When any franchise is willing to shell out tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to any particular athlete, it's usually for all the right reasons. We've seen some of the greatest athletes of all-time get their payday and we've seen some others that weren't so deserving. Now, we're here to breakdown the highest-paid NFL players of all-time. Check out the list below. Do you think these athletes are worth every penny?
The United States of America is home to the most entertainment-based billion-dollar industries on the planet. From the film industry to sports franchises, the masses just want to be entertained and root for their favorite constructs and entities. One of those constructs just so happens to be the highly-popularized National Football League.
The NFL is currently ranked first in the world amongst professional sports leagues in revenue earnings bringing in approximately $15.56 billion as a collective and approximately $396.1 million per team in 2017. With this type of cash flowing in year after year, the NFL has the spending power to pay the best athletes in the world for their services.
37. Kirk Cousins (QB) - $100.6 million
Kirk Daniel Cousins was a three-sport athlete in high school playing football, basketball, and baseball (pitcher/third baseman). The 6'3 competitor took his talents to Michigan State University in 2007 where he was redshirted that same year. The following year, he played backup quarterback behind Brian Hoyer. In 2009, he won the starting quarterback job and led the Spartans 28-12 record during his tenure at the institution and a 4-0 record against the school's rival in the Michigan Wolverines.
Cousins went on to be drafted 102nd overall in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins under a rookie contract of just $2.5 million. Which came to be a surprise being that the Redskins had drafted Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, the year before. After Griffin suffered some career-altering injuries in 2014, Cousins stepped up and set several franchise records as the team's starting quarterback for the next three seasons before signing an $84 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings. With a signing bonus of $3 million, endorsements, and incentives Cousins has accumulated a career earning of $100.6 million thus far.
36. Adrian Peterson (RB) - $101.8 million
At the tender age of seven-years-old, Adrian Peterson watched his older brother die at the hands of a drunk driver. This particular incident led Peterson into his obsession with sports guiding him to become a five-star recruit that would commit to playing his collegiate ball with the University of Oklahoma Sooners. During his freshman year in 2004, Peterson set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a true freshman with a total of 1,925 yards. Throughout his three-season college career, Peterson would go on to finish third in all-time Sooner rushing yards with 4,041.
His stellar performance in college led him to be the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings where he had an instant impact setting an NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game with 296 yards. His most prominent years, Peterson spent in Minnesota earning a total salary of $94.2 million dollars before being suspended for accusations of negligent injury to a child in 2014. Since then, Peterson has become a journeyman around the league playing for teams like the New Orleans Saints, the Arizona Cardinals, and now the Washington Redskins. While he's signed multi-million dollar deals with two out of the three of those franchises and accumulated over $101 million in his NFL career, Peterson claims that he is broke.
35. Champ Bailey (CB) - $102.8 million
Champ Bailey's success comes from his consistency and longevity in the game. The 6'0, 192lb cornerback from Fort Campbell, Kentucky played his college ball at the University of Georgia. From 1996 to 1998, Bailey became a triple-threat for the Bulldogs playing a total of 957 snaps, 547 on defense, 301 on offense, and 109 on special teams. Defensively, Champ recorded 147 tackes, forced one fumbles, and caught eight interceptions. As a member of the school's track and field team, Bailey recorded a University of Georgia school record with an indoor long jump of 7.89 yards.
Champ Bailey was drafted 7th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins where he played a total of five NFL seasons was paid a total of $11.6 million. His true coming to form came as a member of the Denver Broncos where he played his next ten seasons and signed a $63 million, seven-year contract during his tenure with the team. In total, the Broncos shelled out a total of $96 million+ on the now Hall of Fame cornerback. Unfortunately, Bailey was cut from the team following the team's Super Bowl XLVIII loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Bailey then signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2014, but was cut from the team prior to the start of the season. Bailey then announced his retirement and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.
34. Calais Campbell (DE) - $103.1 million
Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Calais Campbell was regarded as one of the best defensive end prospects in the nation during his start as a high school athlete. Despite his size, Campbell was also a star prospect on the basketball court averaging a total 22.7 points, 16.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game as a junior. With so much potential as a multi-sport athlete Campbell took his talents to the University of Miami where he participated in the Hurricanes football team for a total of three seasons. In those three seasons, Calais Campbell racked up a total of 129 tackles, 19.5 sacks, and one interception.
After a successful collegiate career, Campbell declared himself to the 2008 NFL Draft where he was drafted 50th overall in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals. In nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Campbell was paid a total of $58.5 million by the Cardinals including a $17 million base salary and $12 signing bonus in the year 2012 alone. In March 2017, Campbell signed a four-year $60 million, $30 million guaranteed contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the Jaguars might be going through a transition now, there has been some return on their investment with Calais holding franchise records for most sacks in a game (4) and most sacks in a season (14.5).
33. Julio Jones (WR) - $103.1 million
Quintorris Lopez "Julio" Jones is arguably the fastest wide receiver in the NFL today. With a 40-yard dash time of 4.39, it's hard to believe the amount of body control, route-running accuracy, and catching ability he contains. In 2008, Julio Jones became the first true freshman to start in a season opener for the University of Alabama in the school's history. In three seasons as a member of the Crisom Tide, Jones started every single game and helped lead the team to a 14-0 record in 2009 which includes a BCS National Championship victory over the Texas Longhorns.
