Who Is The Highest Paid NFL Player Now & All-Time Most Paid Players

18 minutes

Last Updated: May 25, 2024

Scott Kostov

Becoming the highest paid NFL player on any team is a tall task. With 32 teams and 52 guaranteed roster spots on each one, the opportunity is there. But no roster spot is guaranteed. Neither is the amount or length of the contract. 

This rings especially true in the NFL, where careers can end in a fraction of a moment.  This competition and turnover is what makes the NFL so interesting to follow. This also makes us appreciate the greatest to ever do it. Which are usually the top paid NFL players ever.

Historically, NFL salaries have always varied, with the highest paid NFL players by position trumping the income of the remaining roster. With the 2023 NFL kicking off soon, most of the 2023/24 contracts and salaries have already been confirmed. This means we can accurately assess who are the most paid NFL  players of all time and who is the highest paid football player in the NFL for the upcoming season.

Highest Paid Player in NFL Currently 

If you’re wondering how much does the highest paid NFL player make, we have you covered. That title goes to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. In early May of 2023, Jackson agreed to a 5-year contract extension that could net him up to $260 million.

If he hits all of his contract incentives, Jackson could earn $52 million per year, making him the highest paid NFL player in 2023. With $130 million guaranteed, Jackson’s contract still falls at a close second among the highest paid NFL quarterbacks.

That’s because the Cleveland Browns rewarded quarterback Deshaun Watson with a 5-year $230 million fully guaranteed contract extension shortly after trading for him. It was the highest paid NFL contract for a solid 10 days until the ink on Jackson’s contract dried up.

But with $46 million per year guaranteed, it seems that Deshaun Watson’s contract will make him the highest paid American football player in the 2023 NFL season.

In terms of total value, the person owning the biggest contract in NFL history is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The two-time Super Bowl MVP signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension in early 2020, which could net him up to $475 million if all the incentives are met. 

This contract would make him one of the most paid NFL players of all time by the time it runs out, assuming it doesn’t get restructured for even more money until then.The contract structure made it easier for the team to build another roster capable of scoring explosions around him while adequately compensating him for his achievements and providing long-term stability.

Highest Paid NFL Players of All Time

Who is the highest paid football player in the NFL? The answer to this question might vary depending on your criteria. Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns is a strong candidate for the title of the highest paid football player 2023 season. The entirety of his 2023 $46 million salary is fully guaranteed. 

But you have probably noticed a trend by now. All of the players mentioned so far, play the same position. That’s because skill positions like the quarterback on offense and the edge rushers on defense, are the highest paid positions in NFL history. 

We will probably create another article covering the highest paid players in the NFL by position, but for this list, the top twelve earners in NFL history are all quarterbacks. So if you are wondering how much do top NFL players make in their career, these are the top 10 highest paid players in the NFL.

10. Eli Manning (QB) $232,490,000

  • Career Stats: Games Played (236), Total Yards (57 023), Total Touchdowns (366), Total Interceptions (244), Pass Completion Percentage (60.3%);
  • NFL Teams: New York Giants (2004-2019)
  • Accolades: 2x NFC and Super Bowl Champion, 2x Super Bowl MVP, 4x Pro Bowl selections

The youngest of the Manning brothers and the author behind the biggest upset in NFL Super Bowl history finds himself in the tenth spot on the all-time earning list. Elisha Nelson Manning is the youngest son of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and a younger brother of Payton Manning. 

Apart from originating from the most prestigious football family in NFL history, Eli Manning managed to secure a few hefty paydays throughout a borderline Hall of Fame career. If you were to describe Eli’s career with the New York Giants, he would be labeled as mediocre except for when it mattered the most. 

Eli Manning was the iron man of the NFL, starting 210 consecutive games from 2004-2017, the third-longest streak of consecutive starts by an NFL quarterback. And since the best ability is availability in the volatile NFL landscape, the New York Giants rewarded their offensive pillar by making him one of the most paid NFL players ever. 

