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Top 30 Highest-Paid NFL Players of All Time

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

August 26th, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes secured the richest-valued contract in American professional sports in 2020, when he signed a 10-year extension worth $477 million, with another $26 million in potential bonuses.

In spite of his new contract, however, the 2019 Super Bowl MVP doesn't even rank in the top 100 in earnings, to date — and that's among active players.

One day, Mahomes will likely top the list, but for now let's look at the 30 highest-paid NFL players of all time based on career earnings.

30. Jay Cutler, QB

Teams: Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Career earnings: $122,196,087
Years active: 2006-2017

Although his stats don't jump off the page, Jay Cutler managed to haul in mega cash during his 12-year NFL career. In 2009, the Pro Bowl QB was traded to Chicago, where he signed a five-year, $50.37 million contract, and later a seven-year $126.7 million extension. His final stop was a one-year stint in Miami that earned him a cool $10 million.

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Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (61). (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)

29. Gerald McCoy, DT

Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders
Career earnings: $122,485,131
Years active: 2010-present

Six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy would rank higher on this list, had it not been for a ruptured quadriceps injury that resulted in the Dallas Cowboys voiding his three-year, $18.3 million contract, which he signed in 2020. The 33-year-old once owned the biggest contract for a defensive tackle — a seven-year extension worth $98 million, and $51.5 million guaranteed, which he inked with the Bucs.

28. Joe Thomas, LT

Teams: Cleveland Browns
Career earnings: $122,850,000
Years active: 2007-2017

Throughout his 11-year NFL career, Joe Thomas was named to the Pro Bowl 10 times and never missed a single play until his final season. Thomas' 10,363 consecutive snaps played is the longest streak since the NFL began recording snap counts, in 1999. He signed a record-setting, seven-year, $84 million extension, with $44 million guaranteed, in 2011.

27. Darrelle Revis, CB

Teams: New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs
Career earnings: $124,211,129
Years active: 2007-2017

One of the best shutdown cornerbacks to play the game, Darrelle Revis knew his worth and got paid accordingly. He signed a six-year deal with the Bucs worth $96 million, which made him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history, in 2013. He also raked in $12 million and a Super Bowl ring in one season with New England, then agreed to a five-year contract, with $39 million guaranteed, to complete a second stint with the New York Jets.

26. Calais Campbell, DE

Teams: Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens
Career earnings: $126,091,393
Years active: 2008-present

A six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Calais Campbell has one year remaining on his two-year, $25 million contract extension with Baltimore, before he becomes a free agent. The majority of his career was spent at Arizona, where he hauled in a five-year, $55 million contract, with $31 million guaranteed, plus a $15 million signing bonus, in his fourth season.

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws a pass. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

25. Tony Romo, QB

Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Career earnings: $127,422,458
Years active: 2003-2016

Tony Romo joined Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2003 but became a household name by 2006. The four-time Pro Bowler led Dallas to four postseason appearances and was signed to a six-year extension in 2013 worth $108 million, with $55 million guaranteed and $25 million in bonuses.

24. Sam Bradford, QB

Teams: St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals
Career earnings: $130,022,863
Years active: 2010-2018

The 2010 No. 1 overall pick of the St. Louis Rams broke into the NFL at the perfect time. Despite injuries plaguing most of his career, he was able to earn some serious cash, because he was drafted a year before the NFL placed restrictions on rookie salaries. Bradford signed the largest contract for an NFL rookie — a six-year, $78 million deal, with $50 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $86 million.

23. Cam Newton, QB

Teams: Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots
Career earnings: $130,868,600
Years active: 2011-present

Following his 2015 MVP season and a Super Bowl appearance, Cam Newton inked a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension with the Carolina Panthers. Now, he's quarterback for the New England Patriots and set to bring in $5.1 million in 2021.

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre (4) awaits the snap during a November 2007 game at Lambeau Field against the Minnesota Vikings. (Photo by Icon Sportswire)

22. Brett Favre, QB

Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
Career earnings: $137,829,000
Years active: 1991-2010

Packers franchise quarterback Brett Favre won a Super Bowl with Green Bay and three league MVP awards, but his largest paydays came from the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, where he finished out his career.

