NFL’s highest-paid players

Last Updated: 12/07/20 12:40pm

The Dallas Cowboys have the highest-paid players at a number of positions, including running back Ezekiel Elliott
The Dallas Cowboys have the highest-paid players at a number of positions, including running back Ezekiel Elliott

After Patrick Mahomes signed his record-breaking $500m deal, we examine the NFL’s highest-paid players.

The Chiefs quarterback’s contract more than tripled the previous high of $150m – a five-year deal signed by Matt Ryan in 2018. Khalil Mack came close to that with his record defensive contract that same offseason, while earlier this year we saw Amari Cooper top $100m as a receiver. You will see the Cowboys featured heavily on this list!

With money on our minds and plenty of potential deals to be signed in the coming weeks, we’ve decided to run down the best-paid players at each position. All numbers are from Spotrac and cover the total value of active NFL contracts.

We will begin with the biggest contract in the history of sports…

Offense

Quarterback – Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs ($450m)

Patrick Mahomes is set to stay in Kansas City until 2032
Patrick Mahomes is set to stay in Kansas City until 2032

Much has been made of the first ‘half-billion’ dollar contract, but in reality, it is not quite that rich. For Mahomes to reach over $500m, he would have to gain multiple $1.25m bonuses by reaching the Super Bowl and winning the regular-season MVP award practically every season. Plus, we’d have to include the $27m already being paid to him before the extension kicks in. Regardless, it is a lot of money!

Deals for Russell Wilson ($35m a year), Ben Roethlisberger ($34m), Aaron Rodgers ($33.5m) and Jared Goff ($33.5m) were the seasonal leaders prior to this deal, and whichever QB signs their big deal next will likely usurp them. Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott, I’m looking at you.

Running Back – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys ($90m)

Ezekiel Elliott has been extremely productive since joining Dallas in the 2016 NFL Draft
Ezekiel Elliott has been extremely productive since joining Dallas in the 2016 NFL Draft

Last season, Todd Gurley had led running back deals with a $57.5m contract. Elliott’s six-year deal with the Cowboys blew that out of the water. While Christian McCaffrey will average more per year over his contract with Carolina (four years, $64m), Dallas have put a lot of faith in a position that doesn’t usually have the same durability as others.

That said, their offense revolves around Elliott, and he makes them tick. With over 7,000 yards from scrimmage and 48 total touchdowns in four seasons, he has proven his worth. Plus he’s still only 24!

Wide Receiver – Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys ($100m)

The Cowboys have managed to get the most out of Amari Cooper
The Cowboys have managed to get the most out of Amari Cooper

In March, the Cowboys secured another of their top playmakers for the long-term with a five-year deal for Cooper. Since joining Dallas from the Raiders, Cooper has improved his yards-per-game and yards-per-catch averages, his touchdown rate and simply looked a better player.

Michael Thomas and Odell Beckham fall narrowly behind with $96.3m and $90m, respectively.

Tight End – Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($46.8m) / Rob Gronkowski ($54m)

The Chiefs' strong attack has allowed Kelce to thrive
The Chiefs’ strong attack has allowed Kelce to thrive

With arguably the greatest tight end of all time – Gronkowski – hanging up his cleats last offseason, Kelce took over the mantle as the highest-paid player at the position. He signed the five-year deal back in 2016 after an impressive start to his career, and he hasn’t looked back. However, since the Buccaneers inherited Gronkowski’s contract upon his surprise NFL return, we’ve decided to include them both.

Kelce has better stats (283-3,603-23) than highest-paid wideout Cooper (202-2,874-22) over the last few seasons so it’s hard to argue he isn’t majorly undervalued with this deal. Will Gronkowski be worth his $9m hit this year? Assuming he is healthy, he could also be a big bargain.

Offensive Tackle – Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys ($97.6m)

In Smith, the Dallas have arguably the best left tackle in the league
In Smith, the Dallas have arguably the best left tackle in the league

When the Cowboys drafted Smith with the ninth overall pick in 2011, he was the first offensive lineman taken in the first round by Jerry Jones since he bought the team in 1989.

Since then, he’s been a Pro Bowler in the last seven straight seasons and dominated defensive ends weekly. He missed three games through injury for the fourth year in a row in 2019, but it hasn’t stopped him performing to the highest level when he is on the field.

Offensive Guard – Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys ($84m)

Cowboys guard Zack Martin has made the Pro Bowl in all of his NFL seasons
Cowboys guard Zack Martin has made the Pro Bowl in all of his NFL seasons

Three years after Smith, Dallas again dipped back into the first round to take a lineman – this time choosing a player who has dominated on the interior of the line from the moment he stepped on the field.

