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Raiders star tight end makes list of NFL’s biggest bargains

Darren Waller has blossomed with the Raiders and become one of the NFL’s best tight ends.

He’s also one of the league’s biggest bargains.

Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus ranked the 32 most team-friendly contracts in the NFL and put Waller No. 3 on the list.

The 29-year-old has two years and $14 million remaining on a four-year extension he signed during the 2019 season. It was a lucrative contract at the time for a player who broke out that year after the first four seasons of his career were marred by drug suspensions.

But now Waller is established as a star and leader on and off the field, while several contracts at the position have surpassed his deal.

George Kittle of the 49ers set the market at $15 million per year in 2020. Then, in May, David Njoku, who has fewer yards in 65 career games than Waller has in his past 27, signed a four-year, $54.75 million contract with the Browns.

Sixteen tight ends make more money per year than Waller.

“Over the past three seasons, Waller trails only Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews in Wins Above Replacement among tight ends,” Spielberger wrote. “He has the ability to take over games like few players at the position can, with more 10-plus reception games than any tight end since 2019. He joins Kelce as the only tight ends with 3,000 receiving yards over the span.”

Waller has watched this offseason as salaries of pass catchers have skyrocketed and several teammates have received new deals.

“The Raiders already doled out big-money extensions to edge defender Maxx Crosby and quarterback Derek Carr and spent a ton of resources to acquire wide receiver Davante Adams,” wrote Spielberger, who didn’t include the new deal for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. “But Waller undoubtedly still deserves new money.”

Of the 32 players on last year’s list of most team-friendly contracts, seven signed new deals that included hefty raises in the past 12 months.

Waller could join that group, but the Raiders appear to be in no hurry to renegotiate because his current deal is so team-friendly.

According to Spotrac, the market value for the framework of a new deal would be about three years and $46.6 million for an average of more than $15.5 million per year.

“I just focus on enjoying it, whether I’m here for 10 years or who knows how long,” Waller said in June during the team’s mandatory minicamp. “It’s my agent’s job to do that, and I just focus on the football part.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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