21. Ryan Tannehill, QB

Teams: Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans
Career earnings: $139,975,979
Years active: 2012-present

Ryan Tannehill's career all but fizzled out in Miami, but a change of scenery in Tennessee led to a resurgence in his career and a massive paycheck. In 2020, he accepted a four-year, $118 million deal with the Titans, after he guided them to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in his first season with the team.

20. Trent Williams, OT

Teams: Washington Football Team, San Francisco 49ers
Career earnings:
 $140,573,341
Years active: 2010-present

Eight-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams made history in 2021, as he signed a six-year, $138 million contract extension with the 49ers, which made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL.

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Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11).(Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire)

19. Julio Jones, WR

Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans
Career earnings: $140,640,527
Years active: 2011-present

In 2019, Julio Jones became the highest-paid wide receiver in the league, upon signing a three-year, $66 million extension, with $64 million guaranteed, to stay in Atlanta. In 2021, he was traded to the Titans and will earn a base salary of $15.3 million.

18. Von Miller, LB

Teams: Denver Broncos
Career earnings: $144,475,534
Years active: 2011-present

Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller is considered to be one of the best defenders in the league, and has the most career sacks (106) of any active player. The eight-time Pro Bowler was drafted second overall by the Broncos in 2011 and was issued a six-year, $114.1 million contract in 2016. Despite missing the 2020 season, because of injury, he made $18 million.

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers. (David Berding/Icon Sportswire)

17. Kirk Cousins, QB

Teams: Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings
Career earnings: $161,669,486
Years active: 2012-present

Often panned for his inability to perform under pressure — particularly the Monday Night Football spotlight — Kirk Cousins has at least convinced NFL front offices to pay him like a superstar. In 2018, he signed with the Vikings on a fully guaranteed, three-year, $84 million contract. At the time, it was the first fully guaranteed and highest-paying contract in NFL history.

16. Ndamukong Suh, DT

Teams: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Career earnings: $164,965,157
Years active: 2010-present

In five seasons in Detroit, Ndamukong Suh was awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year and four Pro Bowl nominations. His ferocious play eventually enticed the Miami Dolphins to turn Suh into the highest-paid defensive player at the time, when he joined the team in 2015. Suh signed a six-year contract worth more than $114 million, with nearly $60 million fully guaranteed, but was released after only three seasons.

15. Julius Peppers, DE

Teams: Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers
Career earnings: $164,973,786
Years active: 2002-2018

Following a fifth Pro Bowl nod in his eighth season with Carolina, Julius Peppers jumped to the Chicago Bears and drew a six-year contract worth $91.5 million, with $42 million guaranteed in the first three years. He recorded the fourth most sacks (159.5) in NFL history and second most forced fumbles (51).

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Philadelphia Eagles QB Joe Flacco (7) throws a pass. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

14. Joe Flacco, QB

Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles
Career earnings: $171,075,000
Years active: 2008-present

Though he never made a Pro Bowl, Joe Flacco earned a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP with the Baltimore Ravens during the 2012 season. Consequently, Baltimore offered him a six-year contract worth $120.6 million, a record for a quarterback, at the time.

13. Carson Palmer, QB

Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals
Career earnings: $174,148,722
Years active: 2003-2017

The first overall pick in 2003, Carson Palmer played seven seasons in Cincinnati, where he was named to the Pro Bowl two times and reached the postseason twice. He signed a six-year contract extension, valued at $118.75 million, through the 2014 season. His 2015 season in Arizona led to an NFC Championship Game appearance and garnered MVP buzz.

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is all smiles after an NFL game. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire)

12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Teams: Arizona Cardinals
Career earnings: $180,757,239
Years active: 2004-present

Now a free agent, Larry Fitzgerald was the face of the Arizona Cardinals for more than a decade. An 11-time Pro Bowler, he ranks second all-time in career receiving yards, receptions, and is sixth in receiving touchdowns. That production helped him become the highest-paid wide receiver, to date.

11. Russell Wilson, QB

Teams: Seattle Seahawks
Career earnings: $181,362,520
Years active: 2012-present

Eight-time Pro Bowl QB and one-time Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson was once the owner of the largest average annual salary in NFL history. In 2019, he signed a four-year, $140 million contract, with a $35 million average annual value. Mahomes and Deshaun Watson have since surpassed that mark.