He was the final piece of the puzzle in 2014 as the Cowboys built a formidable front with a trio of high picks, including Martin, Smith, and another key player in the middle – center Travis Frederick.

Center – Brandon Linder, Jacksonville Jaguars ($51.7m)

Brandon Linder will look to protect sophomore quarterback Gardner Minshew in 2020
Brandon Linder will look to protect sophomore quarterback Gardner Minshew in 2020

Had Frederick not been forced to retire this offseason, he would have been yet another Cowboy with the largest current deal – at $56.4m.

However, Linder – who signed his deal in 2017 – takes the crown. The 28-year-old started 16 games last season for just the first time in his six-year career and has not been voted to a Pro Bowl since joining the NFL. Will this contract be topped soon?

Defense

Defensive Tackle – Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams ($135m)

Aaron Donald fronts the Rams' defense
Aaron Donald fronts the Rams’ defense

Donald followed in the footsteps of Beckham and Rodgers in signing a big-money new deal in the summer of 2018, with his being the richest in NFL history as he put pen to paper on an at-the-time record six-year $135m contract with $87m guaranteed.

The Rams defensive tackle has been a Pro Bowler in each of his six seasons in the league, a first-team All-Pro in the last five of those, and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018. So, he’s not bad then!

Defensive End – DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys ($105m)

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence heads towards the backfield
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence heads towards the backfield

Lawrence pips Frank Clark ($104m) and JJ Watt ($100m), after 25 sacks over two outstanding seasons in 2017 and 2018 earned him a payday in April last summer. The Cowboys initially placed the franchise tag on their pass-rusher but were happy to tie him down to a long-term deal.

However, his first post-contract season was disappointing as he managed just five sacks and dropped in solo and combined tackles. Will he bounce right back?

Outside Linebacker – Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears ($141m)

Khalil Mack has made his living taking down the quarterback
Khalil Mack has made his living taking down the quarterback

Not long after completing his blockbuster switch from the Oakland Raiders to the Bears in the 2018 preseason, Mack agreed a deal surpassing Donald’s contract in Los Angeles. His six-year extension included $90m guaranteed and the deal also took him ahead of Von Miller at the outside linebacker position, and made him the highest-paid defender in NFL history.

Like Donald, Mack has earned a Defensive Player of the Year award – his coming in 2016. The 29-year-old had racked up 40.5 sacks in just four seasons as a pro before making the move to Chicago, where he has added 21 more and his fourth and fifth straight Pro Bowl selections.

Inside Linebacker – C.J. Mosley, New York Jets ($85m)

C.J. Mosley made the Pro Bowl four times while with the Baltimore Ravens
C.J. Mosley made the Pro Bowl four times while with the Baltimore Ravens

Mosley was one of many linebackers who signed big new deals in the 2019 offseason. Having spent his first five seasons with the Ravens, Mosley – who had 579 tackles and made the Pro Bowl four times in Baltimore – signed with the Jets.

Year one turned out to be a disaster, as he suffered a groin injury in Week One of the season which hampered him enough he was placed on Injured Reserve in December, having only recorded nine tackles. He should have been the quarterback of the Jets defense. Will he be that in 2020?

Safety – Landon Collins, Washington Redskins ($84m)

Landon Collins made the NFC East switch from New York to Washington last season
Landon Collins made the NFC East switch from New York to Washington last season

Hard-hitting safety Collins has been described as a ‘heat-seeking missile’ and he signed the biggest safety deal in the league after moving from New York to NFC East rivals Washington last summer.

In 2016, he became the first player in NFL history to have over 100 solo tackles, more than two sacks, at least five interceptions, and at least 12 pass deflections – but he couldn’t quite bring the playmaking ability last season and wasn’t able to pull in a single pick. Washington should boast a better defense this year with Chase Young on the field.

Cornerback – Byron Jones, Miami Dolphins ($82.5m)

Miami now boast two of the best cornerbacks in the game on the same team including former Cowboy Byron Jones
Miami now boast two of the best cornerbacks in the game on the same team including former Cowboy Byron Jones

Fascinatingly, the Dolphins house both of the highest-paid players at cornerback, in Jones and Xavien Howard ($75.3m). Both are 27 years old, are locked up until 2025 and have the ability to shut out opposing receivers. Whether Miami are simply all-in on a hugely important position or hoping to eventually use Howard as trade bait, they are in great shape.

Jones – who was signed from the Cowboys in free agency this year – reached one Pro Bowl in 2018 but has the athleticism to line up across from anyone. It’s going to hard to throw on the Dolphins!

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Source : Sky Sports