The 6'3 speedster was drafted 6th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he's played his entire career and racked up some of the most monetizing contracts in NFL history. In his nine seasons in the NFL, Jones has earned six Pro Bowl honors, led the league twice in reception yards (2015, 2018), and has become the quickest receiver to reach 10,000 career receiving yards in NFL history. Jones also holds the NFL record for career average receiving yards per game with 96.7. With accolades such as these, the Falcons shelled out a $66 million, three-year extension with the receiver in September 2019. At only 30-years-old, Jones has a potential earning status of over $163 at this point in his career but has racked up over $103 million to this date.
32. Trent Williams (LT) - $104.9 million
The first offensive lineman to make the list is veteran left tackle, Trent Williams, and deservingly so for his tenacity and durability in one of the hardest positions to remain consistent in on the field. After receiving offers from Oklahoma State, Louisiana State, and Texas A&M, Williams decided to take his talents to the University of Oklahoma in 2006. After one of the starting offensive linemen went down with a broken leg during his freshman year, Williams filled the role-playing 462 and bulldozing his way to 75 knockdowns. In his final season with the Sooners in 2009, Williams played 885 plays and earned 102 knockdowns boosting his stock on the draft charts.
In the 2010 NFL Draft, Trent Williams was selected 4th overall by the Washington Redskins where he has played his entire NFL career up until this season. Williams unsatisfied with the organization didn't report to the team's 2019 training camp and is currently in trade rumors with the Cleveland Browns. In nine seasons with the Redskins, Williams has earned seven Pro Bowl honors and started in 119 out of the 120 games he's been active on the roster. He's also averaged career earnings of approximately $10.9 million per year with an original six-year contract of $60 million in 2010 and a five-year $66 million extension signed in 2015 that makes him as paid as he is.
31. Joe Haden (CB) - $107.5 million
It seems like there isn't anything Joe Haden can't do. During his high school athletic career, Haden led the Maryland-based, Friendly High School to a state championship with a 14-0 record playing both quarterback and safety. Haden set a state record with 7,371 passing yards and tied the state record with 80 touchdown passes. He also led his high school to two state championships as the team's starting poit guard. With all of this undeniable talent, Haden attended the University of Florida where he switched positions to cornerback and helped the team win the BCS National Championship against the Oklahoma Sooners as a sophomore in 2008.
The 2009 unanimous All-American was drafted 7th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Out the gate, the Browns offered the rookie a five-year $50 million contract with $26 million guaranteed. The contract was later renegotiated to $40 million with $14 million guaranteed. However, it didn't matter much, because Haden signed a $67 million five-year extension with the team in 2014. Unfortunately, that contract was terminated and the 2x Prowl Bowl cornerback took his talents to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 where he racked up a $27 million bill for his services. This year, he signed a $22 million two-year extension with the team but has accumulated $107.5 million in total revenue this far.
30. Von Miller (OLB) - $108.5 million
Vonnie B'Vsean Miller Jr. is a dog on the football field. Offensive coordinators, o-linemen, quarterbacks, and runningbacks adjust their game just to avoid his presence. And even at 30-years-old, he's still garnering the much-deserved respect he requires every time he steps on the field. From 2007 to 2010, Von Miller attended Texas A&M University where he racked up a total of 181 tackles, 33.0 sacks, and forced seven fumbles. His senior year, he was granted with All-American honors and awarded the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
After showing out on the collegiate level, Von Miller was drafted 2nd overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos where he's played all of his nine seasons with the Colorado franchise. Instantly, Von Miller made an impact winning the Rookie of the Year in 2011 and contributed to the Broncos Super Bowl 50 win and exited the game as Super Bowl MVP. With seven Pro Bowl honors of his nine seasons in the league, Miller signed a six-year extension for $114.5 million with $70 million guaranteed in 2016. Including endorsements, bonuses, and extra monetized monies, Von Miller is a rich man bringing in $108.5 million throughout his career thus far.
29. Russell Wilson (QB) - $109.4 Million
Russell Wilson is easily one of the most slept on quarterbacks on this current generation. He's reliable, consistent, precise, and poised in high-pressure moments, everything you can ask for in a franchise quarterback. Somehow, his name usually comes up last when discussing top tier quarterbacks. Initially, Wilson began his collegiate sports career, at North Carolina State University playing both baseball and football from 2008 to 2010. The following year, Wilson took his talents to the University of Wisconsin where he led the Badgers to a Big Ten Championship over the Michigan State Spartans.
Surprisingly, Wilson was drafted 75th overall in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks where he's played all eight seasons of his pro-football career. Wilson's initial contract was for a two-year commitment for $2.9 million. Since Wilson helped the Seahawks capture their first Super Bowl victory in 2013 which sparked the franchise to offer him a renegotiated four-year extension, $87.6 million in 2015. This year, Wilson became the highest-paid NFL player after signing another four-year extension for $140 million. This year alone, Wilson will be bringing in $35 million in a single season.