After three 8-figure contracts with the Giants and 2 Super Bowl wins against Tom Brady of all people‌, Eli Manning retired in 2020. With estimated career earnings of upwards of $232 million, he is number 10 on our list of top paid NFL quarterbacks.

09. Russel Wilson (QB) $238,340,123

  • Career Stats: Games Played (173), Total Yards (40 583), Total Touchdowns (308), Total Interceptions (98), Pass Completion Percentage (64.6%);
  • NFL Teams: Seattle Seahawks (2012-2021), Denver Broncos (2021-present)
  • Accolades: Super Bowl XLVIII Champion, 2x NFC Champion, 9x Pro Bowl selections, Second-team All-Pro (2019)

Despite forcing an ugly exit from the NFC powerhouse Seattle Seahawks and a disappointing 2022 campaign with the Denver Broncos, Russel Wilson is still one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks to ever lace the cleats.

Wilson is still set to receive at least $8 million for the year. Despite potentially missing the entire 2023 NFL Season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in March. This will be the last year of his 2019 contract extension with the Seahawks which made him the highest paid player in the NFL at the time, with $140 million over a four-year period.

Shortly after acquiring him, the Denver Broncos locked in their starting quarterback with a five-year $245 million contract extension. Looking in retrospect, that might be in contention for the worst NFL contract ever handed out, but it’s important to know who we are talking about.

Wilson has been regarded as one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks of all time since entering the league. But it’s not just his running game that makes him special, as he holds the record for most wins by an NFL quarterback through nine seasons.

Seattle Seahawks Exit Strategy

Many would attribute the Seattle Seahawks’ dominance of the last decade to their fearsome “Legion of Doom” defense. Having some of the best cornerbacks at the time was instrumental, but it was Russel Wilson who led the team to two straight Super Bowls.

And they would have won both if head coach Pete Carrol hadn’t refused to run it on the 1-yard line, leading to a costly interception and one of the greatest moments in NFL history.

Many would argue that this moment broke the spirits of the Seahawks franchise, with the team never fully recovering. Key defensive players left in each of the following seasons, until quarterback Russel Wilson and head coach Pete Carrol were the only ones left. 

And when head coach Pete Carrol fired his offensive coordinator and offensive line coach following the 2021 season, Russel Wilson set an ultimatum to Seattle Seahawks management. Either head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were next in line, or he wouldn’t put on a Seahawks jersey anymore.

Despite the messy break-up, Russel Wilson is the ninth highest paid American football player of all time and will continue to climb this ladder as his new extension kicks in. Hopefully, Wilson recovers fully and regains his dominant form which made him a joy to watch.

08. Phillip Rivers (QB) $242,150,000

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (244), Total Yards (63 440), Total Touchdowns (421), Total Interceptions (209), Pass Completion Percentage (64.9%);
  • NFL Teams: San Diego Chargers/ Los Angeles Chargers (2004-2019), Indianapolis Colts (2020)
  • Accolades: 2009 NFL MVP, 8x Pro Bowl selections, multi-year NFL leader in multiple pass categories

Despite never reaching the NFL Super Bowl, Phillip Rivers retired fifth all-time in passing yards and touchdowns. With production like that, the fourth pick in the 2004 NFL draft is widely considered the greatest quarterback to have never played in a Super Bowl championship game.

Rivers was the bedrock for the Chargers franchise for 16 seasons, holding the second all-time record for the most consecutive regular season starts by an NFL quarterback. He started every regular season game between 2006 and 2020, securing three 8-figure contracts with the San Diego/ Los Angeles Chargers, before finishing out his career on a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. 

Despite a rather blank playoff resume compared to most all-time great NFL quarterbacks on this list, Phillip Rivers is a legend of the game. With upwards of $242 million in career earnings, he finds himself at number 8 on our top paid NFL players list. But given his sustained level of excellence, we are sure no one in the Chargers franchise or fan base regrets witnessing his greatness for that price tag.

