The last two offseasons have dramatically changed the landscape of highest-paid tight ends. At the start of the 2020 league year, only Hunter Henry earned over $10 million per year. Entering the 2022 NFL league year, there are now 10 tight ends earning over that number. Let’s take a look at the top 10 highest-paid tight ends in the NFL right now.
The highest-paid tight ends in the NFL
There are a number of ways to judge the highest-paid players at the position. Some of the options include the total value of the contract, the guaranteed money in the deal, or the three-year value. However, the most commonly used measuring stick for contract value is the average annual value (AAV). Therefore, that is what we will use here based on the contract value provided by Over the Cap.
T-10) Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins | AAV: $10.931 million
The 2022 offseason saw three tight ends given the franchise tag. We have already seen David Njoku sign a new contract, and now all the focus switches to Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz. For now, Gesicki is set to play on a one-year deal worth $10.931 million. That money is fully guaranteed regardless of what happens heading into 2022.
T-10) Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $10.931 million
Schultz is tied for the eighth spot when it comes to the highest-paid tight ends, as he is also set to play on the franchise tag in 2022. He is coming off a 78-reception season in which he had 808 yards and eight touchdowns. If the Cowboys and Schultz do not come to a deal on a long-term contract in 2022, he will hope to prove he is worth one ahead of the 2023 NFL offseason.
T-8) Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots | AAV: $12.5 million
The Patriots made a pass-catching splash last offseason, and Jonnu Smith was a central part of that. His deal was for four years and worth $50 million. Of that, $31.25 million was guaranteed at signing, including a $15 million signing bonus.
Smith is set to have a cap number of $13.7 million in 2022, rising to $14.75 million and $15.75 million in 2023 and 2024, respectively. The Patriots would incur dead money of $26.5 million and $13.75 million if they moved on from Smith in the next two offseasons.
T-8) Hunter Henry, New England Patriots | AAV: $12.5 million
Henry joined Smith in New England just a day later. Both tight ends will take home the same AAV over the course of their contracts. Henry received a three-year contract and is entering his second season. His cap number for 2022 is $15 million. Additionally, as part of $25 million in guarantees, his salary for 2022 is fully guaranteed.
7) Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens | AAV: $14 million
Ahead of the 2021 NFL season, Mark Andrews signed a four-year contract extension worth $56 million. He received $37.6 million in guarantees, including $10.2 million in signing bonus and $30.1 in full guarantees. His cap number in 2022 is set to be $9.66 million, jumping to $13.4 million in 2023 and $16.9 million in 2023 and 2024.
6) David Njoku, Cleveland Browns | AAV: $14.187 million
When you look at Njoku’s stats through his first five years, it is somewhat of a surprise to see him inside the top five highest-paid tight ends. So far, Njoku has 148 receptions on 240 targets for 1,754 yards and 15 touchdowns.
However, the Browns appear to have the utmost belief in Njoku. They moved on from their deal with Austin Hooper this offseason and committed to Njoku. The former Miami Hurricane was given the franchise tag before signing a four-year deal worth $56.75 million.
5) Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills | AAV: $13.4 million
Ahead of the start of the 2022 NFL season, Dawson Knox and the Buffalo Bills agreed to terms on a four-year extension worth $53.6 million. Knox’s contract contains $31 million in guaranteed money.
4) Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles | AAV: $14.25 million
During the 2021 NFL season, Dallas Goedert vaulted himself into the highest-paid TEs discussion. His four-year, $57 million contract extension includes $35 million in guarantees and just under $15 million fully guaranteed at signing.
This deal keeps Goedert with the Eagles through the 2025 season. Yet, the contract contains void years in 2026 and 2027. Heading into the 2022 league year, Goedert has a cap number of $3.8 million. That grows to $6.6 million in 2023 before booming to over $19 million in 2024 and 2025.
3) Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $14.313 million
Just a few hours after George Kittle shot to the top of this list of highest-paid tight ends, Travis Kelce got himself near the apex with a four-year extension of his own. Kelce’s extension is worth $57.2 million, with $22.75 million in guaranteed money. Among the highest-paid TEs in the league, Kelce may very well have the most team-friendly contract.
Kelce’s cap number is fairly manageable at $8.86 million in 2022. However, that climbs to $14.65 million, $16.4 million, and $18.65 million over the next three years. The 2022 season will see the final guarantees in the deal with $6.5 million in base salary. With just $1.4 million per year in prorated bonus in each of the next four seasons, The contract is extremely easy for the Chiefs to move on from at any stage.
2) George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers | AAV: $15 million
George Kittle’s five-year, $75 million extension set the benchmark for tight ends. His contract contains an $18 million signing bonus and $40 million in total guarantees. There was $30 million guaranteed at signing, with his 2022 salary guaranteed at the start of the 2021 league year. Moreover, the remaining $5 million of his 2023 salary becomes guaranteed on April 1, 2022.
As it stands, Kittle’s cap hit for the 2022 season would be $16 million. However, with cap numbers of $16.3 million in 2023, $18 million in 2024, and $15.45 million in 2025, it will be tough for the 49ers to move money around without getting close to cap numbers of $20 million in the next three years.
Who is the highest-paid tight end in the NFL?
1) Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders | AAV: $17 million
The Raiders made Darren Waller wait until the eve of the 2022 NFL season for a contract extension, but it was worth it. Waller received a three-year contract extension for $51 million. He is now set to be under contract through the 2026 season, as his previous deal had two years remaining when he signed the extension.