The 25 highest-paid players in NFL history

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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, with 22 players having made at least $100 million.

The list of the 25 players with the most career earnings includes 19 active players, 15 quarterbacks, 1 Tom Brady, and 2 Mannings.

Using contract data obtained by Spotrac.com, here are the 25 highest-paid players in NFL history.

25. Dwight Freeney, DE — $97.6 million

Seasons: 15

Highest single-season earnings: $30.8 million (2007; includes $15 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 7

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Prior to the 2007 season, Freeney signed a six-year, $72 million contract with the Colts and, in a rarity for the NFL, he made every penny of that deal.

24. Jared Allen, DE — $97.9 million

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $20.9 million (2008; includes $15.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 4

One thing to know: Allen spent some of his earnings on at least one horse. We know this because when he announced his retirement in February, he rode off on a horse.

23. Champ Bailey, CB — $102.8 million

Seasons: 15

Highest single-season earnings: $16.5 million (2010; includes $3 million roster bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 12

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Bailey’s largest contract came after the 2003 season, when he signed a seven-year, $63 million deal.

22. Ndamukong Suh, DT — $104.2 million

Seasons: 7

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

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: If Suh stays with the Dolphins until the end of his 6-year, $114.4 million contract his career earnings will rise to $178.6 million.

21. Joe Thomas, LT — $108.4 million

Seasons: 10

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

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 6

One thing to know: Thomas has never missed an NFL game due to injury and has started all 156 games since being drafted.

20. Matthew Stafford, QB — $110.8 million

Seasons: 8

Highest single-season earnings: $26.9 million

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Stafford was the top pick in the 2009 draft in an era when there were no limits on rookie contracts. His first deal was worth $72 million.

19. Jay Cutler, QB — $112.2 million

Seasons: 11

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’s seven-year, $126.7 million contract is the largest in NFL history in terms of total potential value.

18. Calvin Johnson, WR — $113.8 million

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2013; includes $20 million option bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Johnson retired earlier this year because he was reportedly “in pain.” He walked away from the final four years and $67.7 million on his contract.

17. Joe Flacco, QB — $114.8 million

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $30.0 million (2013; includes $29.0 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

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

16. Darrelle Revis, CB — $118.2 million

Seasons: 10

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 has continually bet on himself and won and he says he wants to keep going. Despite a report saying Revis will retire after the season, Revis says he wants to play in 2017.

15. Mario Williams, DE — $120.4 million

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 another 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.

14. Michael Vick, QB — $121.2 million

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $27.5 million (2005)

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.

13. Aaron Rodgers, QB — $123.8 million

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $38.3 million (2013; includes $33.3 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 2

One thing to know: The Packers have Rodgers under contract through the 2019 season and his cap hit never exceeds $21.1 million.

12. Tony Romo, QB — $127.4 million

Seasons: 13

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 still has three years left on his contract with the Cowboys, but with the emergence of Dak Prescott, Romo will almost certainly not be back with Dallas in 2017. With the contract, Romo can effectively pick who he wants to play for in 2017, and he reportedly prefers the Broncos. However, retirement is also an option.

11. Matt Ryan, QB — $133.7 million

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $36.5 million (2014; includes $15 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Including salaries and bonuses, Ryan has made $78.8 million in the first four years of his five-year, $103.8 million extension.

10. Brett Favre, QB — $137.8 million

Seasons: 20 (retired in 2010)

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.

9. Larry Fitzgerald, WR — $140.3 million

Seasons: 13

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

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Fitzgerald is signed through the 2017 season, however a report stated that Fitzgerald has been telling those close to him that he will retire after this season. Fitzgerald denied making a decision on his future.

8. Julius Peppers, LB — $156.0 million

Seasons: 15

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: Peppers will be an unrestricted contract after the season. He will be 37 next year.

7. Carson Palmer, QB — $156.6 million

Seasons: 13

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 still has two years and $28.0 million left on his contract with the Cardinals. His cap hit jumps from $18.4 million this year to $24.1 million next year and the two sides will almost certainly need to restructure his deal.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, QB — $158.3 million

Seasons: 13

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

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: At $87.4 million, the contract signed prior to the 2015 season by Big Ben didn’t sound as sexy as the other deals signed by quarterbacks. But it was better than most, as he got more than $35 million in Year 1 and a whopping $53 million over the first two seasons.

5. Philip Rivers, QB — $173.9 million

Seasons: 13

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

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Rivers got one of the surprise monster contracts in recent memory, which will likely push his career earnings close to $220 million when all’s said and done.

4. Drew Brees, QB — $181.7 million

Seasons: 16

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

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Brees had the highest cap hit in the NFL last season at $23.8 million. An extension signed prior to this season lowered his 2016 cap figure from $30.0 million to $17.3 million.

3. Tom Brady, QB — $196.2 million

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $28.8 million (2016; includes $28.0 million signing bonus)

Championships: 4

Pro Bowls: 12

First-team All-Pro: 2

One thing to know: Brady has consistently sacrificed money during his career for the sake of the team. However, he is starting to cash in now, signing a $41 million extension prior to the season that included a $28 million signing bonus.

2. Eli Manning, QB — $205.8 million

Seasons: 13

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 made $37 million last season alone as part of his new $84 million contract, which included a $31 million signing bonus. This season he has the highest cap hit in the NFL at $24.2 million. If he plays out the final three years of his current contract, his career earnings will grow to $252.3 million.

1. Peyton Manning, QB — $248.7 million

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 last season. He had one year and $19 million remaining on his Broncos contract when he retired.


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