American football’s big earners

Though Aaron Rodgers (left) and Tom Brady are arguably the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, both are outside the elite level of earners this season. Here are the top 20 highest-paid NFL players for 2017, based on average yearly salaries in their contracts. (Source: NFL.com)

American football’s big earners

No. 19 (tie): Sam Bradford, $18 millionAfter six mostly disappointing seasons in St Louis and Philadelphia, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft has finally found a home. Although Minnesota did not qualify for the playoffs with an 8-8 record, Sam Bradford was mostly error-free, throwing 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions on his way to an excellent 99 passer rating in 2016.

American football’s big earners

No. 19 (tie): Brock Osweiler, $18 millionBrock Osweiler has endured a bumpy road on his way back to Denver. Peyton Manning’s former understudy experienced a difficult 2016 spell at Texas (15 TDs, 16 INTs) before being traded to Cleveland and subsequently released. The former Arizona State standout was 5-2 as a starter in Denver filling in for Manning, and Broncos fans hope he can restore some of that magic this season.

American football’s big earners

No. 18: Ndamukong Suh, $19.1 millionNdamukong Suh was signed by the Miami Dolphins for a six-year, $114 million contract in March 2015, making him the highest paid defensive player in history at the time — hefty numbers for a 30-year-old lineman who has yet to match the 10 sacks achieved during his rookie season with the Detroit Lions.

American football’s big earners

No. 17: Von Miller, $19.1 millionThe MVP of Super Bowl 50 for the Denver Broncos single-handedly badgered Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into submission, with 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 quarterback hurries in the title game. Von Miller promptly signed a $114.5 million deal ($70 million guaranteed) with the Broncos, making him the richest defensive player in NFL history.

American football’s big earners

No. 16: Ryan Tannehill, $19.25 millionThough Ryan Tannehill (#17) has shown promise in his five seasons in the league, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the pre-season. A former part-time receiver in college at Texas A&M, Tannehill has been one of the speediest quarterbacks in the league — a quality which will be tested after knee surgery. In a 44-26 win against Houston in 2015, Tannehill became the 64th quarterback in NFL history to record a perfect passer rating, throwing four TDs, with 18 completions in 19 attempts.

American football’s big earners

No. 15: Tom Brady, $20.5 millionWith five Super Bowl rings, 12 Pro Bowls, four Super Bowl MVP award and two NFL MVP awards, tom Brady is the one player in the list who can claim to be underpaid. At 40, he’s on the back end of a two-year, $41 million contract, but has left money on the table in previous negotiations to sign better players around him — a plan that has yielded a record seven Super Bowl appearances and counting.

American football’s big earners

American football’s big earners

No. 13: Cam Newton, $20.76 millionCam Newton is arguably the most complete player on this list. At 6 foot 6 inches and 260 pounds, he has the size, speed and athleticism — along with stellar QB instincts — to take the Carolina Panthers into the playoffs every year. But after a disastrous 2016 season, in which the Panthers went 6-10, “Killer Cam” will again trying to erase his unfortunate Super Bowl 50 performance (0 touchdowns, one interception, sacked six times, two fumble losses).

American football’s big earners

No. 12: Philip Rivers, $20.81 millionIn his 13-year pro career, Philip Rivers has yet to appear in a Super Bowl, although he has taken the San Diego Chargers into the playoffs five times. The father of eight children has broken most of the major franchise records, surpassing Dan Fouts as the Chargers’ all-time touchdown leader, wins leader and consecutive starts leader (185 and counting). In 2014, Rivers broke an NFL record by achieving five consecutive games with a passer rating of above 120.

American football’s big earners

No. 11: Eli Manning, $21 millionThe two-time Super Bowl MVP led the Giants back into the playoffs last season, only to lose at Green Bay. At times Eli Manning has befuddled New Yorkers with error-prone performances, but his legacy is cemented in New York sporting lore. His active 211-game playing streak is third all-time for QBs.

American football’s big earners

No. 10: Ben Roethlisberger, $21.85 million Though “Big Ben” (#7) has flirted with the idea of retirement, the two-time Super Bowl champion shows no sign of slowing down. Shaking off some niggling injuries, Ben Roethlisberger had an excellent 2016 campaign, earning his fifth Pro Bowl selection before taking his Steelers to the AFC Conference Finals.

American football’s big earners

No. 9: Russell Wilson, $21.9 million It’s ironic that Russell Wilson threw the most famous interception in NFL history — the last-minute gaff which cost the Seattle Seahawks the 2015 Super Bowl — because the 28-year-old three-time Pro Bowler plays virtually error-free. Though standing at just 5 foot 11 inches, Wilson was the top-rated NFL quarterback in 2015, and is second all-time, trailing only Aaron Rodgers.

American football’s big earners

No. 8: Aaron Rodgers, $22 millionThat Aaron Rodgers holds the top career passer rating record while playing in frozen Lambeau Field is a testament to his talent. Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a 2011 championship, and is riding an eight-year playoff streak into 2017. But despite posting stellar regular-season numbers in the six seasons since the Super Bowl (a mind-boggling 219 TDs and just 41 INTs) the Packers have come up short in the playoffs.

American football’s big earners

No. 7: Joe Flacco, $22.13 millionWhen the Baltimore Ravens offered a three-year, $66.4 million ($44 million guaranteed) deal to Joe Flacco in 2016, it seemed like an aberration. In his 10 seasons, the 32-year-old has yet to make a Pro Bowl. But traditionally the Ravens have thrived on defense, and until Flacco came along in 2008, the team won in spite of its sputtering quarterbacks. The 2013 Super Bowl MVP brings a calm presence to a team which suffered a leadership vacuum after the retirements of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis.

American football’s big earners

No. 6: Kirk Cousins, $23.9 million“You like that?” Kirk Cousins, who led Washington to the playoffs in 2015 behind that rallying cry, signed his second consecutive one-year deal in the off-season. Unable to come to a long-term deal with the Redskins, the 29-year-old settled for one year and nearly $24 million.

American football’s big earners

No. 5: Drew Brees, $24.3 millionIt’s hard to overestimate Drew Brees’ value to the city of New Orleans. When the former Charger joined the Saints in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina, the team was 3-13. Four years later, New Orleans won its first and only Super Bowl. The 10-time Pro Bowler holds team passing records in every major category. He has also been a face of the community, raising funds for cancer research and other charitable causes.

American football’s big earners

No. 4: Carson Palmer, $24.4 millionCarson Palmer, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is entering his 14th NFL season. The 37-year-old signed a one-year deal with Arizona in the off season.

American football’s big earners

No. 3: Andrew Luck, $24.6 millionAndrew Luck — whose $140 million, six-year deal is still the highest contract total in history — bounced back from an injury-riddled 2015 to post 31 TDs and just 13 interceptions last season. His off-season shoulder surgery, however, sidelines him for the start of the 2017 campaign.

American football’s big earners

No. 2: Derek Carr, $25 millionThe Oakland Raiders made Derek Carr their franchise QB this offseason with a five-year, $125 million deal — briefly crowning the former Fresno State man as the highest paid player in the league. Carr has been a Pro-Bowler two of his first three seasons in Oakland.

American football’s big earners

No. 1: Matthew Stafford, $27 millionWeeks before the start of the 2017 campaign, Detroit made Stafford the highest-paid player in NFL history with a five year, $135 million deal. Though he is yet to win a playoff game, Stafford is the Lions’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. The nine-year veteran’s 99-game starting streak is 11th best of all time.


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