How Jaylen Waddle's new contract with the Dolphins affects the wild, constantly shifting wide receiver market



This offseason, the wide receiver market has seen a significant shift. Prior to March, there were only 13 wideouts with contracts that totaled at least $60 million, only 11 whose deals carried an average annual value of $20 million or more, and only 11 who were guaranteed at least $30 million total on their contracts.

In 2024 alone, each of Calvin Ridley, Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Nico Collins, and now Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle has been added to all three of those lists, while A.J. Brown surpassed each of those marks for a second consecutive contract. 

Back in 2022, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp signed deals making them the three highest-paid receivers in the league, with Kupp checking in at $26.7 million per year, Adams at $28 million and Hill at $30 million. Both Brown and St. Brown topped the $30 million-per-year average this offseason, while Smith ($25 million) and Waddle ($28.75 million) each joined them in making at least $25 million per season.

And the market is almost surely not done exploding. Tee Higgins is still looking for a long-term deal of his own. And behind him, there is a group of four elite receivers who will either probably or definitely exceed the marks set by Brown and St. Brown this offseason: the 2020 first-round receiver class of CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk, as well as with Higgins’ teammate, 2021 draft pick Ja’Marr Chase. 

Aiyuk doesn’t have the same counting stats as the others due to the 49ers’ slow-paced, run-heavy, spread-it-around attack, but his per-route and per-target efficiency is right up there with the others, and he did finish seventh in receiving yards in 2023 despite having only 105 targets. (For perspective, nine players — including Lamb, St. Brown and Brown — had at least 105 catches.) 

Meanwhile, each of Jefferson, Lamb and Chase has been named to the Pro Bowl three times. Chase has been a Second Team All-Pro, Lamb has made Second Team once and First Team once, and Jefferson has made the Second Team twice and First Team once, while also winning Offensive Player of the Year. According to most observers, they are each — at worst — among the top five to seven receivers in the NFL, and Jefferson is widely considered the league’s single best wideout. 

These dudes are all absolutely going to break the bank, and probably soon. With other players, and specifically with primarily slot guys like St. Brown or a player who is the No. 2 receiver on his own team like Waddle, getting up into this range, the Jefferson-Chase-Lamb group can make a strong argument that they deserve to be paid at a level quite higher than the current top of the market. It remains to be seen whether or not their current teams agree, but given how many other positional markets have been reset this offseason, the importance of top-flight pass-catchers, and the quality of the players actually eligible for new deals, it seems highly likely that they’ll get there.





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