28. Jason Peters (LT) - $111.7 Million
Jason Peters went from playing both basketball and football as a high school athlete, switching positions multiple times throughout his entire sports career to becoming one of the highest-paid offensive tackles in the history of the NFL. Peters attended the prominent football institution, the University of Arkansas originally recruited as a defensive lineman. After noticing how light on his feet he was by the coaching staff, Peters was moved to the tight end position where caught a total of 21 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite receiving second-team All-SEC honors for his performance in college and being projected to be drafted in the fourth round, Peters went undrafted in the 2004 NFL Draft. Fortunately, Peters signed a deal with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent within the same year. Jason Peters' first three seasons with the Bills were lackluster in terms of high-profile contracts after being reduced to the practice during that specific tenure. However, in his fifth season with the Bills, Peters signed a four-year $16 million extension with the team in 2006. In 2009, Peters was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles where he's been playing ever since and has accumulated a total of $93 million in ten seasons with the team. At age 37, Peters signed a one-year contract worth $6 million with the Eagles earlier this season.
27. Terrell Suggs (OLB) - $112.2 Million
Terrell Suggs is yet another one of those immortal entities of this current generation of players that demand a lot of attention on the football field. At 36-years-old, Suggs is proving that he still has something left in the tank and something to offer to a football franchise looking to succeed. Terrell Suggs attended his home state college of Arizona State University from 2000-2002 where he played defensive end and set a single-season record for sacks his junior year with a total of 24 sacks. That same season, Suggs was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and unanimous first-team All-American.
Suggs was drafted 10th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens where he played the majority of his career. His rookie season, Suggs was selected Rookie of the Year in 2003, named Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, named a 7x Pro Bowler, and helped the Ravens secure a Super Bowl victory in 2012 over the San Francisco 49ers (Super Bowl XLVII). In sixteen seasons with the Ravens, Suggs accumulated $105.2 in contracts and $7 million for one season with the Arizona Cardinals who he is currently playing for.
26. Calvin Johnson (WR) - $113.8 Million
At 6'5, 237lbs, Calvin Johnson earned his nickname 'Megatron' not only by his former teammate, Roy Williams, but for his superior route running, strength, and speed combination that has allowed him to be regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers ever. From 2004-2006, Johnson attended the Georgia Institute of Technology where he arguably became the school's greatest football player of all-time. He ranks first in the school's history for career receiving yards (2,927), touchdowns (28), and career 100-yard receiving games (13).
Calvin Johnson was drafted 2nd overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions where he played all nine seasons of his NFL career. Of those nine seasons, Johnson was a 6x Pro Bowler, 3x First-Team All-Pro, and 2x NFL receiving yards leader. In 2012, Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season record for receiving yards with a total of 1,848 yards and tied for first with Michael Irvin for most 100-yard games in a season with 11. With all of these accolades under his belt, the Lions offered Johnson an eight-year, $132 million extension in 2012. Though he retired this year, he still was able to rake in over $113 million throughout the course of his career.
25. Gerald McCoy (DT) - $118.1 Million
Hailing from Oklahoma City, OK, defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy was a five-star recruit out his hometown Southeast High School. McCoy ditched many prestigious football schools like USC, University of Miami, Norte Dame, Virginia Tech, and more before committing to the University of Oklahoma in 2006. After redshirting his freshman year, McCoy played three seasons with the Sooners. In his junior year he was named Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year with career numbers of 51 total tackles, 14.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.
The imposing 6'4, 300lb defensive lineman was drafted 3rd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McCoy logged nine seasons with the Bucs, where he was named a 6x Pro Bowler and 3x First-Team All-Pro recipient while with the team. Out the gate, the Bucs offered McCoy a five-year $55 million contract with $20.8 million guaranteed. In 2014, McCoy signed a seven-year $95.2 million extension that was terminated earlier this year. McCoy then took his talents to the Carolina Panthers for a one-year $9 million contract. This season his sacked his ex-teammate, Jamies Winston 2.5 times.
24. Mario Williams (DE) - $120.4 Million
A defensive end standing at 6'6, weighing in at 295lbs, that has the ability to run a 4.66 40-yard dash is a scary sight. The two-sport high school athlete decided to take his talents to North Carolina State University where he would play three seasons from 2003 to 2005. In those three seasons, Williams set the North Carolina State single-season tackles for loss record with 27.5 and the single-season sacks record with 14.5 in 2005.
After such an impressive performance as a member of the NC State Wolfpack, Mario Williams was selected 1st overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans where he played six seasons out of his eleven-season NFL career. Williams racked in a total of $56.5 million from the Texans during his tenure in Houston. In 2012, Williams signed a six-year contract worth $100 million, $49.5 million guaranteed, but had the contract terminated after he was released in 2016. That same year, Williams was signed to the Miami Dolphins for two years, $17 million, but only played one season before being cut. Williams is officially retired but was able to rack in over $120 million throughout his career.