07. Peyton Manning (QB) $247,714,000

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (266), Total Yards (71 940), Total Touchdowns (539), Total Interceptions (251), Pass Completion Percentage (65.3%);
  • NFL Teams: Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011), Denver Broncos (2011-2015)
  • Accolades: 5x NFL MVP, 2x Super Bowl Champion, 1x Super Bowl MVP, 7x First-team All-Pro, 3x Second-team All-Pro, 14x Pro Bowl selections, multi-year NFL leader in multiple pass categories

“The Sheriff” capped off an illustrious 18-year career by setting onto the sunset with a Super Bowl Championship. Peyton is the older brother of Eli Manning and the middle child in the Manning family, which is considered football royalty in the United States. 

Upon entering the NFL as the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Peyton Manning served as the savior of the Indianapolis Colts franchise. Leading them to 11 playoff appearances in his 12 years there, including eight division titles, two Super Bowl appearances, and one championship title.

It was the franchise’s first championship in over three decades and its first since relocating to Indianapolis, with Peyton Manning claiming Super Bowl MVP honors for his efforts.

Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50

After rejuvenating the state of Indiana and the Colts franchise, Manning served as the Denver Broncos starting quarterback from 2012 to 2015. He reached the Super Bowl twice during his tenure in Denver, winning in Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers before retiring as one of the highest paid NFL players of all time. 

Peyton Manning’s resume speaks for itself, with only a short list of players being worthy of comparison. He’s number 7 on our all-time earning list, and that’s because the NFL salary cap wasn’t that massive in the previous millennia.

In the eyes of many NFL fans, Peyton Manning is the second-greatest NFL player of all time, and you just can’t put a price tag on that. He broke countless records, battled through adversity to reach historic heights and ended his career in the most fitting fashion. Peyton Manning was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021, and NFL fans will forever be grateful to have witnessed his greatness.

06. Ben Roethlisberger (QB) $266,724,382

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (249), Total Yards (64 088), Total Touchdowns (418), Total Interceptions (211), Pass Completion Percentage (64.4%);
  • NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-2021)
  • Accolades: 2x Super Bowl Champion, 6x Pro Bowl selections, 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2x NFL passing yards leader

“Big Ben” played out the entirety of his 18 season career in the NFL under the Pittsburgh Steelers banner. And the franchise showed its gratitude, rewarding him with five 8-digit contracts, before he retired in 2021. Making him one of the most paid NFL players of all time certainly paid off.

Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger Sr took the NFL by storm from the moment he set foot on the pitch. Winning the 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award was just the start, as he led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a Super Bowl win in his second season, at just 23 years

You might have heard about the drama and controversy surrounding “Big Ben”, but on the field, he showed nothing but poise. He led the Steelers to another Super Bowl win in his fifth season, connecting on a game-winning touchdown pass with Santonie Homes to secure the Lombardi trophy.

“Big Ben” retired as one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, with top 10 rankings across all major statistical categories. Most importantly, he was a winner, having the fourth-highest career winning percentage (.710) as a starter in the regular season when he retired. That alone was enough cause for him to be among the most paid NFL players of all time.

The inventor of “backyard football”, known for his torpedo passes outside of the passing pocket, was the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers for nearly two decades. He’s the sixth highest paid NFL player ever, for a flurry of reasons.

05. Drew Brees (QB) $273,933,000

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (287), Total Yards (80 358), Total Touchdowns (571), Total Interceptions (243), Pass Completion Percentage (67.7%);
  • NFL Teams: San Diego Chargers (2001-2005), New Orleans Saints (2006-2020)
  • Accolades: 1x Super Bowl Champion and MVP, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, First-team All-Pro, 4x Second-team All-Pro, 13x Pro Bowl, 7x NFL passing yards leader, 4x NFL passing touchdowns leader, 2x NFL passer rating leader, 6x NFL completion percentage leader 

Drew Christopher Brees played 20 years in the NFL, representing the San Diego Chargers for 5 years before becoming a household name with the New Orleans Saints for 15 years. Despite shattering multiple records in collegiate football with Purdue University, questions over his height at the QB position and arm strength pushed him to the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

Brees initially struggled before having a breakout 2004 campaign, earning him Pro Bowl and Comeback Player of the Year honors. Despite this, the Chargers only offered him a one-year prove-it deal, which he accepted before suffering a potentially career-ending injury.

