There are 32 teams in the National Football League (NFL) and a place in one of those rosters is the dream for millions of high school and college players across the United States and further afield. For some it’s the glitz and glamour of appearing in one of the most popular competitions in the world, one that brings with it a wealth of promotional activities with the biggest brands in the world. For others, it’s a chance to showcase their sporting prowess, something they have dedicated their young lives to, making multiple sacrifices along the way.
No matter the background and reason for getting into the sport and striving for the top, there is no doubt that there are fortunes to be made for those that do reach the NFL. Stay fit, perform on the biggest stage, and reap the financial rewards. With that in mind, here’s a look at those currently in the game who are doing just that...
Who are the highest paid players in the NFL?
It will likely come as no surprise to you that the star quarterbacks top the salary table. After all, they do have the collective weight of team and fan responsibility resting on their shoulders, well arms. According to the official numbers Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is the man earning the most in the league. With an annual salary of $50.3 million, the Packers signal caller is definitely making that money. Of course, we’re betting that he’d probably trade a few bucks for a spot in this year’s playoffs if he could, but you can’t have your cake and eat it as they say.
— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) July 22, 2022
Highest paid QBs (average per year):
$50.3M —Aaron Rodgers
$46.1M —Kyler Murray
$46M —Deshaun Watson
$45M —Patrick Mahomes
@K1 annual salary 2022-2028 is $38M vs. APY 46.1 very cap friendly and lock Murray up until 2028. He’ll be 32 years old. pic.twitter.com/WSik26pJUz
Coming in just behind Rodgers - if you count a million as just behind - is none other than the Denver Broncos QB, Russell Wilson. Though the former Seahawks star didn’t have the best of seasons, he’s still one of the league’s highest earners with an annual salary of $49 million. With that in mind, we imagine the pressure will well and truly be on for him to justify that figure when next season rolls around having missed the playoffs. Following up Rodgers and Wilson we’ve got the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray on $46 million. Murray turned heads last year when he signed a massive 5-year deal to the tune of $230 million with $189.5 million guaranteed. Unfortunately, the QB saw his season derailed by injury. Both he and the team will be hoping that doesn’t happen next season. We’ve then got the now infamous Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns. When Watson took to the field in Week 13, he hadn’t played football in almost two years. That was of course due to the plethora of allegations that he faced - 24 to be precise - from women who accused him of sexual misconduct. After the QB wasn’t criminally charged Cleveland chose to offer him the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history. Watson is currently on an average salary of $46 million. None the less, let’s get into a full look at how the highest salaries break down in the NFL:
Top contracts in the NFL
|Team||Player||Contract Terms||Annual Salary|
|Green Bay Packers||Aaron Rodgers||4 years, $200 million ($150 million guaranteed)||$50.3 million|
|Denver Broncos||Russell Wilson||5 years, $245 million ($161.1 million guaranteed)||$49 million|
|Arizona Cardinals||Kyler Murray||5 years, $230.5 million ($189.5 million guaranteed)||$46.1 million|
|Cleveland Browns||Deshaun Watson||5 years, $230 million ($230 million fully guaranteed)||$46 million|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Patrick Mahomes||10 years, $450 million ($68.08 million guaranteed)||$45 million|
|Buffalo Bills||Josh Allen||6 years, $258.03 million ($100 million guaranteed)||$43 million|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Derek Carr||3 years, $121.5 million ($24.9 million guaranteed)||$40.5 million|
|Los Angeles Rams||Matthew Stafford||4 years, $160 million ($135 million guaranteed)||$40 million|
|Dallas Cowboys||Dak Prescott||4 years, $160 million ($95 million guaranteed)||$40 million|
|Detroit Lions||Jared Goff||4 years, $134 million ($57.04 million guaranteed)||$33.5 million|
|Minnesota Vikings||Kirk Cousins||2 years, $66 million ($31 million guaranteed)||$33 million|
|Commanders||Carson Wentz||4 years, $128 million ($66.47 million guaranteed)||$32 million|
Rounding out the list of highest paid in the NFL
As we mentioned before, quarterbacks are by far the highest earners in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others who aren’t making the big bucks in the league. Let’s take a look:
Rams’ Aaron Donald is highest-paid non-QB
For the second time in recent months, speculation about whether Aaron Donald would retire was everywhere you looked. Yet, in the end the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year put pen-to-paper on a massive contract. On June 6th, Donald’s Rams gave him a whopping $40 million raise over the course of the final three years of his current contract. With an annual salary of $31.67 million, he’s now officially the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.
— Chad Petterson (@FrntofMind) December 26, 2022
Perfect example of positive self-talk from Aaron Donald in the NFL.