23. Cam Newton (QB) - $121.4 Million
There aren't too many physical specimens at the quarterback position that have been built like Cam Newton. Standing at 6'5, 245lbs with breakaway speed and pocket presence makes Cam Newton an NFL anomaly. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Newton ditched the possibility of attending the universities of Georgia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, and in order to attend the University of Florida in 2007. After accusations of stealing a laptop, Newton packed his bags and eventually landed in Auburn in 2010 where he won the Heisman Trophy, the Manning Award, and AP College Player of the Year. He led Auburn to both SEC Championships and BCS National Championship wins in his first and only season with the team.
Cam Newton was drafted 1st overall in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers where he's played all nine seasons of his NFL career. Cam became an instant impact player winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2011. In 2015, Cam Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50, won NFL MVP honors, and Offensive Player of the Year which allowed him to cash in on a huge payday. After earning $22 million from his initial contract, Newton signed a five-year, $103 million contract extension with the Panthers in 2015. Thus far, he's earned $82.7 million of his contract money. Lately, Cam has been struggling with health issues and the Panthers have been riding with Kyle Allen as the starting QB. It could possibly be an end of an era with Cam Newton leading the Panthers.
22. Jay Cutler (QB) - $122.2 Million
No offense to Jay Cutler or his family and friends, but he earned a lot of money without ever being a reliable frontman leader for the franchises he took the field for. Don't get us wrong, he's put up some amazing numbers, but for some reason, he always came up short. Cutler attended Vanderbilt University where he started all 45 games that he played in from 2002-2005. In 2005, he was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and helped lead the Commodores to a 28-24 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. This was the first time Vanderbilt had beaten Tennessee since 1982, the same year Cutler was born.
Jay Cutler was drafted 11th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos where he played his first three seasons as an NFL quarterback. While he was able to put up a career-best in total passing yards his final season in Denver notching 4,526 yards through the air, he cut ties with the team and took his talents to the Chicago Bears where he played his most prominent years. In 2009, Cutler signed a two-year, $28.9 million with the Chicago Bears and a seven-year $127.6 million extension with the team in 2014. After underperforming in the 2016 season, Cutler was cut by the Bears thus terminating his contract. Cutler retired but was called out of retirement by the Miami Dolphins after their starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending injury. Cutler signed a one-year deal worth $10 million and was asked not to return following the end of the season. However, he did end his career earning over $122 million in total.
21. Joe Thomas (LT) - $122.9 Million
Consistency and reliability get you the big bucks in the NFL and if you want to see living proof of that, look no further than offensive tackle, Joe Thomas. Thomas began his sports career playing many positions on the football field throughout high school including defensive end, tight end, fullback, right tackle, and even punter. After receiving praise for performance in sports and as a four-year honor roll academic, Thomas took his talents to the University of Wisconsin where he played from 2003-2006. Again, during his four-season tenure at Wisconsin, Thomas played multiple positions including blocking tight end, left tackle, and defensive end. By the time he got to his senior year, he was named one of the offensive team captain.
In the 2007 NFL Draft, Joe Thomas was selected 3rd overall by the Cleveland Browns where he played his entire eleven-season career. The first ten seasons of his career, Thomas was invited to the Pro Bowl every year. He also didn't miss a single down within that time frame as well making his 10,363 consecutive snaps played the longest streak in NFL history since the league started recording snaps in 1999. With durability like that the Browns offered Thomas a seven-year extension worth $80.5 million in 2011. In 2017, he signed an additional contract worth $26.5 million for two years of service. However, a torn tricep ended his career that same year leaving him with $122.9 million in earnings total. We're sure he's ok. Matter of fact, Google him right now. You might not recognize him at all.
20. Darrelle Revis (CB) - $124.2 Million
Darrelle Revis is one of the best shutdown cornerbacks of this current generation. Sundays aren't the same these days without getting to watch him battle it out with the top wide receiver from his opposing team. That is if the quarterback decides to target his side of the field at all. Revis played his collegiate football in his home state of Pennsylvania at the University of Pittsburgh from 2004-2006. In those three seasons, Revis was named First-Team All-Big East in 2005 and 2006 and ESPN's College Player of the Year in 2006.
Darrelle Revis was drafted 14th overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the New York Jets where he spent the majority of his professional football career in two stints. The 7x Pro Bowler spent the first six seasons of his NFL career in New York where he became known for his 'Revis Island' moniker. In total eight seasons (2007-2012, 2015-16) Darrelle spent with the Jets he was able to rake in a total of $96.6 million in contract money, but his willingness to become a free agent earned him more. Revis also played for the Tampa Bay Bucs for a single season in 2013 for $16 million. He also spent some time in New England for a single season for $12 million and won a Super Bowl ring with the franchise. His final season in the NFL (2017), he spent as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs before calling it quits. After all the ink settled, Revis brought home a whopping $124+ million.
19. Michael Vick (QB) - $124.8 Million
Michael Vick single-handedly revolutionized the quarterback position by becoming a legitimate running option from the pocket. His unfathomable breakaway speed and passing precision allowed him to become one of the biggest offensive threats during his time in the NFL. In 1998, Vick redshirted for the Virginia Tech Hokies. The following year, Vick led the NCAA in passing efficiency with a rating of 180.4 as a freshman. In two seasons at Virginia Tech, Vick threw for a total of 3,279 yards and rushed for a total of 1,216 yards scoring a total of 38 touchdowns through the air and on foot.
