When J.J. Watt signed a six-year, $100,000,000.00 contract extension with the Houston Texans that included $51,876,000.00 in guaranteed money in the wee hours of September 2, 2014, he became the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL. That seemed fair, because J.J. Watt was (and still is) the best defensive player in the NFL. Truthfully, we might not even need to qualify "player" with "defensive" in the preceding sentence. J.J. Watt is a supernova that we're all lucky to be blinded by every Sunday from September to January.
About six months after J.J. signed his extension, Ndamukong Suh signed a six-year free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins worth $114,000,000.00, of which $60,000,000.00 was guaranteed. Suh's a very good player, but he isn't $8,000,000.00 more in guaranteed money better than J.J. Watt. If J.J. Watt's contract wasn't a bargain for the Texans the moment he signed it, it surely became one when Suh signed his.
Two days ago, Olivier Vernon signed a five-year free agent contract with the New York Giants worth $85,000,000.00, of which $52,500,000.00 is guaranteed. Vernon is getting more guaranteed dollars over five years than J.J. Watt is getting over six.
Stats, especially sack totals when it comes to pass rushers, don't tell the whole story, of course, but they certainly do tell part of the story. Here is Olivier Vernon's Pro Football Reference page, and here is J.J. Watt's Pro Football Reference page. One of those guys makes more money than the other guy, and it's not who the numbers say it should be.
As the years pass, there's always going to be natural salary inflation, and certain positions are always going to command a premium on the open market, which in and of itself is a different dynamic than a player re-signing before free agency. Indeed, look no further than Brock Osweiler's new contract for proof of that. If you really want to reminisce and have your mind blown, remember that the first contract Matt Schaub got from the Texans after they acquired him from the Falcons was for six years and $48,000,000.00, of which only $7,000,000.00 was guaranteed.
J.J. Watt, despite being the very best at what he does and having the potential to earn a mind-boggling amount of money under his current contract, is somehow underpaid, and it's not just Texans fans that realize it.
J.J. Watt's contract is so awesome for the Houston #Texans right now. They have to be doing cartwheels.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 9, 2016