Alvin Kamara is looking to cash in. Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire

NFL stars with most to prove in contract years

The "walk year" can make or break an NFL player's financial future. These players heading into contract years have the most to prove, with their sights set on a big payday next offseason.

 
1 of 25

Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Buccaneers

Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Buccaneers
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports Images

Barrett was franchised by the Bucs after leading the NFL with 19.5 sacks last season. The performance came relatively out of nowhere, so he's out to prove it wasn't a fluke so that he can get a lucrative multiyear deal next offseason.

 
2 of 25

Vic Beasley, OLB, Titans

Vic Beasley, OLB, Titans
Jeremy Brevard / USA Today Sports Images

Beasley has been inconsistent since leading the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016, and the Falcons moved on from him in the offseason. He signed a one-year, $9.5 million prove-it deal with the Titans this offseason as he tries to get back on track.

 
3 of 25

James Conner, RB, Steelers

James Conner, RB, Steelers
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports Images

Conner performed well in Le'Veon Bell's stead in 2018 but played only 10 games last year while averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Pittsburgh has drafted running backs on an annual basis and won't have much trouble moving on from Conner if he struggles again this season. There might not be a big market for Conner next offseason if he doesn't prove his durability.

 
4 of 25

Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals

Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals
Matt Kartozian / USA Today Sports Images

Drake got big money for one year to be Arizona's bell cow back in 2020, after showing well with the Cardinals late last season. The speedy runner saw a career-high 220 touches last season, so it remains to be seen if he can carry a full workload.

 
5 of 25

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneeers

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneeers
Jason Getz / USA Today Sports Images

Godwin became a breakout star for Tampa Bay last year with 96 catches for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in only 14 games. He remains a top receiving option for the Bucs this year with Tom Brady under center, and a repeat of last year could make Godwin a rich man.

 
6 of 25

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Sam Greene / USA Today Sports Images

Green has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons, playing nine games in 2018 and sitting out for all of 2019. The former superstar has the pressure off him this year with the emergence of Tyler Boyd and drafting of Tee Higgins, but he can't expect a big contract next offseason unless he stays healthy.

 
7 of 25

Todd Gurley, RB, Falcons

Todd Gurley, RB, Falcons
Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports Images

The Rams moved on from the high-priced Gurley this offseason after he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in 2019. Now with Atlanta, he's out to prove his arthritic knee wasn't the culprit. With a strong year, it's not a stretch to think Gurley could get paid next offseason when he will be going into his age 27 year.

 
8 of 25

Anthony Harris, S, Vikings

Anthony Harris, S, Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports Images

Minnesota placed the franchise tag on Harris after an elite 2019 season in which he led the league with six interceptions. It was his first year as a full-time starter, and he could be set for a huge contract next offseason, if not sooner.

 
9 of 25

Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers

Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Robert Hanashiro / USA Today Sports Images

The Chargers placed the franchise tag on the oft-injured Henry this offseason. He missed all of the 2018 regular season and played 12 games last year in what's becoming an unfortunate trend for what has otherwise been one of the best receiving tight ends in the game. Getting the money he's looking for next offseason is likely dependent on Henry staying healthy.

 
10 of 25

Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns

Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
Philip G. Pavely / USA Today Sports Images

Hunt was released by the Chiefs in 2018 due to his off-field transgressions and had further issues this offseason. He led the NFL in rushing during his 2017 rookie season and was still productive as a change of pace back for the Browns last year. Staying on the field and continuing to produce will be important for Hunt this year as he looks toward getting paid in 2021.

 
11 of 25

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Kim Klement / USA Today Sports Images

Kamara was unable to handle a larger role last year despite the loss of Mark Ingram, and his per touch average dropped to 5.3 yards. He remains one of the premier receiving backs in the game but could need to prove he can handle a bigger workload to be paid like an elite back next offseason.

 
12 of 25

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts
Douglas DeFelice / USA Today Sports Images

Taylor surpassed 1,000 yards rushing last year, but there are still questions about his ability to handle a full workload. As a result, Indianapolis drafted former Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor in the second round, who will challenge Mack for snaps. Mack's next payday is dependent on holding off Taylor and producing.

 
13 of 25

Josh Norman, CB, Bills

Josh Norman, CB, Bills
Brad Mills / USA Today Sports Images

Norman wore out his welcome in Washington but is out to prove he has something left with Buffalo this year. Since his All-Pro season with Carolina in 2015, Norman's play has deteriorated, but he should see regular snaps on a one-year deal with the Bills.

