Durability concerns were a primary reason why edge rusher Bradley Chubb began this season playing on a fifth-year option. Slowed by ankle injuries, Chubb had a forgettable 2021 season. He was sackless in the seven games he played. 

The fifth overall pick in the 2018 draft had been a force when healthy. Chubb led rookies with 12 sacks in 2018. He didn't show any ill effects from the torn left ACL that limited him to four games in 2019 by earning Pro Bowl honors in 2020. 

Chubb quickly displaying his Pro Bowl form early this season led to the Broncos having contract-extension talks with his representatives before receiving a trade offer from the Dolphins that couldn't be refused. The Broncos dealt Chubb and a 2025 fifth-round pick to Miami for a 2023 first-round pick, 2024 fourth-round pick and running back Chase Edmonds right before the Nov. 1 trade deadline.

Shortly thereafter, the Dolphins signed Chubb to a five-year, $110 million extension, averaging $22 million per year. The deal has $63,212,444 in guarantees with $33,462,444 fully guaranteed at signing. 

As Chubb can attest, fortunes can be made because of performance in a contract year. With the NFL season heading into the homestretch, here are three other leading candidates for "best use of a contract year" in my annual contract awards assessing the league from a financial perspective. 

A key contract benchmark and the probability of hitting this financial target ranging from one dollar sign to four dollar signs are listed for each player.

 

Geno Smith, QB, Seahawks

  • Financial benchmark: Kirk Cousins ($35M average/$70M in guarantees/2 years worth up to $79M with incentives)
  • Probability: $$

The Seahawks were expected to be in a rebuilding mode after trading quarterback Russell Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Broncos for 2022 and 2023 first-round picks, 2022 and 2023 second-round picks, a 2022 fifth-round pick and multiple players (tight end Noah Fant, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock) in March. Being in position to select the quarterback of the future early in the 2023 NFL Draft seemed like a realistic possibility with Lock and Geno Smith in a training camp competition to succeed Wilson.