After his impressive two-year collegiate stint, Michael Vick was drafted 1st overall in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he played the majority of his NFL career. In six seasons with the Falcons, Vick was able to rake in $61.4 million from the franchise before being cut from the team and serving prison time for an illegal dog-fighting ring that was located on a property he owned. While this mishap might have derailed his career, he was able to return to the field as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. In five seasons with the Eagles, Vick was able to earn over $52.2 million. Michael Vick also played one season with the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 2016.
18. Tony Romo (QB) - $127.4 Million
Tony Romo is one of those quarterbacks that is hard to put into a box. Romo had a solid NFL career and was viable starting quarterback, but he was never able to lead his team over the hump and into the promised land of securing some championship jewelry. From 2000-2002, Tony Romo attended Eastern Illinois University where he earned Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Award all three seasons he played football for the program. Romo also was the first and only player in the conference to ever win the Walter Payton Award as well.
Despite his award-winning showing in college, Romo went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft. Fortunately, Romo was signed as a rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys where he would play his entire fourteen-season career. Romo didn't earn starting quarterback honors until the 2006 season where he started ten out of the sixteen regular-season games. This is when the flood gates opened exposing Romo to some blockbuster contracts and endorsement deals. In 2007, Tony Romo signed a contract worth $67.5 million and in 2013, Romo signed a six-year extension worth $108 million. Unfortunately, that contract was terminated after Romo lost his starting QB job to Dak Prescott and retired the following year in 2016. However, he still left the game with $127.4 million big ones in his pocket.
17. Sam Bradford (QB) - $130 Million
Sam Bradford might be the most disappointing NFL athlete to make the list thus far. While he did have some bright moments throughout his career, Bradford was widely inconsistent making some of his major contract offers undeserving. While he wasn't highly recruited out of high school, he did make his way to the University of Oklahoma (2007-2009) where he instantly made an impact on the field. In 2008. Bradford became the second sophomore ever to win the Heisman Trophy and led the highest-scoring offense in NCAA history throwing for 4,720 yards and scoring 50 touchdowns.
In the 2010 NFL Draft, Sam Bradford was drafted 1st overall by the St. Louis Rams where he signed a record-breaking rookie contract for $78 million, $50 million guaranteed. In 2014, Bradford suffered a torn ACL and was traded to the Eagles where he played a single season for $23.9 million in 2015. Bradford found himself in Minnesota for two seasons and lined his pockets with an additional $25 million. In 2018, Bradford signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals worth $20 million but was released the same year. Bradford is currently a free agent looking to get onto the field.
16. Brett Favre (QB) - $137.8 Million
Brett Favre is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever take the field and played an insane two decades in the league. The Gulfport, Mississippi-bred Hall of Famer played his collegiate ball in his home state at the University of Southern Mississippi for four years (1987-1990). Originally, Southern Miss wanted Favre to play defensive back, but he insisted on playing quarterback where he broke several school records and held them until the arrival of Austin Davis. During his college career, Favre threw for a total of 7,695 yards and passed for 52 touchdowns.
Brett Favre was drafted 33rd overall in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, things didn't go too well in Atlanta for Favre, his first pass an NFL quarterback was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He was cut after one season with the team and picked up by the Green Bay Packers where he would play sixteen out of the twenty seasons of his NFL career. Favre raked in $100.6 million from the Packers while also winning a Super Bowl (XXXI). In 2008, Favre signed a seven-year contract with New York Jets worth $80 million but was released after a single season. Before officially retiring in 2011, Favre would play two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and earn $28 million.
15. Ndamukong Suh (DT) - $148 Million
Throughout his career, Ndamukong Suh has earned a reputation as a problematic professional athlete. However, over the past couple of years, Suh has revamped his image and become one of the premier athletes in the NFL today. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Suh played his collegiate ball at the University of Nebraska from 2005 to 2009. In five seasons with the Cornhuskers, Suh racked up a total of 215 tackles, 24 sacks, four interceptions, and two touchdowns. In his final seasons, Suh was honored with the Lombardi Award for best lineman/linebacker in the country, Associated Press Player of the Year, and named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
In the 2010 NFL Draft, Ndamukong Suh was drafted 2nd overall by the Detroit Lions where he became an instant force winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Suh played the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Lions where he racked up an approximate total of $64.5 million. His next contract with the Miami Dolphins made him one of the richest defensive players in NFL history signing with the Florida-based team $114.3 million for six seasons. Unfortunately, Suh was cut from the team three seasons into the contract and has become a journeyman around the league ever since. This also has allowed him to rake in the big bucks signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams for $14 million last season and a one-year, $9.2 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thus far, Ndamukong Suh has almost touched the $150 million mark. When it's all said and done, Suh will be a much richer man than he already is.
14. Alex Smith (QB) - $161.5 Million
Alex Smith has had a lot of ups and downs throughout his professional football career. From a rocky first six seasons to being undefeated to struggling with injuries. While his NFL has been a rollercoaster, he's been and still is being paid handsomely for his services. After playing high school football at Helix High School alongside Reggie Bush, Smith took his talents to the University of Utah from 2002-2004. While he only played in two games his freshman year, Smith led the Utah Utes victories in the 2003 Liberty Bowl and 2005 Fiesta Bowl and a 21-1 record as a starter.