 
14 of 25

Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins

Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins
Jeff Hanisch / USA Today Sports Images

Every season is an opportunity for Peterson to prove he has more left in the tank, now at age 35. He's been Washington's primary running back over the last two years by accident and continues to be reliable into his mid-30s.

 
15 of 25

Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals

Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals
Rob Schumacher / USA Today Sports Images

Peterson missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in his nine-year career last season, as he sat out the first six games of the year due to a suspension. He hasn't stood out as much as usual and was one of the anchors on a bad Arizona defense last season, so a rebound could be necessary this year for Peterson to get paid in his early 30s.

 
16 of 25

Mike Pouncey, OC, Chargers

Mike Pouncey, OC, Chargers
Jake Roth / USA Today Sports Images

Pouncey played only five games last year due to a serious neck injury, but he's expected to return in 2020. Going on age 31, Pouncey still has to prove his health in 2020 to get paid next offseason.

 
17 of 25

Cam Robinson, LT, Jaguars

Cam Robinson, LT, Jaguars
Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Injuries have been a big issue for Robinson during his three seasons, with a torn ACL in 2018 and two games missed last year. The former second-round pick still has a chance for a huge payday at left tackle, but showing more durability will be important in 2020.

 
18 of 25

Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers

Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers
Jim Dedmon / USA Today Sports Images

Samuel has shown consistent growth in his first three seasons, though he's been upstaged by D.J. Moore recently. Snaps could be more difficult for Samuel this year after the Panthers signed Robby Anderson, and the speedy Samuel also needs to show more consistency after catching only 51 percent of his targets last year.

 
19 of 25

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports Images

Smith-Schuster's first year without Antonio Brown was a disaster with only 552 yards in 12 games, though much of the struggles were due to Pittsburgh's poor quarterback play. He will be relied on again this year, but the Steelers also drafted Chase Claypool. With strong young depth at wideout, Smith-Schuster might go elsewhere following this season, but he needs a rebound, regardless, to get the lucrative contract he craves.

 
20 of 25

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears

Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears
Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports Images

After Trubisky struggled last season, the Bears acquired Nick Foles during the offseason. The quarterbacks will battle for the starting job in training camp, but Foles looks like the favorite given his salary and the fact that Trubisky's fifth-year option was already declined. It's still not too late for Trubisky to show he can be a consistent starter in the NFL, and it's certainly possible he could get paid by another team next offseason.

 
21 of 25

Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs

Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs
Matthew Emmons / USA Today Sports Images

Watkins was one of Kansas City's playoff heroes and returns in 2020 after renegotiating his contract. It's unclear if the Chiefs would be able to afford him beyond this season with the need to extend Patrick Mahomes, and Watkins' production hasn't exactly been spectacular in two seasons with K.C. A big year would go a long way in getting him another huge contract.

 
22 of 25

James White, RB, Patriots

James White, RB, Patriots
Winslow Townson / USA Today Sports Images

White has been New England's receiving specialist at running back since 2015 and has 159 catches combined over the last two seasons. New England has generally been willing to move on from role players like White if they can't be retained for the right price, so White could be auditioning for a big contract with either the Pats or another team in 2021.

 
23 of 25

Damien Williams, RB, Chiefs

Damien Williams, RB, Chiefs
John David Mercer / USA Today Sports Images

Williams had a terrific late-season run last year, but the Chiefs drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round this offseason. As a result, it would be a surprise if Williams is in Kansas City beyond 2020, and his next payday will be dependent on proving he can handle a bigger workload, with his current career high in touches only 141.

 
24 of 25

Leonard Williams, DE, Giants

Leonard Williams, DE, Giants
Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

Williams signed the franchise tag with the Giants this offseason after they acquired him via trade last year. However, he wasn't productive on the stats sheet last year with just a half-sack for the entire season and will likely need to increase his production to get a huge contract.

 
25 of 25

Trent Williams, OT, 49ers

Trent Williams, OT, 49ers
Bill Streicher / USA Today Sports Images

Williams sat out 2019 in Washington before he was traded to San Francisco during this year's draft. The seven-time Pro Bowler could be rusty after a year away from football but should be able to earn another huge contract if he's healthy.

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.


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