Who are the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL right now? Have these signal-callers lived up to expectations?
With the 2022 NFL season now upon us, a lot will be made of quarterback contracts and some blockbuster trades that happened during the offseason. Obviously, this is the most important position in the modern NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes might have stood above the rest heading into March. However, two-time reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers surpassed him with a huge pay day from the Green Bay Packers. New Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has also done so since.
Below, we look at the 12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league today.
Related: Ranking the top NFL QBs of 2022
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — highest-paid player in the NFL
- Aaron Rodgers contract: 4 years, $200 million ($153 million guaranteed)
- Aaron Rodgers salary: $26.47 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $40.8 million
- Average annual salary: $50 million
After months of drama between this two-time reigning NFL MVP and his organization, Rodgers will now likely close out his career with the Packers. The future Hall of Famer agreed to the largest contract in NFL history on March 8 — paying him out $50 million annually with a whopping $153 million guaranteed.
On the field, Rodgers is worth every penny. The 10-time Pro Bowler has tallied 31,163 total yards with 261 touchdowns against 41 interceptions for a 104.2 rating since the start of the 2014 season. Those are some ridiculous numbers.
2. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
- Russell Wilson contract: 5 years, $245 million ($165 million guaranteed)
- Russell Wilson salary: $49 million
Months after the Denver Broncos traded two first-round picks, multiple players and a pair of second-round picks, they are now making an even larger investment into quarterback Russell Wilson. The new contract is the largest in Denver Broncos history and immediately makes Wilson the second highest-paid quarterback in NFL history in both average annual value and total guaranteed. Wilson’s contract will keep him in Denver through his age-40 season and is the ultimate commitment by the franchise.
3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
- Kyler Murray contract: 5 years, $230.5 million ($160 million guaranteed)
- Kyler Murray salary: $46.1 million AAV
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray landed precisely the deal he wanted. After a turbulent offseason with the front office and their start quarterback exchanging barbs through statements and anonymous reports, the two sides came to terms on a historic contract.
Murray wanted to become one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL and that’s precisely what he receives. The contract carries a $6.1 million AAV, pushing him ahead of Deshaun Watson ($46 million) and Patrick Mahomes ($45 million). However, there is one distinct difference.
The deal comes with $160 million guaranteed, $70 million less than Watson received from the Cleveland Browns. It further highlights why NFL executives blasted the Browns’ decision and suggests we likely won’t see any other quarterback receive a fully-guaranteed contract like that for some time.
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4. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
- Deshaun Watson contract: 5 years, $230 million ($230 million guaranteed)
- Deshaun Watson salary: $35 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $44.96 million
- Average salary: $46 million
What a drama-filled past calendar year it has been for Watson. Mere months after signing his lucrative extension with the Texans, Watson requested a trade from the team. That came a year ago in January. Almost immediately afterwards, allegations from north of 20 women of sexual misconduct became public record. Since then, authorities have decided not to file charges and Watson was dealt to the Cleveland Browns in a blockbuster trade.
On the field, Watson remains one of the most-talented young quarterbacks in the game. Still only 26, he will return to the field Week 13 after serving an 11-game suspension. He’ll do so in a new uniform with an NFL-record $230 million in guaranteed cash and against his former Texans team.
Related: 2022-23 NFL MVP odds
5. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- Patrick Mahomes contract: 10 years, $450 million ($63.08 million guaranteed)
- Patrick Mahomes salary: $1.5 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $10 million
- Average salary: $45 million
Mahomes, 26, has more than lived up to his billing as a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In just four full seasons as a starter, he’s led Kansas City to four consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, two Super Bowl appearances and a Lombardi Trophy.
Mahomes’ early success in Kansas City led to the Chiefs signing him to what was then an NFL record $450 million deal back in July of 2020. Said contract called for north of $141 million in total guarantees. He followed this contract up by throwing for north of 4,800 yards with 39 touchdowns in 2021.
The only issue we’re seeing here is Mahomes’ lack of season-ending success over the past two years. His Chiefs were blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9 in Super Bowl LV back in February of 2021 and are coming off blowing a 21-3 lead to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. Without Tyreek Hill in the mix, it will be interesting to see how he performs in 2022.
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6. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
- Josh Allen contract: 6 years, $258.03 million ($100 million guaranteed)
- Josh Allen salary: $4.1 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $16.5 million
- Average salary: $43 million
It was somewhat of a surprise to see the Bills sign Allen to his massive extension back in August of 2021. The contract called for $150 million in total guarantees and an average annual salary that was then second behind the aforementioned Mahomes. This came after his first real breakout campaign in the NFL.
Josh Allen stats (2020): 69% completion, 4,544 passing yards, 421 rushing yards, 43 total touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 107.2 rating
Allen followed this up by leading Buffalo to the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2021. Unfortunately, said campaign came to an end via a dramatic loss to Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. This, despite Allen performing at an absolutely ridiculous clip. In short, Allen joins Mahomes as the face of NFL quarterbacks following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, among others.
7. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
- Derek Carr contract: 3 years, $121.5 million ($24.9 million fully guaranteed)
- Derek Carr salary: $19.7 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $7.5 million
- Average salary: $40.5 million
In the same offseason that saw the Las Vegas Raiders swing for the fences by adding Derek Carr‘s longtime pal Davante Adams, they also signed both to contract extensions keeping the players in town through at least 2025. How the former college teammates continue that effort in the pros remains to be seen, but getting on the same page should come quicker for this pair than most.
