The 10 Highest-Paid NFL Players of All Time

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2018

The 10 Highest-Paid NFL Players of All Time

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Peyton Manning set several passing records during his successful career, but he also exited the NFL as the all-time leader in salary earnings.

    The former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos star wrapped up his playing days a few hundred-dollar handshakes shy of a quarter-billion dollars. Manning is one of only six players in NFL history to crack the $200 million markand five are still suiting up.

    Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers is the most recent addition to the club, thanks to his massive contract extension signed before the 2018 campaign began.

    In case you were unaware, a long NFL career as a quarterback is quite lucrative these days.

10. Carson Palmer

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $174.1 million

    The No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 NFL draft, Carson Palmer began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent eight seasons with the organization with a peak earning year of $18.75 million in 2005.

    Following two campaigns as a member of the Oakland Raiders, the USC product headed to the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer finished his career there, hitting the $17.5 million mark in three of his five years.

    A three-time Pro Bowler, Palmer secured second-team All-Pro honors during his 35-touchdown 2015 season.

9. Matthew Stafford

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $178.3 million

    The Detroit Lions do not have a long history of success at quarterback. Since Matthew Stafford has already obliterated franchise records, they're not letting him get away.

    Prior to the 2017 season, Detroit signed Stafford to a then-record extension worth $135 million over five years. At the time, it made the Georgia product the highest-paid player in the NFL.

    Though a restructure is possible, he's slated to pocket $84 million from 2019 to 2022. Playing out the contract will boost Stafford's career earnings total to more than $262 million.

8. Matt Ryan

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $178.7 million

    During the 2018 offseason, Matt Ryan became the first NFL player to sign a contract worth $30 million annually with $100 million guaranteed. In total, it was a five-year, $150 million extension.

    Ryan has smashed franchise records with the Atlanta Falcons, who used the No. 3 choice in the 2008 draft on the Boston College star.

    He also entered the 2018 campaign with the 16th-most passing yards in NFL history and looks set to become only the 10th quarterback to reach 50,000 yards. That should happen well before his contract expires, but Ryan will have earned $318 million if he gets through 2023.

7. Ben Roethlisberger

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $187.3 million

    Ben Roethlisberger has flirted with retirement in recent years, but he's still guiding a talented Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

    A first-round pick in 2004, Roethlisberger has spent his entire career with the organization. While rising in the team's record books, he's collected nearly $200 million. Big Ben's most profitable year happened in 2015 with $35.3 million as part of a then-record extension.

    Since his contract expires after 2019, it's safe to expect another extension next offseason if Roethlisberger does not retire.

6. Philip Rivers

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $202.9 million

    Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback in league history to not win a Super Bowl. Philip Rivers has a strong argument for a high spot on the unfortunate list.

    In 15 seasons, the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers signal-caller has surpassed the 50,000-yard mark and set the franchise record for touchdowns. Along the way, he's earned more than $200 million with a single-season high of $32 million in 2015.

    Rivers has stated he likely won't play into his mid-40s, but a contract that expires after 2019 means his future should hold one last extension.

5. Aaron Rodgers

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $204 million

    Based on a combination of production and individual skill set, there's a convincing argument that Aaron Rodgers is the most talented quarterback in the history of the NFL.

    Put simply, he deserved the recent $134 million contract extension that includes more than $100 million of guaranteed money. According to Spotrac, Rodgers is receiving nearly $67 million of that in 2018 thanks to a $57.5 million signing bonus.

    Rodgers is undoubtedly headed toward the Hall of Fame, but he'll be making a few stops at the bank first.

4. Tom Brady

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $217.2 million

    Tom Brady has consistently accepted below-market contracts to help the New England Patriots build a highly competitive roster. Business Insider estimates he's sacrificed between $60 million and $100 million.

    Only once in 19 yearsthis season, as a matter of facthas Brady earned at least $20 million.

    Nevertheless, because of his longevity, the 41-year-old has crested the $200 million mark total while achieving top-five spots in career completions, yards and touchdowns.

    Pretty good for the 199th selection of the 2000 NFL draft.

3. Drew Brees

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Total earnings: $221.7 million

    As their careers wind down, Brady and Drew Brees will battle to own the all-time records in yards and touchdowns. Since a shoulder injury once put Brees' playing days in jeopardy, it's a remarkable accomplishment for the New Orleans Saints star.

    The shoulder surgery led the Chargers to roll with Rivers, allowing New Orleans to sign the best quarterback in franchise history.

    In 2009, Brees propelled the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl win. Since then, he's nearly tripled the previous team records in all three major categories.

    That's the long way of saying Brees has been worth every penny of his $221 million in salary.

2. Eli Manning

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $235.3 million

    If the son of Archie and brother of Peyton can last another season, Eli Manning will become the first player in NFL history to reach the $250 million benchmark for his career.

    As the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, the Ole Miss product signed a $54 million contract. In 2009, he inked an extension worth $97.5 million. Six years later, Manning agreed to an $84 million deal. Factor in the two years the extensions overlapped, and that's a whole bunch of money.

    The two-time Super Bowl winner will officially crest the quarter-billion mark if he returns for 2019 and earns his scheduled $17 million.

1. Peyton Manning

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Total earnings: $248.7 million

    Peyton Manning retired from the NFL as the all-time leader in touchdowns (539) and yards (71,940). It only made sense for "The Sheriff" to hold the earnings record too.

    In his 18-year career, Manning banked an eight-figure total 14 times. He maxed out at $35 million in 2004 after signing his second pro contract and hit $25 million twice more.

    Manning, a five-time MVP and also a league champion with both Indianapolis and Denver, hung up the cleats after winning Super Bowl 50 as a member of the Broncos.


    All salary information includes 2018 season and is via Spotrac. Endorsements are not included.


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