The Highest-Paid Wide Receivers in the NFL

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2018

The Highest-Paid Wide Receivers in the NFL

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    If you catch touchdowns, you'll get paid. Or you could just be Julio Jones and do all the difficult work to set up teammates for the glory.

    Either way, the NFL's best receivers are rewarded handsomely for their production.

    New York Giants star Odell Beckham recently became the highest-paid wideout in the league, and the position continues to creep ever closer to the $100 million mark. While no receiver has yet garnered nine figures in a single contract, that time is coming.

    The order is based on total contract value and uses Spotrac data.

10. T.Y. Hilton

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Contract value: $65 million

    A third-round choice out of Florida International in 2012, T.Y. Hilton has developed into a reliable No. 1 target for the Indianapolis Colts.

    He posted 17.2 yards per catch and scored seven touchdowns during his rookie season. Since then, Hilton has posted four 1,000-yard campaignsmaxing out at 1,448 in 2016and still managed 966 yards in 2017 despite quarterback Andrew Luck missing the whole year.

    Hilton's contract runs through the 2020 season, when he's due a single-season high $14.5 million in this $65 million pact.

9. Antonio Brown

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Contract value: $68 million

    Arguably the best receiver in the NFL, Antonio Brown became the highest-paid wideout at the time he signed this contract.

    He's worth every penny, too.

    Brown is the only player in league history to record five straight years of 100-plus receptions, according to Pro Football Reference. In each of those seasons, "AB" collected at least 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns. He has six total 1,000-yard campaigns.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have him under contract through 2021. Given his clinical route-running and sticky hands, it's easy to see why.

8. Demaryius Thomas

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Contract value: $70 million

    The Denver Broncos wanted to move on from Demaryius Thomas because of his high-dollar deal, but the Georgia Tech product was a critical piece of five straight AFC West titles from 2011-15.

    After scoring a game-winning 80-yard touchdown against Pittsburgh in the 2011 playoffs, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier in five straight years. Thomas posted a career-best 1,619 yards in 2014 and snagged 105 passes the following season, when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.

    The Broncos have since traded him to the Houston Texans, who have the option of bringing him back in 2019.

7. Julio Jones

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Contract value: $71.2 million

    One of five players in NFL history to garner 200 targets in a single season, Julio Jones is the focal point of the Atlanta Falcons offense.

    Excluding his injury-shortened 2013, the All-Pro wideout has tallied at least 959 yards in every year. Jones racked up league-best clips of 136 catches and 1,871 yards in 2015.

    The persistent knock on Jones is that he's only cracked double-digit touchdowns once, but handling this much volume on a yearly basis demands special talent. There's no question he's worth $71.2 million.

6. Stefon Diggs

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Contract value: $72 million

    The Minnesota Vikings have uncovered a couple of gems recently. Adam Thielen was signed as an undrafted free agent and is the 2018 season's joint-leader in receptions, and the franchise used a fifth-round selection on Stefon Diggs in 2015.

    What a steal.

    Diggs put up relatively modest numbers during his first three seasons, totaling 200 catches for 2,472 yards and 15 touchdowns. Considering the lackluster quarterbacks for much of that period, though, his outstanding potential shined brightly.

    Even if he falls short of elite production in the future, Diggs is already a Vikings legend thanks to his "Minnesota Miracle" touchdown during the 2017 playoffs.

5. Jarvis Landry

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Contract value: $75.5 million

    Jarvis Landry owns the NFL record for most total receptions by a player during his first five professional seasons.

    And he barely needed a fifth year to crush the previous mark of 426.

    Following four seasons and 400 receptions with the Miami Dolphins, Landry joined the Cleveland Browns via trade for 2018. Landry is a high-volume, low-yardage targetfitting the archetype of a "possession" wideoutwho is tasked with creating after the catch.

    Upon Landry's arrival in Cleveland, the franchise rewarded him with a five-year, $75.5 million extension.

T-3. Brandin Cooks

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    Peter B Joneleit/Associated Press

    Contract value: $81 million

    Someone who earns a contract this large usually hasn't played for three different teams in a five-year span. Nevertheless, that's the story of Brandin Cooks' career.

    The New Orleans Saints snagged him in the first round of the 2014 draft, and he notched two 1,000-yard seasons in three years. Cooks then headed to the New England Patriots, who enjoyed another 1,000-yard campaign before sending him to the Los Angeles Rams.

    Long story short, it's working out.

    Rams coach and offensive mastermind Sean McVay has unlocked the truest form of Cooks' big-play potential, and an $81 million extension should keep him in Los Angeles for a few years.

T-3. DeAndre Hopkins

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Contract value: $81 million

    Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson all started at least five games for the Houston Texans from 2013-17.

    And Watson only had six starts.

    Grasp those facts, then consider DeAndre Hopkins' numbers.

    He posted 1,210 yards in 2014. He accumulated 111 catches with 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. He followed up a 954-yard 2016 with 96 receptions, 1,378 yards and an NFL-best 13 scores in 2017.

    Hopkins has proved he doesn't even need a competent quarterback to thrive, so his future with a promising Watson is exciting.

2. Mike Evans

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Contract value: $82.5 million

    The No. 7 overall choice of the 2014 draft immediately commanded the No. 1 role for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    As a rookie, Mike Evans tallied 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns. After a 1,200-yard campaign in 2015, the Texas A&M product again had 12 scores with career-best clips of 96 catches and 1,321 yards.

    So, yeah, he's a 1,000-yard machine. Evans crested the barrier in 2017 with 1,001 yards, but he is cruising toward the landmark again in 2018 with 837 yards through nine games.

1. Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Contract value: $90 million

    Sideline and off-field matters tend to distract from one simple observation about Odell Beckham Jr.'s career:

    His receiving skills are amazing.

    Beckham is best-recognized for his stunning one-handed, reach-back touchdown as a rookie, a year when he amassed 1,305 yards and 12 scores despite missing four games. The highlight-reel target tallied 1,300-plus yards in his next two seasons, too.

    Unfortunately for the New York Giants, an ankle injury robbed Beckham of 12 games in 2017. But after all that production, they wisely decided not to trade OBJ and shoveled $90 million at him in the following offseason.