; Michael Gallup, cowboys; Emmanuel Sanders, Bills; AJ Green, Cardinals; Christian Kirk, Cardinals; Sammy Watkins, Ravens; Jamison Crowder, Jets
Mark Andrews, Ravens (salary in 2021: $ 3,384,000): Andrews has produced a couple of top-6 finishes among tight ends, so it’s no wonder he’s considered a top-5 option at the position ahead of the 2021 draws. He has already proven his worth against the Ravens as the best pass receiver for Lamar Jackson, but another strong year would help his contract cause.
Dallas Goedert, Eagles (salary in 2021: $ 1,246,946)Goedert could be in a great place to add up his career-best totals this season as the Eagles are reportedly looking to trade Zach Ertz. If that happens, Goedert would be in a great position to produce strong fantasy totals and win a nice new contract with the Eagles (or anywhere else) in 2022.
Logan Thomas, American football team (salary in 2021: $ 2,315,000): Thomas exploded into his 29-year season, posting more goals, receptions, yards and touchdowns than in his previous four years combined. Now, at the age of 30, Thomas will have to go out and prove that his 2020 totals were no fluke. That is the motivation to produce on the stat sheets.
Evan Engram, Giants (salary in 2021: $ 6,013,000): Engram hasn’t lived up to the high expectations he had after being eliminated as a rookie, wasting time due to injuries while simultaneously dealing with dropped passes and inconsistent production. The Giants have a lot of mouths to feed, but Engram needs to step up and enter his 27-year campaign.
Mike Gesicki, Dolphins (salary in 2021: $ 1,381,626): Gesicki just came off his best season as a professional, recording 53 receptions, 703 yards and six touchdowns. As he enters his 25-year campaign, he will seek to prove that he should be paid as one of the top 10 tight ends in the NFL. Hunter Long’s draft pick also added motivation for Gesicki.
Notable: Robert Tonyan, Packers; Zach Ertz, Eagles; Eric Ebron, Steelers; Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers; OJ Howard, Buccaneers; Jimmy Graham, bears; Hayden Hurst, Falcons; Gerald Everett, Seahawks; Jared Cook, Chargers
MORE ARTICLES BY MICHAEL FABIANO
Michael Fabiano he is an award-winning fantasy football analyst in Illustrated Sports and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Y Instagram for your latest great news and the best analysis in the industry.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.