NFL Player Comparisons 2023 – The Highest Paid NFL Player Each Year

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With the new NFL season on the horizon, football is back in the spotlight! A new season brings new contracts and new highest-paid superstars. Let’s take a look at the financials of football and see who the highest-paid NFL player is this year.

In addition to this year’s highest-paid player, we’ll also recap the highest-paid players of the last 10 years, taking a look at how the top spot has changed over time. The highest-paid NFL player ever and average salary for the 2022-23 season can be found here as well!

Who is the Highest Paid NFL Player in 2022?

The highest-paid NFL player in 2022 is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Last season, Rodgers threw for 4,115 yards with a 37/4 TD/INT ratio and a league-leading passer rating of 111.9. This was good enough to earn Rodgers his second consecutive NFL MVP, the first player to win back-to-back MVPs since Peyton Manning in 2008-09.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Syndication Usa Today
Green Bay Packers Syndication USA Today

Rodgers was rewarded with a 3-year contract extension worth over $150 million, making him once again the highest-paid player in the NFL. Now signed through the next 5 seasons with Green Bay, Rodgers will look for his 3rd straight MVP title.

Highest Paid NFL Players in the Last Decade

The highest-paid players in the NFL continue to be dominated by the Quarterback position. Over the past decade, a handful of different QBs have traded the top spot back and forth. Each new season, a new mega-contract creates a brand new top-paid player. This year, it was Aaron Rodgers. Let’s take a look at the last decade of highest-paid NFL players.

2021 Highest Paid NFL Player – Patrick Mahomes

After making back-to-back Super Bowls in 2020 and 2021, Mahomes fell short in the 2022 AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals this past season. Despite that, he’s already established himself as one of the NFL’s top talents. At just 26-years old, Mahomes is signed for 10 more years with the Chiefs for a total of $450 million dollars.

Aug 25, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) laughs after catching a pass over tight end Travis Kelce (not pictured) during warm ups before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

This contract may have been record-setting when it was signed a year and a half ago, but it’s already proving to be more than worth it. Mahomes went from the highest-paid player in 2021 to the 5th-highest-paid player in 2022.

2020 Highest Paid NFL Player – Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes signed his massive extension following the 2020 season, despite a blowout Super Bowl loss against the Buccaneers. That being said, by the time Mahomes reaches the age of 30, it’s likely that his contract will be one of the most affordable in the league. Each year, contracts get more expensive, so locking down someone like Mahomes for a rate that’s considered good now will only look even better in the future.

2019 Highest Paid NFL Player – Russell Wilson

After 9 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson was traded to the Denver Broncos over the offseason. Wilson is currently the NFL’s 2nd highest-paid player. While the Seahawks are looking to rebuild and find their next team leader, the Broncos are hoping to compete this season with a strong defense and a major upgrade at quarterback.

Aug 27, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russel Wilson (3) in the first quarter of their game against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson’s first season in Denver starts with a road game to Seattle to face his former team. He’ll have to go up against the loud crowd in Seattle known as the “12th man”, but is also likely to receive a standing ovation after helping the Seahawks win their only Super Bowl championship in 2014, against none other than the Denver Broncos.

2018 Highest Paid NFL Player – Aaron Rodgers

One of the main criticisms of Aaron Rodgers is his lack of multiple Super Bowl appearances. Despite his Hall of Fame level career, after 14 seasons as a starting QB in Green Bay, Rodgers has led the Packers to just one Super Bowl, in 2010. The last 9 times the Packers made the playoffs, they came up short, 4 of those losses coming in the NFC Championship Game.

After winning back-to-back MVP titles and once again becoming the league’s highest-paid player, Rodgers will be under a lot of pressure to bring the Packers back to the Super Bowl before he calls it a career. He’ll have to do so this season with a receiving core that no longer has a clear top target, unlike years past with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams.

2017 Highest Paid NFL Player – Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford has come a long way since being the highest-paid player on a perennially struggling Lions team. After being traded to the Los Angeles Rams over the offseason, Stafford wasted no time making a name for himself in his new home. With a better team overall, Stafford showcased his true talent, leading the Rams to their first Super Bowl championship of the 21st century.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) drops back to pass during a joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, at the Paycor Stadium practice fields in Cincinnati.

Los Angeles Rams At Cincinnati Bengals Joint Practice Aug 24 0047
Kareem Elgazzar / The Enquirer / USA Today Network

Stafford is currently the NFL’s tied-8th highest-paid player. He’s been struggling with an elbow injury over the offseason, but is expected to be ready to go for a huge opening matchup against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football. After 12 fruitless season with the Lions, Stafford finally silenced the skeptics with a dominant championship season on the Rams.

