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 in its stretch run, a lot will be made of quarterback contracts and some blockbuster trades that happened during the past 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. Even then, his struggles in Denver have been eye-opening.
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 ($150.8 million in guarantees)
- Aaron Rodgers salary: $26.47 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $40.8 million
- Average annual salary: $50 million
A drama-filled early part of this past offseason gave in to Rodgers receiving an absolutely huge contract exstension with $150.8 million in guarantees. The idea was that the two-time reigning NFL MVP would play out the remainder of his career in Green Bay.
Through 14 weeks, things have not gone swimmingly for Rodgers and the Packers. They sit at 5-8 on the season and are pretty much out of the NFC Playoff race. For his part, Rodgers has thrown nine interceptions in 13 games after registering as many picks in the past two seasons combined. He might be the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback, but he’s not playing like one of the best.
2. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
- Russell Wilson contract: 5 years, $245 million ($161.1 million in guarantees)
- Russell Wilson salary: $49 million
Ouch. This has not gone too well for either the future Hall of Fame quarterback or his new team. Denver exhausted multiple first-round picks and change to bring Wilson over from the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade this past offseason. It then handed him $161.1 million in guarantees.
Fast forward several months, and the Broncos find themselves in last place in the AFC West with a 3-10 record. They rank 32nd among 32 teams in scoring. For his part, Wilson has thrown all of 11 touchdowns in 12 games. With a dead cap hit of $107 million in 2023 and $85 million in 2024, the Broncos don’t have an out here. We’re now looking at one of the biggest mistakes for a franchise in modern league history.
3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
- Kyler Murray contract: 5 years, $230.5 million ($189.5 million in guarantees)
- 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.
About that? It just has not worked out with the former No. 1 pick finding himself at odds with head coach Kliff Kingsbury during what has been an ugly 4-8 start to the season. For his part, Murray has accounted for 14 passing touchdowns in 10 starts — losing seven of those games. As with some of the other highest-paid quarterbacks here, 2022 has been a disappointment for Murray.
Related: NFL predictions 2022
4. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
- Deshaun Watson contract: 5 years, $230 million ($230 million fully guaranteed)
- Deshaun Watson salary: $35 million (2022)
- Signing bonus: $44.96 million
- Average salary: $46 million
Where to start with Mr. Watson? Prior to suiting up Week 13 against his former Houston Texans team, the multi-time Pro Bowler had not seen action in nearly two calendar years. That came after he faced allegations form north of 20 women of sexual misconduct. Cleveland then opted to send multiple first-round picks to Houston for Watson after he was not charged criminally. Said deal included the first fully-guaranteed contract in NFL history.
Now two games into his Browns career, and Watson has accounted for a single touchdown pass. His Browns sit at 5-8 on the season and out of the AFC Playoff race. Whether it’s rust or something else, Cleveland just isn’t getting value here.
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, 27, has more than lived up to his billing as a top-10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In just five 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. This season has been just as good.
- Patrick Mahomes stats (2022): 65.8% completion, 4,160 yards, 33 TD, 11 INT, 103.4 QB rating
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. Can he change this dynamic 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. More recently, Allen has struggled to the tune of nine touchdowns compared to seven interceptions in his past seven starts. Despite this, Buffalo looks to be among the top Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.
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. It just has not gone according to plan for either the quarterback or his tam.
- Derek Carr stats (2022): 62% completion, 3,117 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT, 89.4 QB rating
To put this into perspective, Carr is on pace to put up his worst QB rating since back in 2017. His Raiders are at 5-8 following an ugly loss to the Rams. With a mere $5.63 million dead cap hit in 2023, there’s now a chance that Vegas opts to release Carr next offseason despite signing him to an extention ahead of the 2022 campaign.
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
Stafford inked his current deal mere months after leading the Rams to the Super Bowl title in his first season with the organization. At that point, it seemed to be a win-win for everyone involved.
Fast forward several months, and there’s questions on all fronts. Stafford is out for the season with a spinal cord injury. Los Angeles finds itself in last place in the NFC West and just started Baker Mayfield under center. There’s an open question about whether head coach Sean Mcvay and star defender Aaron Donald will return in 2023. Stafford himself might also call it quits. Simply stunning to see what has happened in Southern California less than a calendar year after Stafford and Co. hoisted the Lombardi.
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. He’s also leading a 10-3 through the first 14 weeks of the 2022 campaign. However, Prescott’s numbers are not up to par.
- Dak Prescott stats (2022): 67% completion, 1,847 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT, 92.2 QB rating
All said, Prescott proved his worth as one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. The question here is whether he can lead Dallas to a deep playoff run after last season’s disaster in the NFC Wild Card Game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Related: Updated NFL power rankings
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. It led to him being a throw-in when Detroit moved Stafford to the Rams. About that?
- Jared Goff stats (2020-21): 65% completion, 3,352 yards, 22 TD, 7 INT, 97.9 QB rating
Not only is Goff playing tremendous football, he has his Lions team at 6-7 on the campaign and in the midst of the NFC Playoff race. It’s crazy how the narrative has changed surrounding the former No. 1 pick with Goff looking very much like the long-term solution in Detroit.
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.
Despite a recent loss to the Detroit Lions, Minnesota finds itself tied for the second-best record in the NFC at 10-3. From a micro perspective, Cousins has thrown 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions and is on pace for his third consecutive 4,000-yard season. It won’t be enough to quiet the naysayers. But Cousins is right where he should be among the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks.
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.
It has not been any better for Wentz in 2022, pretty much ending any discussion about his ability to be a starter-caliber signal caller in the NFL. Wentz just recently came off injured reserve after missing the past several games to injury. Washington lost four of Wentz’s six starts, only to post a 5-1-1 record with him sidelined. Yeah, Wentz will likely be on a fourth team in as many years when 2023 comes calling.
Highest-paid 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, Los Angeles Rams: $4.86 million
- Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: $4.72 million
- Mac Jones, New England Patriots: $3.90 million
- Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers: $934,000
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.