The highest-paid NFL players of all time

Drew Brees and Tom Brady

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

  • There are now 53 NFL players who have made at least $100 million in their careers.
  • The list is loaded with quarterbacks with Tom Brady recently taking over the top spot.
  • Below is the 34 highest-paid players in NFL history, updated through the 2021 season.

In the NFL, lots of players sign big contracts. But unlike other sports, NFL deals are rarely guaranteed, and few players see all of the money in those large deals.

But a select few have gone on to make big money in their careers as there are now 53 players who have made at least $100 million. Below, we take a look at the top 34, a list that includes a lot of quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, who is now the highest-paid player in NFL history.

Using contract data obtained by Spotrac.com and other sources, here are the 30 highest-paid players in NFL history.

34. Michael Vick, QB — $116.0 million

michael vick

Elsa/Getty Images

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $22.6 million (2005; includes $25.5 million restructure bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Vick missed two seasons in the prime of his career following his dog-fighting conviction.

33. Jason Peters, LT — $117.3 million

Jason Peters sets up to block during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jason Peters sets up to block during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Seasons: 18

Highest single-season earnings: $21.5 million (2009; includes $11 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 2

One thing to know: Jason Peters is one of just two undrafted players to earn more than $100 million in their playing career, joining Tony Romo on the exclusive list.

32. Mario Williams, DE — $120.4 million

Mario Williams

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2012; includes $19 million signing bonus)

Championships:0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Mario Williams was a No. 1 overall draft pick back when No. 1 overall draft picks received gigantic rookie contracts. Williams’ first deal with the Texans was for six years and $54 million.

31. Joe Haden, CB — $121.5 million

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden walks off the field after his teams overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden walks off the field after his teams overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens.

AP Photo/Terrance Williams

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $23.0 million (2014; includes $16 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Joe Haden is a free agent heading into the 2022 NFL season, but is getting recruited hard to join the Buffalo Bills as they push for a Super Bowl.

30. Gerald McCoy, DT — $122.1 million

Gerald McCoy

Mike McCarn/AP

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $14.0 million (2015; includes $9.0 million in bonuses)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: McCoy signed a 3-year, $18 million contract with the Cowboys before the 2020 season. However, he was paid just the $3 million signing bonus and was released before the season after suffering a season-ending leg injury. 

29. Jay Cutler, QB — $122.2 million

jay cutler

Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $20.5 million (2015; includes $5 million restructure bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Cutler retired after the 2016 season. He later stepped away from an upcoming TV job to sign a 1-year, $10 million contract to replace the Miami Dolphins’ injured quarterback, Ryan Tannehill for one season.

28. Joe Thomas, LT — $122.9 million

joe thomas

David Richard/AP

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $19.1 million (2011; includes $6 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 10

First-team All-Pro: 6

One thing to know: Thomas had not missed a game in his career and had never missed a single snap until suffering an injury during the 2017 season, the final year of his career.

27. Darrelle Revis, CB — $124.2 million

darrelle revis

Bill Kostroun/AP

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2011; includes $18 million option bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 7

First-team All-Pro: 4

One thing to know: In a league where most players are forced to take safe contracts, Revis continually bet on himself and won, often forgoing long-term deals. Instead, he took repeated chances in free agency.

26. Tony Romo, QB — $127.4 million

Tony Romo

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $26.5 million (2013; includes $25 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Romo chose retirement following the 2016 season over playing for another team. He is now earning a lot of praise for his work in the TV booth.

25. Calais Campbell, DE — $128.1 million

Calais Campbell

Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $17.0 million (2012; includes $16 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: At 35 years old heading into 2022, Campbell is still playing at a high level, signing a two year deal worth $12.5 million to stay in Baltimore.

24. Sam Bradford, QB — $130.0 million

Sam Bradford

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $26.8 million (2011; includes $18 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 0

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Bradford eclipsed the $100 million mark early in his career due in large part to luck and timing. He was the first pick in the 2010 draft, the last draft class before the NFL put restrictions on how much rookies could be paid. He was cut by the Cardinals mid-way through the 2018 season. He was cut by the Cardinals after just three games in 2018 and has not played since.

23. Cam Newton, QB — 133.5 million

Cam Newton

AP Photo/Stephen Brashear

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $24.0 million (2015; includes $15.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Newton was cut by the Panthers before the final season of his 5-year, $103.8 million contract. Instead of making $19.1 million with the Panthers, he signed a 1-year, $1.1 million deal with the Patriots. He is currently a free agent.

22. Brett Favre, QB — $137.8 million

Brett Favre

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Seasons: 20

Highest single-season earnings: $16 million (2010; includes $4.4 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 11

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Favre only made more than $12 million once while with the Packers, but made more than that in each of his three seasons with the Jets and Vikings.

21. Ryan Tannehill, QB — $140.0 million

Ryan Tannehill calls a play against the Baltimore Ravens.
Ryan Tannehill.

AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $37.5 million (2020; includes $20 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: After taking over the starting job in Tennessee from Marcus Mariota in 2019, Tannehill went on to lead the Titans to the AFC Championship game, leading the NFL in passer rating on the way there. In the process, he earned himself a massive new deal with the team.

20. Trent Williams, LT — $140.6 million

San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams plays against the Tennessee Titans.
San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Trent Williams plays against the Tennessee Titans.

AP Photo/John Amis

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $32.3 million (2021; includes $30.1 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Trent Williams signed his massive six-year, $138 million extension with the 49ers during the 2021 offseason, resetting the market for elite offensive tackles in the process.

19. Julio Jones, WR — $140.6 million

Julio Jones

Tim Warner/Getty Images

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $26.5 million (2019; includes $25 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 8

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Julio Jones initial extension with the Falcons set a new high mark in the receivers market, which has since exploded to new heights.

