Who are the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL right now? Have these signal-callers lived up to expectations?
With the 2022 season now down to one game, a lot will be made of NFL quarterback contracts and some blockbuster trades that may happen during the offseason. There’s also going to be a few massive contract extensions. 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 last offseason. However, two-time reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers surpassed him with a huge pay day from the Green Bay Packers. Could he now be headed to another team?
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has also accomplished that market standard. Even then, his struggles in Denver have been eye-opening.
Below, we look at the 12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league today with a focus of those who are also on their rookie deals.
Related: Ranking the top NFL QBs of 2023
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: $1.15 million (2023)
- Signing bonus: $40.8 million
- Average annual salary: $50.27 million
A drama-filled early part of last offseason gave in to Rodgers receiving an absolutely huge contract extension with $150.8 million in guarantees. The idea was that the four-time NFL MVP would play out the remainder of his career in Green Bay.
We’re now not so sure about that. Rodgers and his Packers just finished up a non-playoff season. The quarterback continues to be subjected to trade rumors. In fact, he just recently indicated that talks are taking place without him being involved. Heck, he might end up calling it quits. But as long as Rodgers continues playing, he’ll be among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
2. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
- Russell Wilson contract: 5 years, $245 million ($161.1 million in guarantees)
- Russell Wilson salary: $8 million (2023)
- Signing bonus: $50 million
- Average annual salary: $48.52 million
Ouch. Wilson’s first season with the Denver after a blockbuster trade from the Seattle Seahawks did not go according to plan. The team won just four of his 15 starts. Head coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired after less than a full season. For his part, Wilson put up the worst statistical performance of his career.
- Russell Wilson stats (2022): 60.5% completion, 3,524 yards, 16 TD, 11 INT, 84.4 QB rating
The hope here is that a new head coach in Sean Payton can help turn around the fortunes for Wilson and his Broncos. They still have a ton committed to the future Hall of Famer. That includes dead salary cap hits of $107 million, $85 million and $49.5 million over the next three years, respectively.
3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
- Kyler Murray contract: 5 years, $230.5 million ($189.5 million in guarantees)
- Kyler Murray salary: $2 million (2023)
- Signing bonus: $29.04 million
- Average annual salary: $46.1 million
The contract Murray last offseason made him one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks. However, the details were not to friendly for the former No. 1 overall pick. His deal called for just $103 million fully guaranteed. That was less than half of what Deshaun Watson received months before.
If Murray’s 2022 performance is any indication, Arizona might have dodged a bullet here. He struggled big time en route to throwing just 14 touchdowns compared seven interceptions. Murray found himself in a rift with now-former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, too. He’s now recovering from a torn ACL and could miss the first half of the 2023 season to injury.
4. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
- Deshaun Watson contract: 5 years, $230 million ($230 million fully guaranteed)
- Deshaun Watson salary: $46 million (2023)
- 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.
Watson then struggled to the tune of seven passing touchdowns and five interceptions in six starts. Sure rust had to play a role here. But he looked like a shell of his former self. Watson will now earn an absolutely insane base salary of $46 million in 2023. That’s the largest total in the NFL by $14 million. Ouch!
5. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- Patrick Mahomes contract: 10 years, $450 million ($63.08 million guaranteed)
- Patrick Mahomes salary: $5.5 million (2023)
- 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 five consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, three 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 past regular season was just as good en route to Kansas City preparing for Super Bowl LVII.
- Patrick Mahomes stats (2022): 67% completion, 5,250 yards, 41 TD, 12 INT, 105.2 QB rating
This dude is not just one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, he’s one of the few that’s actually worth it.
6. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
- Josh Allen contract: 6 years, $258.03 million ($100 million guaranteed)
- Josh Allen salary: $27.5 million (2023)
- 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 third consecutive season in 2022. Unfortunately, said campaign came to an end via an ugly loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. Over the course of his final 12 starts, postseason included, Allen accounted for an eye-opening 17 giveaways. That’s just ugly.
7. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
- Derek Carr contract: 3 years, $121.5 million ($24.9 million fully guaranteed)
- Derek Carr salary: $32.9 million (2023)
- 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): 60.8% completion, 3,522 yards, 24 TD, 14 INT, 86.3 QB rating
As one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, Carr will soon lose that title. He was benched late in the 2022 season and will likely be traded here soon. Carr’s base of $32.9 million for 2023 becomes guaranteed in mid-February, meaning a move is soon on the horizon.
8. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
- Matthew Stafford contract: 4 years, $160 million ($135 million guaranteed)
- Matthew Stafford salary: $1.5 million (2023)
- 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 missed the end of last season with a spinal cord injury. Los Angeles found itself starting Baker Mayfield to close out the lost season.
Despite all of this, Stafford has indicated that he’ll return for the 2023 season. At 34 and with his combined cap hit of nearly $100 million in 2024 and 2025, we’re wondering whether Los Angeles is having second thoughts about extending Stafford.
9. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
- Dak Prescott contract: 4 years, $160 million ($95 million guaranteed)
- Dak Prescott salary: $31 million (2023)
- Signing bonus: $66 million
- Average salary: $40 million
Prescott was in prolonged extension talks with Prescott prior to the former fourth-round pick signing his massive contract back in March of 2021. All we’ve seen from his ‘Boys since is consecutive losses to the hated San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Playoffs.
This past season saw Prescott league the league with 15 interceptions despite missing five games to injury. He also threw two more picks in Dallas’ playoff loss to the aforementioned 49ers. This hasn’t stopped the Cowboys’ brass from indicating that they’re willing to sign him to an extension during the offseason. Sounds like a solid plan.
Related: Updated NFL power rankings
10. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
- Jared Goff contract: 4 years, $134 million ($57.04 million guaranteed)
- Jared Goff salary: $20.98 million (2023)
- 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): 64.5% completion, 3,959 yards, 26 TD, 7 INT, 98.3 QB rating
Not only did Goff play tremendous football in 2022, he’s now seen as Detroit’s franchise quarterback after leading it to playoff contention. 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: $10 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.
The question now becomes whether Cousins is the long-term solution in Minnesota. Despite a solid regular-season performance, the team was upset by the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs. The good news? Cousins’ contract voids after next season.
Related: Sportsnaut’s 2023 NFL mock draft
12. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders
- Carson Wentz contract: 4 years, $128 million ($66.47 million guaranteed)
- Carson Wentz salary: $20 million (2023)
- 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 was not 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 is not long for Washington after throwing 11 touchdowns against nine interceptions in eight games. He’ll likely be a backup elsewhere.
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.
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.
- 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
- Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: $4.72 million
- Mac Jones, New England Patriots: $3.90 million
- Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers: $934,000
Soon-to-be NFL free agent QBs
- Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
- Daniel Jones, New York Giants
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
- Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers
- Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.