10. Alex Smith, QB

Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Football Team
Career earnings: $189,725,000
Years active: 2005-2020

One of the greatest comeback stories in NFL lore, Alex Smith signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with the Washington Football Team, before he suffered a life-threatening leg injury that kept him off the field for all of 2019. He returned in 2020 and won Comeback Player of the Year, while helping lead Washington to the postseason. 

9. Philip Rivers, QB

Teams: Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts
Career earnings: $243,944,322
Years active: 2004-2020

After 16 seasons with the Chargers, four division titles, and six playoff appearances, nine-time Pro Bowler Philip Rivers was handed a one-year, $25 million deal to finish his career with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020.

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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire)

8. Matthew Stafford, QB

Teams: Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams
Career earnings: $246,506,037
Years active: 2009-present

As the 2009 No. 1 overall pick for Detroit, Matthew Stafford signed a record rookie contract, with the most guaranteed money ($41.7 million) to any player in NFL history, until Bradford surpassed him. In 2017, Stafford again made history, with a $135 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid NFL player ever, at the time.  

7. Peyton Manning, QB

Teams: Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos
Career earnings: $248,732,000
Years active: 1998-2015

Two-time Super Bowl champion, five-time league MVP, and first-ballot Hall of Famer Peyton Manning had one year and $19 million remaining on his contract with Denver when he retired in 2015, upon winning his second Super Bowl ring. Manning received a $4 million bonus for his championship and is, surprisingly, not the highest-earning Manning on this list.

6. Eli Manning, QB

Teams: New York Giants
Career earnings: $252,280,004
Years active: 2004-2019

A lifetime New York Giant, Peyton's younger brother, Eli, won two Super Bowl titles, two Super Bowl MVPs, and started 210 consecutive games from 2004 to 2017, the third-longest streak by an NFL quarterback. At the time of his retirement in 2019, Eli ranked at the top of the all-time earnings list.

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire)

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB

Teams: Green Bay Packers
Career earnings: $263,308,010
Years active: 2005-present

Now that he has decided to remain in Green Bay, reigning, three-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers will earn a $6.8 million roster bonus, a $14,464,706 signing bonus, and $1.1 million in base salary, totaling $22,364,706, in 2021. The Super Bowl XLV champion was once the highest-paid player in NFL history, when he signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension in 2013.

4. Matt Ryan, QB

Teams: Atlanta Falcons
Career earnings: $267,007,749
Years active: 2008-present

In 2018, Matt Ryan became the first $30 million-per-year quarterback, when he signed a five-year, $150 million extension with the Falcons. The 2016 league MVP also got $100 million total in guaranteed money, the largest for an NFL contract, at the time.

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks to pass. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire)

3. Ben Roethlisberger, QB

Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Career earnings: $267,286,864
Years active: 2004-present

Ranked third all time in career earnings, longtime Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told Pittsburgh's front office he was willing to restructure his contract however necessary to help the team ahead of the 2021 season, which is expected to be his final in the NFL.

2. Drew Brees, QB

Teams: San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints
Career earnings: $269,710,422
Years active: 2001-2020

Drew Brees overcame doubts about his height and arm strength and went on to reverse the fortunes of the New Orleans Saints franchise. In 2013, the one-time Super Bowl champion signed a five-year, $100 million contract that included the largest amount of guaranteed money in NFL history ($60 million), at the time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) adjusts his helmet prior to game action. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

1. Tom Brady, QB

Teams: New England Patriots
Career earnings: $291,087,392
Years active: 2000-present

Considered the biggest draft steal in NFL history, former 199th overall pick Tom Brady bought a yellow Jeep Wrangler and paid for his condo at Marina Bay with his first contract with New England in 2000. He has since gone on to win seven Super Bowl titles, four Super Bowl MVPs, three league MVP awards, and has been named to the Pro Bowl a record-tying 14 times. He signed a one-year, $25 million contract extension with Tampa Bay in 2021, after winning his seventh Super Bowl title.

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