Alex Smith was drafted 1st overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers where he played the first seven seasons of his NFL career. Though he struggled with injuries, in 2011, Smith led the 49ers to their first playoff victory since 2002. The following season, Smith was replaced by Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback after suffering a concussion. Smith racked up $76 million in contract money with the 49ers, in five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Smith was paid $63.4 million from the organization. In 2018, Smith signed a four-year contract with the Washington Redskins worth $94 million. Unfortunately, Smith suffered a spiral compound fracture to his right leg in week eleven of the 2018 season that has left his career in jeopardy.
13. Julius Peppers (LB) - $165 Million
Seventeen seasons in the NFL has earned 6'7, 295lb linebacker, Julius Peppers some rather big paydays in the NFL. It also didn't hurt being a 9x Pro Bowler and 3x First-Team All-Pro nominee to help him secure some of those large checks. Peppers played his collegiate football at the University of North Carolina from 1998-2001. While winning the Lombardi Award, Bill Willis Trophy, and Chuck Bednarik Award for his performance in football, Peppers also played on the school's basketball and even participated in the Final Four. Peppers ditched basketball in his final season and currently is ranked second all-time in career sacks at the institution.
After outperforming his peers in college, Julius Peppers was drafted 2nd overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by his home state Carolina Panthers where he played a total of ten seasons in two separate stints with the franchise. Out the gate, Peppers signed a seven-year, $46 million contract with the Panthers. Which proved to be beneficial for all parties involved after winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2002. In 2010, Peppers signed a six-year contract worth $84 million with the Chicago Bears. After four seasons in Chicago, Peppers signed a three-year $26 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. In 2017, Peppers returned to Carolina where he would play two more seasons before retiring in February 2019. With close to $80 million paid to him by the Panthers alone, Julius Peppers is still on the team's payroll in the business operations department.
12. Joe Flacco (QB) - $166.3 Million
Joe Flacco has proven to be one of the better quarterbacks of this current generation. Over the past decade, we've seen quarterbacks come and go, but Flacco has stood the test of time as being a reliable offensive leader for the team's he's played for. The 6'6 quarterback from Audubon, New Jersey played football for two different collegiate teams, the University of Pittsburgh Panthers (2003-2005) and the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (2005-2007). As a backup, Flacco played very minutes for the Pittsburgh Panthers, but found his way at Delware where he broke twenty school records in three seasons playing for the school.
In the 2008 NFL Draft, Joe Flacco was drafted 18th overall by the Baltimore Ravens where he played eleven seasons leading the Ravens to a championship with a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. The Super Bowl MVP received a six-year, $120.6 million extension in 2013 for his performance making him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks of this decade. In 2016, Flacco was traded to the Denver Broncos securing a acontract worth $66 million for three years of commitment. With close to $150 million paid by the Baltimore Ravens alone, Flacco set the standard for quarterback pay in the NFL today.
11. Carson Palmer (QB) - $174.1 Million
While Carson Palmer was a solid quarterback during his peak years in the early to mid-2000s, the amount of money teams have shelled out to him was not worth the performance he put up throughout his fifteen season NFL career. In the seventh grade, Palmer was getting attention for his size and arm strength later he would commit to the University of Southern California. Palmer would play for the Trojans from 1998-2002 and win the Heisman Trophy and lead his team to a 2003 Orange Bowl victory over Iowa. Palmer would put up career numbers including 11,818 passing yards and 72 touchdowns with a passer percentage rate of 59.1%.
After an impressive collegiate career at USC, Palmer was drafted 1st overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals were he would play his best football in his professional career. Palmer led the Bengals to their first playoff appearance in fifteen years in 2005 and also led the team to the postseason an additional time in 2009. In 2005, Palmer signed a six-year, $97 million contract extension with the Bengals but ended up receiving only $84 million from the Ohio-based franchise. Carson also received $15 million for two years of service with the Oakland Raiders and $73 million for five years of service with the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer retired after the 2017 NFL season and left with his pocket lined with more than $174 million.
10. Larry Fitzgerald (WR) - $174.5 Million
Now in his sixteenth seasons in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald has proven that he is one of the most consistent and dependable wideouts to ever hit the field. Surprisingly, Fitzgerald did not fit the requirements to play football at the collegiate level as a freshman. However, Fitzgerald eventually made his way to the University of Pittsburgh where we would play two seasons of football in 2002 and 2003. In his final season with the team, Fitzgerald led the Big East in receptions with 92 and 1,672 yards and led the NCAA in touchdowns with 22 in a single season. In just two seasons, Fitzgerald set a school record with 34 touchdown receptions.
After being voted All-American at Pitt, Fitzgerald was drafted 3rd overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals where he's played his entire NFL career. The 11x Pro Bowler has led the NFL in touchdowns two times (2008, 2009) and receptions twice (2005, 2016). Fitzgerald's initial rookie contract landed him $55.4 million for five years of commitment and his 2011, seven-year extension with the Cardinals made him $113 million. Since 2016, Fitzgerald has renegotiated his contracts for one-year deals worth $11 million. If he continues to stay healthy and productive, he can continue to milk the system until the day he decides to hang his cleat up for good.