- Derek Carr stats (2021): 68.4% completion, 4,804 yards, 23 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions, 94 rating
As for Carr himself, he’s coming off the first playoff appearance of his career and now has a stronger roster surrounding him. It’s impossible for the three-time Pro Bowl QB to experience as many off-field distractions as he did in 2021 and now that the team’s committed to him for the next three years, Carr should be able to put up career bests in 2022.
8. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
- Matthew Stafford contract: 4 years, $160 million ($135 million guaranteed)
- Matthew Stafford salary: $40 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $60 million
- Average salary: $40 million
It’s safe to say the trade to bring Stafford to L.A. worked out well for everyone with the Rams. Now they’re rewarding him with a new four-year, $160 million extension keeping him in town through 2026.
For Stafford, it has to feel good after spending 12 seasons in Detroit where he reached the playoffs three times, but could never get into the victory column. One season with the Rams and all their talent, and Stafford won all four games needed to end up with a new shiny ring on his finger. Now, the question is, can Stafford win another with the Rams?
9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
- Dak Prescott contract: 4 years, $160 million ($95 million guaranteed)
- Dak Prescott salary: $20 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $66 million
- Average salary: $40 million
After playing under the $31.41 million franchise tag in 2020, Prescott signed a massive $160 million extension with Dallas last offseason. The interesting dynamic here is that said contract extension came after he suffered a brutal ankle injury during the 2020 campaign. It also included $95 million guaranteed at signing (not partially guaranteed). Boy, did Prescott earn that cash in 2021.
- Dak Prescott stats (2021): 69% completion, 4,449 yards, 38 total touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 104.2 rating
All said, Prescott proved his worth as one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. He led Dallas to a 12-5 regular-season record and a No. 1-scoring offense. Unfortunately, said season came to an end in a late-game loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The good news for Prescott moving forward? His four-year contract will enable the Pro Bowler to hit free agency following the 2024 season when he’s still in his prime.
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10. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
- Jared Goff contract: 4 years, $134 million ($57.04 million guaranteed)
- Jared Goff salary: $10.65 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $25 million
- Average salary: $33.5 million
Regardless of how it ended up turning out for the Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford, the four-year, $134 million contract the team signed Goff to back in September of 2019 might have been among the worst NFL quarterback contracts of all-time. The good news for Los Angeles? It was able to turn Goff’s contract into a blockbuster trade for the aforementioned Stafford and Super Bowl contention. As for the Lions, they have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
- Jared Goff stats (2020-21): 67% completion, 7,197 yards, 39 TD, 31 turnovers, 90.7 rating (29 starts)
However, there’s some good news for Detroit here. While Goff is set to count a combined $62.3 million against the cap over the next two seasons, it can trade or release him following the 2022 campaign with a mere $10 million dead cap hit. Short of Goff turning it around and leading the downtrodden Lions to playoff contention, expect that to happen.
11. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
- Kirk Cousins contract: 2 years, $66 million ($31 million guaranteed)
- Kirk Cousins salary: $35 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $30 million
- Average salary: $33 million
Since initially signing with Minnesota back in March of 2018, Cousins has received $150 million in total value over the course of five years on two different extensions. When he signed his most-recent deal (two-years, $66 million) most figured it was an overpay. With the NFL quarterback market resetting itself on a continual basis, that’s not necessarily the case anymore.
At issue here for the 33-year-old quarterback has been his inability to win consistently with Minnesota. Cousins boasts a 33-29-1 record in four seasons with the Vikings. He’s earned a salary of $80.5 million during that span — good enough to cost Minnesota $2.44 million per win. With a new brass taking hold in the Twin Cities, they’ve recommitted to Cousins for another two seasons through 2023.
12. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders
- Carson Wentz contract: 4 years, $128 million ($66.47 million guaranteed)
- Carson Wentz salary: $22 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $16.37 million
- Average salary: $32 million
“I don’t care who you have at the position at the time — I think every year, you’ve got to evaluate it in full, both free agents and the draft. I mean, it’s that important. And it’s one that we’ll exhaust each and every year and we do with our scouts and with our coaches.”
These comments from Ballard less than a calendar year after Indianapolis paid a bounty to acquire Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles are telling. Though, they are not necessarily too surprising given the quarterback’s struggles over the past two seasons.
Wentz’s first year with the Colts culminated in a disastrous Week 18 loss to the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars with a playoff appearance on the line. The former No. 2 pick turned the ball over two times in defeat. All said, Wentz has tallied 43 touchdown passes against 31 turnovers in 29 starts since the start of the 2020 season. Now a member of the Washington Commnders, it’ll be interesting to see how Wentz performs in 2022.
Highest-paid NFL quarterbacks on rookie deals
A focus on NFL quarterback contracts would not be complete without looking at those on their rookie deals. For many teams, this has acted like a competitive advantage.
Patrick Mahomes leading the Kansas City Chiefs to the Lombardi while on his rookie deal following the 2019 season is a prime example of this. Joe Burrow helping the upstart Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl LVI as a sophomore is a more-recent example.
Related: Sportsnaut’s 2023 NFL mock draft
We’re also expecting San Francisco to go in this direction with Trey Lance in 2022. For other young quarterbacks on their rookie deals, they will soon become eligible to sign massive extensions. Either way, here’s a look at NFL quarterbacks on their rookie contracts and how they rank from an average annual salary perspective.
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: $23.02 million
- Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers: $18.58 milion
- Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars: $9.19 million
- Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: $9.05 million
- Zach Wilson, New York Jets: $8.79 million
- Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers: $8.53 million
- Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: $7.57 million
- Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers: $6.65 million
- Daniel Jones, New York Giants: $6.42 million
- Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers: $4.86 million
- Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: $4.72 million
- Mac Jones, New England Patriots: $3.90 million
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.