The interior defensive line position received another financial shot in the arm on Thursday as the New York Jets reportedly signed young defensive tackle Quinnen Williams to a four-year contract extension that totals $96 million. That deal includes $66 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday. On the heels of Williams’ big payday, it certainly brings context to how Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward has played the last several seasons and especially since he signed his current contract in September 2020.
Heyward’s most recent contract extension was worth $65.6 million in new money with $20.25 million guaranteed at signing. He received a $17.5 million signing bonus as part of that deal with another $2.75 million in 2020 in the form of a roster bonus. His new money average as a result of that deal is $16.4 million. According to the early reports, Williams’ new money average is $24 million.
Obviously, Williams, who was selected third overall in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, is much younger than Heyward is. Even so, Heyward has outperformed Williams since the Alabama product came into the league. Just look at the stat comparison of the two players below. Heyward has even started and played more games than Williams since 2019.
The result of Williams’ deal now should have him second in the NFL in new money average at the interior defensive line position behind only Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. Williams’ insertion into the ranks now makes Heyward the 17th highest-paid player at that position. When Heyward signed his current contract, he was in the top 10 of highest-paid interior defensive linemen.
Williams’ escalation up the ranks is a result of the current market at the position, which was also bolstered this offseason by the new deals received by Jeffery Simmons ($23M), Daron Payne ($22.5), Dexter Lawrence ($22.5M), and Javon Hargrave ($21M). Prior to signing his extension, Williams was slated to be the final year of his rookie contract in 2023 as the Jets had picked up his fifth-year option in April 2022. He was slated to earn $9.594 million in 2023 prior to him getting his extension done.
As I noted in a post on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see what happens with Heyward after the 2023 season. If he stays healthy and continues to play well, a short contract extension could be in the cards for him next summer. He’s under contract through the 2024 season but has stated that he hopes to play past that.
In closing, this post is mainly to show how the interior defensive lineman market has changed since Heyward signed his current contract ahead of the 2020 regular season. It also serves to show that Heyward has more than lived up to his current contract.