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When you think about huge NFL contracts, you typically think about quarterbacks. After all, the “total cash” list for the 2024 season is littered with QBs, and the top 14 players in terms of career earnings are all quarterbacks. These guys are typically the face of their franchise and, quite often, the league. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow—these are the players that are hyped up before big matchups, serving as the draw for casual and die-hard fans alike.

Yet there’s another position that’s been making waves over the past calendar year or so. NFL teams are realizing the value of a good defensive tackle who can stop a run in its tracks and get pressure on a signal caller, potentially forcing a fumble or a wobbly throw. The teams that have quality tackles want to keep them, while the teams that don’t are willing to spend to bolster their roster.

As a result, we’ve seen mega contracts going out to several defensive tackles. Collectively, these ten guys have signed a whopping $981.25 million worth of deals. That’s nearly $1 billion to guys most fans probably wouldn’t recognize on the street, aside from going, “Wow, that is an enormous human being.”

It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to be famous to be rich. You just need to be excellent and believe in yourself. The first player on our list is a prime example of that.

Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs: 5 years, $158.75 million

Chris Jones held out at the start of last season, missing the Chiefs’ first game of the year against the Detroit Lions. The bet on himself paid off in a huge way, with the largest deal a defensive tackle has ever signed. Jones’s contract extension includes $95 million in guarantees over the first three seasons. And for the cherry on top—Jones scored an extra $1.25 million for reaching a sack milestone during the final regular season contest.

Christian Wilkins, Las Vegas Raiders: 4 years, $110 million

The Miami Dolphins selected Christian Wilkins with the 13th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he quickly made a name for himself. He put up 204 solo tackles, 20.5 sacks, and recovered six fumbles during his time with the Dolphins. Just as importantly, he rarely missed games, appearing in 100% of possible contests over the last three seasons. The Raiders rewarded him with the largest contract for a free agent defensive tackle: four years and $110 million, including $87.5 million in guarantees.

Justin Madubuike (L) chasing down Patrick Mahomes during the 2023 AFC Championship Game. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Justin Madubuike, Baltimore Ravens: 4 years, $98 million

Justin Madubuike has continued to improve over his four NFL seasons. In 2023, he set career-highs in games started, tackles, sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles. His reward? A Pro Bowl nod, second-team All-Pro nomination, and a huge contract extension, with $53.5 million at signing and $75.5 million in total guarantees.

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets: 4 years, $96 million

Quinnen Williams was the third selection of the 2019 NFL Draft, and he’s been a large reason why the Jets are such a defensively sound unit. He put up career-high tackles last season and even recorded his first career interception and safety. Though Williams’s deal is nearly identical to Madubuike’s, the Jets defensive tackle only got a $24.5 million signing bonus and has $66 million in guarantees. Williams also gets to experience some brotherly love, as his brother, Quincy, is a linebacker for the Jets.

Derrick Brown, Carolina Panthers: 4 years, $96 million

The Carolina Panthers had a season to forget, finishing in last place in the NFL while losing their draft pick to the Chicago Bears; the Panthers traded their 2024 pick to move up and select Bryce Young in 2023. However, Derrick Brown will always remember this 2024 offseason, when he signed a four-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $24 million. Brown’s contract includes more than $63 million in guarantees. The 7th pick of the 2020 draft, Brown set a career-high for tackles and QB hits.

Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans: 4 years, $94 million

By his standards, Jeffery Simmons had a down year in 2023. He was coming off two straight Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro appearances, but he saw his tackles and sack numbers drop as he missed five games. The rough stretch didn’t matter too much since the Titans knew they had a great player on their hands and rewarded him with a lucrative contract extension. Simmons’s deal includes $59.3 million guaranteed and a $24 million signing bonus.

Daron Payne, Washington Commanders: 4 years, $90 million

Daron Payne is the definition of an iron man. In six seasons, he’s only missed one game. He’s put up steady numbers each year, too, and the Commanders gave him a $90 million contract with $59.1 million guaranteed and a $28 million signing bonus. Now, he hopes his team can start improving its play—Payne won two championships in college at Alabama, so he’s used to success.

Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants: 4 years, $90 million

Lawrence is also a model of consistency, playing 16 games in each of his five seasons. His best year came in 2022 when he put up career-high tackles, sacks, QB hits, pass deflections, and forced fumbles. That strong performance earned him his second Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro. The Giants agreed to a contract that gives him slight bragging rights over Payne: Lawrence’s deal includes $60 million in guarantees.

Javon Hargrave, San Francisco 49ers: 4 years, $84 million

Most of the guys on this list were first-round picks, but Javon Hargrave, a defensive tackle out of South Carolina State, went in the third round. He spent his first four seasons with the Steelers before joining the 49ers during the 2023 offseason. He’s made two Pro Bowls and has reached the Super Bowl in two straight seasons, but has yet to get over the hurdle and win a championship.

Leonard Williams, Seattle Seahawks: 3 years, $64.5 million

Leonard Williams primarily plays defensive end, but he’s also spent some time as a defensive tackle, which is good enough for this list of big deals. Williams only played in ten games with the Seahawks last season after Seattle acquired him in a midseason trade with the New York Giants. He actually recorded 18 games, which is one more game than most people play in a season. Despite his quirky schedule, he quickly impressed in his new role, nearly doubling his combined and solo tackles and more than doubling his sack production. The Seahawks rewarded him with this hefty contract extension that includes $43.85 million in guarantees.

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