The list of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL changes often, and some notable moves in the rankings are on their way.
Now that Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson have been paid, with the Chiefs quarterback a new standard for professional sports contracts with his 10-year extension, the likes of Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson could soon join them near the top of the highest-paid lists.
But listing the highest-paid QBs in the NFL is an inexact science since there are multiple ways to arrange the ranking. For example, Watson makes the most money in terms of average annual salary after Mahomes, but a couple QBs — the Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers — had more fully guaranteed dollars attached to their contracts at signing.
Below are the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, organized three ways by three different criteria — average annual salary, fully guaranteed money at signing and total contract value. (NFL QB contract figures courtesy of Over The Cap and Spotrac.)
NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks
|1.||$45 million||Patrick Mahomes||Chiefs|
|2.||$39 million||Deshaun Watson||Texans|
|3.||$35 million||Russell Wilson||Seahawks|
|4.||$34 million||Ben Roethlisberger||Steelers|
|T5.||$33.5 million||Jared Goff||Rams|
|T5.||$33.5 million||Aaron Rodgers||Packers|
|7.||$33 million||Kirk Cousins||Vikings|
|8.||$32 million||Carson Wentz||Eagles|
|9.||$31.4 million (tag)||Dak Prescott||Cowboys|
|10.||$30 million||Matt Ryan||Falcons|
Mahomes’ $45 million annual salary will apply when his extension kicks in starting with the 2022 season. Including the next two seasons, which are part of his rookie contract, his average annual salary is $39.8 million.
Wilson’s four-year contract extension with Seattle, signed in April 2019, made him the league’s highest-paid player in terms of average annual salary at the time. Because $35 million of his $65 million signing bonus was deferred to 2020, Wilson is scheduled to make a league-high $53 million this year, an amount that includes his $18 million base salary.
Roethlisberger’s high annual salary is the product of the contract extension he received from the Steelers in April 2019. His base salary in 2020 is just $8.5 million, but including a $12.5 million roster bonus, he is scheduled to earn $21 million this year. (Only $16 million of that is guaranteed for injury.)
- Fully guaranteed money at signing
|Rank||Guaranteed at signing||QB||Team|
|1.||$94.5 million||Matt Ryan||Falcons|
|2.||$78.7 million||Aaron Rodgers||Packers|
|3.||$73.7 million||Deshaun Watson||Texans|
|4.||$70 million||Russell Wilson||Seahawks|
|5||$66.47 million||Carson Wentz||Eagles|
|6.||$63.082 million||Patrick Mahomes||Chiefs|
|7.||$62 million||Ryan Tannehill||Titans|
|8.||$60.5 million||Matthew Stafford||Lions|
|9.||$57.04 million||Jared Goff||Rams|
|10.||$55 million||Alex Smith||Washington|
Mahomes was given $141.482 million in total guarantees with his 10-year contract extension, easily the most in the NFL, but only about 44 percent of that was guaranteed at signing. Mahomes’ contract features guarantee mechanisms that will activate throughout the deal.
Ryan technically received $100 million in guarantees when he signed his extension with the Falcons in May 2018, but only $94.5 million (2018, 2019 and 2020 base salaries; $46.5 million signing bonus; $10 million option bonus) was guaranteed at signing. Ryan restructured his contract after last season to convert $12 million of his 2020 salary into a signing bonus, so he is scheduled to earn $20.5 million this year.
Cousins’ three-year deal with the Vikings, signed in March 2018, was the first fully guaranteed contract in the history of the NFL. He has since restructured that deal.
|1.||$450 million||Patrick Mahomes||Chiefs|
|2.||$156 million||Deshaun Watson||Texans|
|3.||$150 million||Matt Ryan||Falcons|
|4.||$140 million||Russell Wilson||Seahawks|
|5.||$137.5 million||Jimmy Garoppolo||49ers|
|6.||$135 million||Matthew Stafford||Lions|
|T7.||$134 million||Jared Goff||Rams|
|T7.||$134 million||Aaron Rodgers||Packers|
|9.||$128 million||Carson Wentz||Eagles|
|10.||$125.025 million||Derek Carr||Raiders|
Mahomes’ contract is an outlier because it’s a 10-year deal as opposed to a four- or five-year deal, but as referenced above, he will make $10 million more in per-year money than the third-place Wilson once Mahomes’ extension kicks in.
While the total value of Garoppolo’s contract ranks high, he was guaranteed just $48.7 million when he signed the deal in February 2018. Because so much of his potential earnings over the next three years comes from non-guaranteed base salary, he carries small dead cap charges and high cap savings for the 49ers if cut or traded.
Stafford signed his big extension with the Lions almost three years ago. He is scheduled to earn just $8.3 million in 2020, but his earnings will increase in 2021 ($20 million) and 2022 ($23 million) if Detroit keeps him on his current contract.