Career Resurgence

Proving the doubters wrong was Drew’s expertise, as he helped rejuvenate the Saints franchise and the city of New Orleans following the devastating Hurricane Katrina. In his 15 years there, he led the franchise to its first Super Bowl championship, for which he received MVP honors. 

Brees led the Saints to nine playoff appearances, finishing his career ranked second all-time in multiple categories like career passing yards, career touchdown passes, career pass attempts, career pass completions, and career completion percentage. This was enough for the Saints franchise to make him one of the top paid NFL players of all time.

For a franchise that had just 7 winning seasons in its prior 40-year existence, Drew Brees was a godsend. And they rewarded him as such, with nearly $274 million in career earnings. This made Drew Brees the fifth highest paid NFL player in history, which is a great value for one of the greatest throwers of the football.

04. Mat Stafford (QB) $300,500,000

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (191), Total Yards (52 082), Total Touchdowns (333), Total Interceptions (169), Pass Completion Percentage (63.2%);
  • NFL Teams: Detroit Lions (2009-2020), Los Angeles Rams (2021-present)
  • Accolades: Super Bowl Champion, 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 2014 Pro Bowl

At number 4 on this list we have a player that might surprise many. The first overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, quarterback John Matthew Stafford, has racked up upward of $300 million during his playing career to date. 

Stafford burst onto the scene in 2011, leading the Detroit Lions to their first playoff appearance since 1999. This was on the back of his historic campaign, which saw him become only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a single season. And production like that is what makes you a part of the top paid players in NFL.

His connection with Megatron gave the Detroit Lions one of the most potent aerial assaults at the time, resulting in subsequent playoff appearances in 2014 and 2016. The first one earned Stafford his first Pro Bowl nod, while the second saw him set an NFL season record for most comeback wins.

LA Rams Superbowl 56

Despite his individual performance, the Detroit Lions could never surround Mat Stafford with sufficient linebacker talent on the other side in order to generate sacks and pressure. He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 2021, where he led them to a Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. 

This prompted the team to give Stafford a 4-year $160 million contract extension, ensuring he will continue climbing on this list as time goes by. At 35 years of age, this is probably the last 9-figure contract Stafford will secure in his playing career. But that’s still enough to make him one of the highest paid NFL players ever.

03. Matt Ryan (QB) $306,205,882

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (234), Total Yards (62 792), Total Touchdowns (381), Total Interceptions (183), Pass Completion Percentage (65.6%);
  • NFL Teams: Atlanta Falcons (2008-2021),  Indianapolis Colts (2022)
  • Accolades: 2016 NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, First-team All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowl.

Being one of the best quarterbacks in the modern NFL landscape gets you paid. Similarly to Mat Stafford, Matt Ryan has made just over $300 million during his 15-year career. This puts him at number 3 on our list of top paid players in NFL history. 

As the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, Matt Ryan entered the league with plenty of expectations to meet. The Atlanta Falcons franchise was reeling following the Michael Vick disaster, and what better way to steer the ship than installing the QB in college football that spent 4 years in school?

2008 NFL ROY

Matt Ryan came out of the gates swinging, signing a  six-year $72 million rookie contract, which made him the fourth highest paid quarterback in the NFL behind Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, and Carson Palmer. Following it up with 3 contract extensions each worth north of $100 million also helps him rank on the highest paid NFL players list.

This was a major payday for someone that still hadn’t played a professional game, but the gamble paid off. Ryan won the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award and led the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs in his first season there. Following it up with several winning seasons was enough cause to make him one of the top paid NFL players.