9. Matt Stafford (QB) - $197.8 Million
Matt Stafford is another one of those dependable quarterbacks that has flown under the radar the past decade. While he fights for his team to succeed, it never seems like the Detroit Lions have all of the right tools to make it deep into the postseason. In 2006, Matthew Stafford became the first true freshman quarterback to start at quarterback for the University of Georgia Bulldogs since Quincy Carter in 1998. Stafford would go on to lead the Bulldogs to victory in the 2007 Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the 2008 Sugar Bowl, and the 2008 Capitol One Bowl.
After having so much success in the SEC, Stafford was drafted 1st overall in the 2009 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions where he's played his entire career. While Stafford has only been invited to the Pro Bowl one time, where he also won Offensive MVP in 2014, he holds a couple of notable NFL records under his belt. Stafford is the fastest quarterback to reach 40,000 passing yards, he also holds the record for most comeback wins in a season with 8 (2016), and he's the fourth quarterback to throw over 5,000 in a single season. In 2017, Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million extension with the Lions making him the highest-paid athlete in the NFL at the time.
8. Philip Rivers (QB) - $218.9 Million
Philip Rivers has one of the most unorthodox throwing rhythms the NFL has ever seen and he's been widely successful using it despite the awkward mechanics. While he's considered an elite quarterback in today's league, he's never been able to call himself a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback due to the setbacks of the now Los Angeles Chargers. The 6'5 quarterback hailing from Decatur, Alabama played his collegiate football at North Carolina State University for four seasons (2000-2003). Rivers led the NC State Wolfpack to four consecutive bowl games, winning three out of the four. The ACC Athlete of the Year also shattered almost every NC State quarterback record the school coveted.
In the 2004 NFL Draft, Rivers was drafted 4th overall by the New York Giants but was traded to the then-San Diego Chargers for 1st overall pick, Eli Manning. Since draft day, Rivers has been a member of the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers leading the team to six playoff berths in fourteen seasons as a starter. Philip Rivers has signed two major extensions with the Chargers. The first in 2009, was a six-year contract worth $91.8 million and the second in 2015 for $83.2 million for four years worth of service. While reliable will Rivers ever be able to get over the hump? Only time will tell.
7. Aaron Rodgers (QB) - $219.0 Million
It was hard to believe that anyone filling the void Brett Favre left in Green Bay would be able to succeed. However, under the Hall of Fame quarterback's tutelage, he's become one of the greatest quarterbacks of this current generation. Extremely poised and precise, Aaron Rodgers has proven that he's the real deal and the best successor Green Bay could have asked for. Rodgers began his college football career just fifteen miles away from his hometown in Chico, California at Butte Community College in 2002. The following year, Rodgers took his talents to the University of California, Berkeley. After being named MVP of the 2003 Insight Bowl and throwing for 5,469 yards in just two seasons with Cal, Rodgers decided to opt for the 2005 NFL Draft.
Aaron Rodgers was drafted 24th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers where he didn't transition into the starting quarterback position until 2008 when Brett Favre announced his initial retirement. Since then, Rodgers has led the Packers to a championship victory in Super Bowl XLV where he also named the game's MVP. He's also been named the NFL MVP on two occasions in 2011 and 2014. In 2013, Rodgers signed a five-year extension with the Packers worth $110 million. In 2018, Rodgers signed an additional four-year contract extension worth $134 million lining his pockets with a total of $66.9 million for that single season.
6. Matt Ryan (QB) - $223.5 Million
Matt Ryan is a proven team leader and postseason quarterback, he just hasn't been able to secure a Super Bowl victory for the Atlanta Falcons. And while the team is currently in a state of turmoil, Ryan has kept a positive outlook and uplifted the group of guys around him. Ryan also did the same during his days as a member of the Boston College Eagles. From 2004-2007, Matt Ryan put up an impressive 9,313 yards through the air for 56 touchdowns. Ryan won the Manning Award his senior year (2007) and was also named MVP of the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl.
Matt Ryan was drafted 3rd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons where he's played his entire twelve-season career. The same year he was drafted he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, won NFL MVP honors in 2016, and has been invited to the Pro Bowl a total of four times. During the 2016 season, he led the Falcons to Super Bowl LI but failed to secure the Lombardi Trophy against the New England Patriots. In 2013, Ryan signed a five-year contract extension worth $103.7 million and signed an additional five-year extension in 2018 worth, $150 million. Matt Ryan's 2018 contract was the largest in NFL history until Aaron Rodgers mega-contract a few months later.
5. Ben Roethlisberger (QB) - $232.3 Million
Standing at 6'5 and weighing 240lbs, Ben Roethlisberger is a massive force behind center with a rocket for an arm. He's helped the Pittsburgh Steelers become a repeat playoff presence for the past decade and a half. Ben Roethlisberger played his collegiate football at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio from 2000 to 2003. His initial year, he was redshirted and was named the starting quarterback in 2001. In his final season with the Miami Redhawks, he led the team to an unbeaten record and a 49-28 victory in the 2003 GMAC Bowl over Louisville. In three seasons of play, Roethlisberger broke twenty-one school records for the institution.
