The reality is that the NFL is a business, and players are always playing for their next contract. Whether it's their first post-rookie contract or another veteran deal, these 25 players are hoping to build momentum for their next contracts with a big 2021.
Adams is arguably the NFL's best wide receiver, but he's also approaching age 30 and could be without Aaron Rodgers for the first time in his career if the quarterback forces his way out of Green Bay. While Adams has made four consecutive Pro Bowls, there will always be questions about his potential without Rodgers. How he plays in his upcoming walk year, with or without Rodgers, could determine his payday.
Entering his fifth season, Barnett has 19.5 career sacks as a solid edge rusher who has yet to truly have a breakout season. Lacking great young talent on defense, the Eagles would likely prefer to retain their former first-round pick, but he could do a lot for his future earnings with a big 2021 season.
Chark looked like a star in his second season in 2019, making the Pro Bowl with over 1,000 yards receiving. With more receiving competition and an anemic offense in Jacksonville, Chark's stats regressed last season, and he faces even more competition for catches this year. His fourth season should have a huge impact on his post-rookie contract.
Darnold never reached expectations in three seasons with the Jets, but he gets a change of scenery in Carolina plus his fifth-year option in 2022. Still, he's yet to prove that he's a viable NFL starter, though the hope is that a better supporting cast with the Panthers will help.
There have been rumblings that Gilmore would hold out of training camp entering the final year of his contract. He was the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year but missed part of last year due to injury, and could be on the decline turning 31 in September. A rebound season will be important for Gilmore's next contract.
The Bucs franchise-tagged Godwin after another strong season with a crowded Bucs receiving corps, surpassing 800 yards for the third consecutive year. It remains to be seen if the team can afford to retain both Godwin and Mike Evans long-term, so Godwin could be auditioning for another team this year.
Goedert has effectively been Philly's second tight end behind Zach Ertz in his first three seasons, but as he enters his walk year, there are rumblings he could ascend to the No. 1 role as Ertz seeks a trade. Goedert has managed to be very productive when he has played and could be in for a breakout year as he enters his walk year.
Jackson has a whopping 17 interceptions in three seasons with the Pats, and his nine picks from last year will be tough to top in his walk year. A big contract seems inevitable for Jackson if he stays the course in 2021.
Jackson still has something to prove in the playoffs, but his regular-season performance over the last three years has been spectacular. It has included an NFL MVP in 2019, along with a 30-7 record, and he's likely to be rewarded handsomely with another good year in 2021.
After two All-Pro designations in three years, Jones played only five games in 2020 due to injury. He enters the final year of his contract at age 30 but also with some help with fellow star J.J. Watt. Jones shouldn't have a problem getting another huge contract if he can bounce back this season.
Lattimore has made three Pro Bowls in four NFL seasons, emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. The former first-round pick will be a free agent after 2021 with a potentially huge contract ahead.
Miller has been the face of the Broncos' defense since he was drafted in 2011, but he had a disappointing eight sacks in 2019 before missing all of 2020 with an ankle injury. After whispers that the team would cut Miller, they brought him back for what could be one last season in his walk year. Miller will need to prove he has something left to get another big contract in his early 30's.
Murray is only entering his third NFL season, so the Cardinals have some time before worrying about an extension. Still, this could be head coach Kliff Kingsbury's final opportunity, which could have a big impact on Murray's production and future earnings. Murray improved last year but needs to make an even bigger jump this season in a tough NFC West division.
Newton is not only playing for his next contract but his NFL career in 2021. He's trying to hold off rookie first-round pick Mac Jones for the Patriots starting quarterback job, and the former MVP is also coming off back-to-back sub-par seasons.
The Chiefs were able to bring in Reed on the cheap after Seattle surprisingly moved on from him, giving him a one-year contract. He's been one of the top interior rushers of the last three years, totaling 19 sacks, and could have an opportunity for huge things in his walk year next to star Chris Jones.
Robinson has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Bears offense despite sub-par quarterback play, with consecutive seasons of over 1,100 yards. Chicago could almost certainly like to have him back as they develop young Justin Fields at quarterback, but Robinson is just playing on the franchise tag this season.
Smith-Schuster looked like a star in the making early in his career, but his stats have regressed since the Steelers lost Antonio Brown in 2019. Pittsburgh still opted to bring Smith-Schuster back this year, albeit with a crowded group of receivers around him. It could be difficult for Smith-Schuster to up his stats this season, but a strong year could still net him a big contract.
Sutton had a breakout year in 2019 with 1,112 yards receiving, but he missed almost all of last year due to a knee injury. The Broncos made do without Sutton, as rookie Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick stepped up, which could put Sutton on notice. Now in a walk year, he will try to regain the form he showed in 2019.
The Steelers are at a crossroads with Ben Roethlisberger's future in doubt, and they also have to worry about Watt's contract. He's become a premier pass rusher, with 49.5 sacks over four seasons, including a league-high 15 sacks in 2020. As he enters his walk year, Watt could see a record-breaking deal if he continues to produce.
Williams is often overshadowed by teammate Keenan Allen, but the former first-round pick has developed into an excellent deep threat in four seasons. He's averaged an elite 16.7 yards per catch for his career, and the Chargers would be smart to keep him around after his pending walk year as Justin Herbert continues to develop.
Winston is in a similar situation to New England's Cam Newton as a former first overall draft choice who is now just playing for a job. He has to hold off versatile teammate Taysom Hill for the starting quarterback role, and also show more accuracy after throwing 30 picks for the Bucs in 2019. With a successful year, Winston could be looking at the first huge long-term contract of his career.
Seth Trachtman is a fantasy sports expert and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan still hoping for a Super Bowl win during his lifetime. He doesn't often Tweet, but when he does, you can find him on Twitter @sethroto.