His Falcons tenure might be overshadowed by the biggest choke job in NFL Super Bowl history, but he did make the team a contender. One properly kicked field goal would probably spin the narrative but here we are. Winning the 2016 NFL MVP was the highlight of his career, as the Falcons made six playoff appearances with him at the helm.

02. Aaron Rodgers (QB) $306,642,206

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (230), Total Yards (59 055), Total Touchdowns (475), Total Interceptions (105), Pass Completion Percentage (65.3%);
  • NFL Teams: Green Bay Packers (2005-2022), New York Jets (2023-present)
  • Accolades: 1x Super Bowl Champion and MVP, 4x NFL MVP, 4x First-Team All-Pro, 1x Second Team All-Pro, 10x Pro Bowl, 4x NFL Passer Rating Leader and many more passing records.

At number 2 on this list, we have someone that many consider the greatest thrower of the football in NFL history. Audiences love talking about the polarizing figure that Aaron Rodgers is, but not as much as seeing him perform.

And that continued excellence on the field is what made him one of the highest paid NFL players, pocketing over $300 million from the Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers started his career backing up another Green Bay Packers QB legend Brett Favre. But as soon as he got the reins over the starting quarterback spot in 2008, he got a new massive contract extension. Two years later, he brought the Lombardi trophy back to Wisconsin, with NFL Super Bowl MVP honors to boot.

A Rod Jets tenure

Aaron would go on to become a 4 time NFL MVP, becoming just the fifth player in NFL history to win the award in back-to-back years (2020-2021). Although noteworthy playoff success has eluded him since that Super Bowl win against “Big Ben”, Rodgers remains one of the most sought-after players in the association.

His resume speaks for itself and mentioning every passing achievement Aaron Rodgers has accomplished would require another lengthy article. The New York Jets just traded for the 39-year-old quarterback and gave him a 3-year $150 million extension, so he’s bound to climb on this list.

Unless he retires before ever putting on a Jets journey, Aaron Rodgers will overtake the number 1 player on our list by next year. Becoming the highest paid NFL player of all time. 

01. Tom Brady (QB) $317,619,794

  • Career Stats: Career Stats: Games Played (335), Total Yards (89 214), Total Touchdowns (649), Total Interceptions (212), Pass Completion Percentage (64.3%);
  • NFL Teams: New England Patriots (2000-2019), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-2022)
  • Accolades: 7x Super Bowl Champion, 5x Super Bowl MVP, 3x NFL MVP, 2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year, 2009 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 3x First-team All-Pro, 3x Second-team All-Pro, 15x Pro Bowl, 5x NFL passing touchdowns leader, 4x NFL passing yards leader

Number 1 on our list and in the hearts of many NFL fans is Tom Brady. Playing 23 NFL seasons probably helped him accumulate so much wealth, but it wouldn’t be possible without his greatness.

Not only did he maintain his level of play until he was one of the oldest NFL players of all time at 44 years of age, but he also had a very slow start in financial terms.

Being the 199th pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft, made Brady memorable as the greatest steal in NFL draft history among other attributes. He earned less than $1 million in his first three years but boy did he make up for it.

Brady Buccaneers

The most clutch player in NFL history became the most decorated winner, capturing 7 NFL Super Bowls with MVP honors for 5 of them. Winning 3 NFL regular season MVPs is nothing to scoff at. But his greatest achievement might be his Super Bowl run with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Winning MVP honors at the championship game after your 43rd birthday is hard to phantom, but that’s why Tom Brady is the highest paid player in the NFL of all time. 

Tom Brady’s story and resume can’t be done justice in a docuseries let alone a few sentences. He is the greatest NFL player to ever set foot on the pitch, and he has become a global ambassador of the sport along the way.

With Brady finally retiring his helmet and the inflating salary cap setting new contract standards each offseason, new faces will overshadow his earnings. His achievements, however, are safe and sound. 

Credit: NFL

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