“How bad do you want it? Be great. Let’s be great”pic.twitter.com/dojbTgKvui
Tyreek Hill is the highest-paid WR in the NFL
If there was a blockbuster deal in the 2022 season, it’s got to be Tyreek Hill’s move from the Chiefs to the Dolphins. Indeed, Hill’s move to Miami brought not only the possibility of building a solid team with the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, but it also gave him a spanking new contract that placed him just beyond reach of fellow wide oute, Davante Adams. Hill is now earning an average salary of $28.25 million, which is to say, ‘not bad at all.’
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) January 9, 2023
Introducing your 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣2️⃣ team award winners ✨
As voted on by the South Florida media, @cheetah is this year's Dan Marino Most Valuable Player 👏 pic.twitter.com/wyOIBljmfe
Who’s the highest-paid edge rusher? That would be Joey Bosa
There was never any doubt that the Los Angeles Chargers were going to give Bosa a huge pay day. After all, we’re talking about one of the best in the league in his position. With that, it came as no surprise when the two sides negotiated a $135 million deal back in July of 2020. Today he stands as one of the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players on a salary of $27 million.
— Bridget Condon (@BridgetCondon_) January 11, 2023
Saturday will be a rematch of week 3 for the #Jaguars and #Chargers but so much has changed since then.
Having Joey Bosa play more than 13 snaps will be key for this team trying to stop a Trevor Lawrence that's on a roll. pic.twitter.com/Mry0OJgghh
Trent Williams is the highest paid OL in the league
Sometines a change of scenery is all that’s needed. Just a few years ago, many thought that the OL’s career was coming to an end with the Commanders. Enter the 49ers and all of a sudden it looked like we were seeing a different williams. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was compensated vey nicely for the move. His annual salary of $23.01 million isn’t bad at all.
Kittle details what it's like to watch Trent Williams and Nick Bosa go head-to-head at practice everyday pic.twitter.com/9uZoVGkFVk— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) January 6, 2023
Introducing the Ravens’ Roquan Smith
Want to see the definition of instantaneous impact? Look no further than Baltimore’s All-Pro linebacker. After acquiring him from the Chicago Bears ahead of the November NFL trade deadline, the difference was immediately noticeable. The 25-year-old Smith recorded 86 tackles, two sacks and an interception in nine games with Baltimore. Smith also yielded a mere 82.6 QB rating when targeted in 2022. With all that said, the Ravens recently decided to give him a massive extension, making him the highest paid linebacker in NFL history. His annual salary now stands at $20 million.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 11, 2023
“It feels surreal. Very blessed to be in this moment.
“To be able to call Baltimore home, it’s amazing.” 💜See AlsoTop-31 Highest-Paid NFL Players 2020 | SportyTellThe 10 Highest-Paid NFL Players Of 2019The 25 highest-paid players in NFL historyHighest-paid NFL players in 2020, ranked
Roquan Smith reacts to signing his contract extension. pic.twitter.com/AmWPleqQXD
What is the average NFL salary?
Of course, those top earners are some ways ahead of the lesser-known NFL roster fillers, and when you examine the complete league, the average amount comes out around the $2 million-a-year mark. I’d argue that’s still enough to put bread on the table. Yet, let’s try to understand how salaries work in the league at a deeper level. We can explain the paradox by viewing a group of 10 players. If one of them is a star quarterback earning $20 million a year, the other nine players only make $50,000 a year, each. The average salary for this group is then $2,045,000. The more reasonable value is the median salary, which is the middle value of a set of numbers. In the case of our example group, the median salary is $50,000.
— Tifosy (@tifosy) January 11, 2023
In the NFL, the #CincinnatiBengals have the highest utilisation of active salary cap at $179m.
2022 #SuperBowl champions, the #LARams, have the 3rd lowest utilisation of active salary cap at $116m.
The #NFL league average is $147.3m.
More insights: https://t.co/qYFVpILoq4 pic.twitter.com/3FqgFHPRry
The median wage for all NFL players is $860,000, yet far underneath the $2 million that gets more promotion. A rising first-year rookie has a minimum pay of $435,000. The most publicly exposed are the stunningly high earnings of top quarterbacks. A few of them have contracts paying higher than $25 to $30 million per year. The average salary for all quarterbacks is $5,766,000, but the median income is $1,100,000. Defensive ends come in behind the quarterbacks with large salary contracts. Defensive ends have an average income of $2,625,000 and a median salary of $847,300. Incidentally, some of the lowest-paid are the running backs. They get beaten up during every game and only last around three years of playing in the league. Surprisingly, the average wage for a running back is $1,012,000, while the median salary is $630,000. In contrast, kickers are players who last longest in the NFL, with an average playing time of approximately seven years. Their income averages $1,792,000 per year, with a median wage of $1,000,000.
“Show me the money” effect
The salaries of NFL players rise somewhat by the age of 26. At this age number of players still active starts to go down just as incomes begin to make a tense increment. It may be because a few players have proved themselves as exceptional athletes and brought value to the team, so the owners want to ensure their services with more expensive paying contracts.