2016 Highest Paid NFL Player – Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins continues to be one of the NFL’s premier passers. Cousins has posted a passer rating of 107.4, 105.0, and 103.1 in his last three seasons. When he signed his first contract extension with Washington, Cousins probably didn’t expect he’d wind up throwing to one of the NFL’s best young receivers in Justin Jefferson with the Minnesota Vikings.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks on prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings extended Cousins back in March for one more season. He’ll need a deep postseason run to help prove himself worthy of a top contract. He’s struggled in prime time and high-stake playoff matchups in the past, earning some criticism in the process. Cousins is now the NFL’s 10th highest-paid player, and will once again lead a stacked offense with high expectations this season.

2015 Highest Paid NFL Player – Ben Roethlisberger

After 18 seasons in the NFL, 40-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger decided to call it a career, hanging up his helmet with two Super Bowl championships under his belt. The Steelers drafted quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. They’ve already begun to plan for the future beyond Roethlisberger.

2014 Highest Paid NFL Player – Matt Ryan

Another quarterback who changed teams this offseason is former Falcons starter Matt Ryan. After 14 seasons in Atlanta, Ryan is headed to the Indianapolis Colts, a team that narrowly missed the playoffs last season with Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback. The Colts are considered by many to be the favorites to win the AFC South division this season.

Aug 27, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) warms up before a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan is currently the NFL’s tied-14th highest-paid player, and has a good chance of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. A strong offensive line led by star guard Quenton Nelson, and a supplementary running game led by 2021 rushing leader Jonathan Taylor, should prove to be hugely beneficial to Ryan, albeit unfamiliar.

2013 Highest Paid NFL Player – Drew Brees

A decade ago, the highest-paid player in the NFL was Drew Brees. After 20 seasons in the NFL, and one Super Bowl championship, Brees decided to retire from the league following the 2020 season. Last year, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill split time at quarterback for the Saints, in an unsuccessful season. This year, Winston is once again expected to start, and will be backed up by veteran Andy Dalton. The return of star wide receiver Michael Thomas should help whoever attempts to fill the hole left by Brees.

Top 25 Highest Paid NFL Players in 2022

According to data from NFL.com, these are the 25 players with the highest salaries in 2022. The figures you see below reflect their base earnings. Incentives and endorsements are not included.

RankingPlayerTeam2022-23 Salary
1Aaron Rodgers (QB)Green Bay Packers$50.3 million
2Russell Wilson (QB)Denver Broncos$49 million
3Kyler Murray (QB)Arizona Cardinals$46.1 million
4Deshaun Watson (QB)Cleveland Browns$46 million
5Patrick Mahomes (QB)Kansas City Chiefs$45 million
6Josh Allen (QB)Buffalo Bills$43 million
7Derek Carr (QB)Las Vegas Raiders$40.5 million
T-8Dak Prescott (QB)Dallas Cowboys$40 million
T-8Matthew Stafford (QB)Los Angeles Rams$40 million
10Kirk Cousins (QB)Minnesota Vikings$35 million
11Jared Goff (QB)Detroit Lions$33.5 million
12Carson Wentz (QB)Washington Commanders$32 million
13Aaron Donald (DL)Los Angeles Rams$31.7 million
T-14Matt Ryan (QB)Indianapolis Colts$30 million
T-14Tyreek Hill (WR)Miami Dolphins$30 million
16Ryan Tannehill (QB)Tennessee Titans$29.5 million
17T.J. Watt (OLB)Pittsburgh Steelers$28.1 million
18Davante Adams (WR)Las Vegas Raiders$28 million
19DeAndre Hopkins (WR)Arizona Cardinals$27.3 million
20Joey Bosa (DE)Los Angeles Chargers$27 million
21Cooper Kupp (WR)Los Angeles Rams$26.7 million
T-22A.J Brown (WR)Philadelphia Eagles$25 million
T-22Myles Garrett (DE)Cleveland Browns$25 million
T-22Tom Brady (QB)Tampa bay Buccaneers$25 million
25DK Metcalf (WR)Seattle Seahawks$24 million

Average NFL Player Salary

According to data from Yahoo, the average NFL salary is approximately $2.7 million. This was last reported in 2017, but with the new collective bargaining agreement likely to result in increased numbers over the next few years, another set of data is expected to be released following this upcoming season.

The quarterback position unsurprisingly led all positions in average salary, with an average contract of over $7 million. Wide receivers were next highest, sitting around the league average of $2.7 million. Rookies in 2022 will make a minimum of $700,000 with an average just over a million dollars per contract.

Highest Paid NFL Player of All-Time

Despite ranking barely inside the current top-25 highest-paid players, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is the highest-paid NFL player of all-time. Brady sacrificed over $60 million during his time with the Patriots to help clear cap space during multiple different seasons, but still managed to earn the most money in NFL history at $303 million.

Aug 27, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) smiles during the national anthem before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Likely due to his uber-successful 22-year career in which he earned 5 Super Bowl MVPs, Brady leads the #2 all-time earner Drew Brees by a wide margin of over $30 million. With Brees retired, and Brady still playing, no one will be pushing for Brady’s spot anytime soon. That being said, with contracts becoming more expensive each season, it’s inevitable that the top spot with eventually be held by a young quarterback like Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, who have already signed deals exceeding Brady’s total career earnings.


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