18. Von Miller, LB — $144.5 million

von miller

Jack Dempsey/AP

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $25.1 million (2016; includes $17 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 8

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Miller was traded from the Broncos to the Rams in the middle of the 2021 season and wound up helping Los Angeles to a Super Bowl victory. After moving to Buffalo, Miller will attempt to find similar success in his debut year with the Bills.

17. Kirk Cousins, QB — $161.7 million

Kirk Cousins

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $40 million (2020; includes $30 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Cousins has made a lot of money in his career, but he still drives a 2000 GMC passenger van.

16. Julius Peppers, LB — $165.0 million

Julius Peppers

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $20.2 million (2010; includes $6.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: After several seasons with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Peppers returned to his original club, signing a $3.5 million deal to play with the Carolina Panthers. In January 2019, he retired at age 39.

15. Ndamukong Suh, DT — $166.2 million

Ndamukong Suh

Jason Behnken/AP

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $26.5 million (2015; includes $25.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Much was made of Suh’s 6-year, $114.4 million contract with the Dolphins, but like many large deals in the NFL, it was mostly a sham. Instead, he made $60 million over three years before he was released to save space on the salary cap. It all worked out in the end for Suh though, who joined the Buccaneers and wound up winning a title.

14. Joe Flacco, QB — $171.0 million

Joe Flacco

Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $30.0 million (2013; includes $29 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 0

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Joe Flacco has elite career earnings.

13. Carson Palmer, QB — $174.1 million

carson palmer

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Seasons: 15

Highest single-season earnings: $19.0 million (2014; includes $10 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Palmer’s $24.1 million cap hit during the 2017 season was second only to Joe Flacco ($24.6 million). It would be his final season in the NFL.

12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR — $180.7 million

Larry Fitzgerald

Christian Petersen/Getty

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $26.3 million (2012; includes $15 million option bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 11

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Fitzgerald is now No. 2 on the all-time receiving yards list and all-time receptions list, and No. 6 on the all-time receiving TDs list. He is just 117 catches behind Jerry Rice for the all-time record.

11. Russell Wilson, QB — $181.4 million

Russell Wilson

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $53.0 million (2020; includes $35 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Wilson signed a 4-year, $140 million contract prior to the 2019 season. The $35 million average annual value was the largest in NFL history at the time. It has since been surpassed by Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Now with the Broncos, Russell could set another new market-high should his Denver debut be a success.

10. Alex Smith, QB — $189.7 million

Alex Smith

Nick Wass/AP

Seasons: 16

Highest single-season earnings: $40.0 million (2018; includes $27 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Often referred to by the pejorative “game manager,” Smith has led his team to the playoffs five times in seven years. But his career was put in jeopardy during the 2018 season when he suffered a gruesome broken leg. After returning to action briefly in 2020, Smith won Comeback Player of the Year before retiring in the 2021 offseason.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB — $239.3 million

Matthew Stafford

AJ Mast/AP

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $51.1 million (2017; includes $50 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Stafford’s move to the Rams in 2021 resulted in a Super Bowl win. You get what you pay for.

8. Philip Rivers, QB — $243.9 million

Philip Rivers

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $32 million (2015; includes $17 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 8

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Rivers announced his retirement from the NFL after a single season with the Colts.

7. Peyton Manning, QB — $248.7 million

Peyton Manning

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Seasons: 18

Highest single-season earnings: $35 million (2004; includes $34.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 14

First-team All-Pro: 7

One thing to know: Manning’s final paycheck in the NFL was a $4 million bonus for winning the Super Bowl in 2015. He had one year and $19 million remaining on his Broncos contract when he retired.

6. Eli Manning, QB — $252.3 million

Eli Manning

Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Seasons: 16

Highest single-season earnings: $37 million (2015; includes $31 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Manning retired from the NFL after 16 seasons and two Super Bowl wins. However, not all is lost as the Giants paid him $17 million his final season, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history at the time. Not bad for being maybe just the third-best quarterback in his family.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB — $263.6 million

aaron rodgers

Paul Sancya/AP

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $66.9 million (2018; includes $57.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 10

First-team All-Pro: 4

One thing to know: Rodgers’ back-to-back MVP awards are nice, but he’d undoubtedly prefer another Lombardi in his trophy case. After his most recent extension, it’s likely he’ll finish his career in Green Bay after a somewhat contentious offseason.

4. Matt Ryan, QB — $267.0 million

Matt Ryan

Tom Pennington/Getty

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $44.8 million (2019; includes $42 million in various bonuses)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Ryan’s five-year, $103.8 million extension was set to expire after the 2018 season. He then signed a 5-year, $150 million extension with a $46.5 million signing bonus. The $100 million total guarantee in the deal was the largest ever for an NFL contract at the time.

3. Ben Roethlisberger, QB — $267.3 million

ben roethlisberger

Winslow Townson/AP

Seasons: 18

Highest single-season earnings: $35.3 million (2015; includes $31 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: The 2021 season was Big Ben’s final year in the NFL, with Roethlisberger making clear before the start of the year that he was willing to do whatever was necessary with his contract to make it happen

2. Drew Brees, QB — $269.7 million

Drew Brees

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Seasons: 20

Highest single-season earnings: $40 million (2012; includes $37 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 13

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Before retiring from the NFL, Brees held the top spot on the highest-paid list over Brady, but Brady’s longevity eventually saw him surpass his former rival.

1. Tom Brady, QB — $303.0 million

Tom Brady

AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Seasons: 22

Highest single-season earnings: $39.4 million (2021; includes $35 million signing bonus)

Championships: 7

Pro Bowls: 15

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Brady sacrificed at least $60 million in his career in discount contracts when he was with the Patriots. 

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