2012 NFL Free Agents: Five Who Earned the Most Money in 2011

Jordan CalfeeCorrespondent IIIJanuary 23, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Five Who Earned the Most Money in 2011

0 of 5

    There are a number of NFL players soon to be free agents that played phenomenally in 2011 and will subsequently cash in with big contracts in 2012.

    From Ray Rice to Wes Welker to Arian Foster, it seems like most of the players who had to earn their money this year did so quite successfully.

    Here are the five players on the market that will get the biggest contracts this offseason. 

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

1 of 5

    Drew Brees sure picked a good time to have the best season of his career.

    This year he had career-highs in touchdowns (46), completion percentage (71.2 percent), completions (468), passer rating (110.6), and of course yardage (5,476) as he broke Dan Marino's single-season record.

    The New Orleans Saints will almost certainly be re-signing Brees to a very lucrative contract during 2012. But even if (however unlikely it is) Brees ends up moving to another team, he will be cashing in either way.

Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers

2 of 5

    Matt Flynn has not seen the field much in his short career with the Green Bay Packers, but when he has, he's done very well.

    In his performance filling in last year against the New England Patriots (the league's best team by record in 2010), Flynn completed 24-of-37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

    This year, when playing against the Detroit Lions (who were still fighting for seeding in the NFC playoffs), Flynn completed 31-of-44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception.

    Flynn has proven he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and thus some team (like the Washington Redskins or Miami Dolphins) will give him the keys to the offense next season, along with a big contract.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots

3 of 5

    Like Drew Brees, Wes Welker has been lucky enough to have his best season in his contract year,  earning another trip to the Pro Bowl.

    After Welker's regular season with 122 receptions, 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns, the New England Patriots will be paying him big bucks to keep him in Foxborough.

    This is likely Chad Ochocinco's last year with New England (and perhaps NFL) and Deion Branch is in the twilight of his career, so the Patriots will do everything they can to hang onto Welker.

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

4 of 5

    Ray Rice is going to his second Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns on 291 carries in 2011.

    After only taking him 55th in the 2008 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens have to be thrilled with the production they've gotten from Rice thus far in his career.

    Whether Rice gets a new contract this year or is tagged as the Ravens' franchise player, he will be making a lot more money in 2012.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans

5 of 5

    The statistics Arian Foster compiled while playing in just 13 games this season are almost astounding. The third-year running back out of Tennessee had 278 carries for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Considering he was not even selected in the 2009 NFL draft, Foster has been unbelievably good thus far for the Houston Texans. Like Ray Rice, he's also been selected to his second Pro Bowl this year.

    Add to that his performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs a few weeks ago, and it's almost certain Foster will be getting a massive raise in the offseason.