When a player signs a new contract, we often hear that he has become the highest-paid player in NFL history at his position. And that’s actually the way it should go in a thriving sports league like the NFL. Each next deal for the best player in the league at that position should be the best deal ever given to a player that plays that position.
And when a player becomes the highest paid player at a given position, we assume that the prior record didn’t stand for all that long. When it comes to tight ends, Jimmy Graham’s new high-water mark comes more than six years after the last one was set.
Per a source with knowledge of the deal, former Colts tight end Dallas Clark signed in February 2008 a contract that paid out $27.555 million over three years. No one has beaten that since then. And it’s possible that Graham’s new deal won’t pay out that much over three years, based on the actual structure.
Clark’s deal also included $20 million guaranteed. Of that amount, $11.5 million was fully guaranteed at signing.
Clark’s deal came at a time when he had been slapped with the franchise tag; it wasn’t an open market deal. Graham could have pushed the bar a lot higher if he’d held firm for a shot at the open market. With one or two more seasons, he would have gotten there — and the new high-water mark would have been a lot higher than the various others tight ends who have been paid in the past.