In the 2004 NFL Draft, Ben Roethlisberger was picked 11th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers where he's played his entire sixteen-season NFL career. In his second year with the team, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a championship in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. In 2008, the Steelers brought home a second champion with Roethlisberger leading the way and also made an appearance in 2010 at Super Bowl XLV. With so much success coming the way of the 6x Pro Bowler, signed two contract extensions worth $87 million in 2008 and 2014. His latest contract extension came in 2019, $68 million for two years of service.
4. Tom Brady (QB) - $235.2 Million
With nine Super Bowl appearances and six rings, Tom Brady is the most decorated quarterback of all-time and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time. The funny thing is, Brady has renegotiated multiple contracts in order to attract other big-name stars to join him in New England. And at the age of 42-years-old, Brady doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Tom Brady attended the University of Michigan from 1995 to 1999 where he didn't get his first start until his junior year. As a starter, Brady led the Wolverines to a 20-5 record and victories in the 1999 Citrus Bowl and 2000 Orange Bowl.
The greatest quarterback of all-time was drafted 199th overall in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Brady didn't get any real playing time his rookie season but was named the starter in 2001 after an injury to then-starter, Drew Bledsoe. Since then, Brady has become the only quarterback to reach 200 wins and a 14x Pro Bowler. In 2005, Brady signed a four-year contract extension worth $48 million. In 2010, Brady signed an additional four-year extension worth $72 million. Since then, Brady has signed an additional three extensions worth over $121 million with the Patriots for his twenty years' worth of service.
3. Drew Brees (QB) - $224.7 Million
The San Diego Chargers probably regret giving up on Drew Brees after just five seasons with the success he's had in New Orleans. Which is not to be taken as a slight to Philip Rivers, both are quality quarterbacks, but as of right now Drew Brees is the clear bred-winner out of the two. Drew Brees attended Purdue University from 1997 to 2000 where he broke nineteen school records including touchdown passes (90), passing yards (11,792), total offensive yards (12,693), and more. Despite his success at Purdue, Brees finished third in Heisman Trophy voting his senior year.
In the 2001 NFL Draft, Drew Brees was selected 32nd overall in the second round by the San Diego Chargers. While Brees was able to lead the Chargers to the postseason one time in 2004, but after contract disputes with the Chargers, Brees took his talents to New Orleans where he has led the Saints to seven playoff berths. The 12x Pro Bowl nominee also led the Saints to their first Super Bowl (XLIV) victory in 2009 where he was also named the Super Bowl MVP. In 2006, Brees signed a five-year contract with the New Orleans Saints and a five-year extension with the team in 2012 worth $100 million. Brees' latest contract extension with the team was in 2018, for $50 million for two years of service.
2. Peyton Manning (QB) - $248.7 Million
Peyton Manning is the blueprint for being a high-caliber quarterback at the highest level. His precision, poise, and ability to read defenses like the back of his hand has allowed him to become the first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback that he's worked towards since his youth. Peyton Manning attended the University of Tennessee from 1994 to 1997. During his tenure with the Volunteers, Manning became the school's all-time leading passer with a total of 11,201 yards, 89 touchdowns, and a 39-6 record as a starter at the institution.
Manning was selected 1st overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft where he played fourteen out of the eighteen seasons of his NFL career. While a member of the Colts, he won four NFL Most Valuable Player Awards, a Super Bowl (XLI) victory in 2006, and Super Bowl XLI MVP. After a neck injury mishap with the Colts medical staff, Manning took his talents to the Denver Broncos where he won his fifth and final NFL MVP in 2013 and Super Bowl (50) victory in 2015. With three contracts worth at least $90 million under his belt, Manning has racked up close to $250 million in earnings throughout his career. The funny thing is that he left $19 million at the table when he decided to retire in 2016.
1. Eli Manning (QB) - $252.3 Million
Eli Manning is an anomaly in the sports realm. He's son to ex-NFL quarterback Archie Manning and the little brother of Peyton Manning and one of the most revered quarterbacks of this current generation. While he recently lost his starting quarterback job to rookie Daniel Jones, he's proven that he has the ability to lead a team and win when it matters the most. Eli Manning attended the University of Mississippi from 2000 to 2003 where he set or tied at least 45 single-game, season, or career records. With 84 touchdowns and 10,286 passing yards as a member of the Ole Miss Rebels, Manning led the Rebels to a Cotton Bowl Classic victory and won SEC MVP in 2003.
Eli Manning's professional football career started off rocky after he refused to play for the San Diego Chargers. With that said, Eli Manning was picked 1st overall in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Chargers and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers. Since then, Eli Manning has been a member of the Giants where he has led them to two Super Bowl victories (XLII and XLVI) was named Super Bowl MVP twice. With thirty-eight New York Giants records under his belt, Manning has been paid handsomely by the franchise in the form of two hefty contract extensions. In 2009, Eli Manning signed a six-year extension worth $97.5 million and in 2015 signed a four-year extension worth $84 million. Unfortunately, with his play declining, he may never see these types of paydays again.
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