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Highest paid NFL players in 2022: Jaire Alexander, Stefon Diggs among richest athletes

Matt Johnson

Who are the highest paid NFL players? As the salary cap climbs, the top NFL salaries soar every year with teams rewarding talent and production.

It comes as no surprise that quarterbacks are the highest paid NFL players. But clubs are spending more money than ever on edge rushers, cornerbacks, offensive tackles and wide receivers.

Thanks to new television contracts worth $100-plus billion, franchise owners will be spending even more in 2022 free agency and the top paid NFL players will be shaken up even more. Sure enough, contract extensions and blockbuster trades have added to the list of the highest paid NFL players.

Let’s take a look at the highest paid NFL players entering 2022.

Who is the highest paid NFL player in 2022?

Related: Highest paid NFL quarterbacks

Tyreek Hill, receiver, Miami Dolphins — Highest paid wide receiver in 2022

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Miami Dolphins
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreek Hill Contract: 4 years, $120 million
Tyreek Hill salary: $30 million
Signing Bonus: $25.5 million
Average Salary: $28.25 million
Free Agent: 2027

The latest blockbuster of the 2022 season sees Tyreek Hill departing the Kansas City Chiefs to join the Miami Dolphins who have put together a strong offseason after hiring Mike McDaniel. With the trade, Hill also received a new contract that just edges out Davante Adams as the highest-paid pass-catcher in football. Now Hill will take his talents to South Beach where he will be on the receiving end of throws from Tua Tagovailoa.

T.J. Watt, edge rusher, Pittsburgh Steelers – Highest paid defensive player in NFL

highest paid NFL players, T.J. Watt
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • T.J. Watt Contract: 4 years, $112.011 million ($80 million guaranteed)
  • T.J. Watt Salary: $24 million (2022)
  • Signing Bonus: $35.593 million
  • Average Salary: $28,002,750
  • Free Agent: 2026

The Pittsburgh Steelers never break precedent. Simply put, the organization doesn’t like signing deals that award guaranteed money beyond the first year of the contract. T.J. Watt is so good that the Steelers went against their archaic approach. The four-year contract signed in 2021 provides him with $80 million guaranteed in the first three seasons and he’s worth every penny.

Stefon Diggs, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC at AFC
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Stefon Diggs contract: 4 years, $104 million ($70 million guaranteed)
  • Average salary: $26 million
  • Free agent: 2028

Diggs became yet another wide receiver this offseason to get paid big time. Previously underpaid at $14.4 million annually, he just became the fourth highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history behind Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins.

For good reason. Diggs, 28, led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) back in 2020. He then put up 103 catches for 1,225 yards while working with Josh Allen to make one of the better tandems in the NFL.

Joey Bosa, edge rusher, Los Angeles Chargers

Joey Bosa
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Joey Bosa Contract: 5 years, $135 million ($102 million guaranteed)
  • Joey Bosa Salary: $21.25 million (2022)
  • Signing Bonus: $35 million
  • Average Salary: $27 million
  • Free Agent: 2026

When it came time for Joey Bosa and the Los Angeles Chargers to negotiate an extension, everyone knew he’d join the ranks of the highest paid NFL players. Both sides signed the dotted lines in July 2020, a $135 million deal that makes him one of the NFL’s top paid defensive players. You can bet Nick Bosa will beat his brother’s contract extension.

Jaire Alexander, cornerback, Green Bay Packers

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
  • Jaire Alexander salary (2022): $1.079 million
  • Jaire Alexander contract: Four-year, $84 million extension
  • Signing Bonus: $30 million
  • Average Salary: $21 million

Jaire Alexander is now the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. The Green Bay Packers signed him to a new $84 million extension, providing him with the largest signing bonus ever for a defensive back. While the 2022 base salary is low, it’s purely for cap purposes. The signing bonus and contract extension itself make Alexander, an All-Pro talent, one of the highest-paid defensive players in football.

Denzel Ward, cornerback, Cleveland Browns

NFL: NFL Honors-Red Carpet
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Denzel Ward contract: 4 years, $100.5 million extension
  • Total Guaranteed: $71.25 million

The Cleveland Browns are making Denzel Ward the highest paid cornerback in NFL history. Selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ward earned two Pro Bowl selections on his rookie contract. With the prices for receivers skyrocketing, Ward cashes in for his coverage skills. The $71.25 million guaranteed is the most ever for a defensive back.

Xavien Howard, cornerback, Miami Dolphins

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
  • Xavien Howard contract: Five-year extension
  • Xavien Howard salary: $25.345 million
  • Free Agent: 2027

The Miami Dolphins vowed to Xavien Howard that he’d receive a new deal if he played at a high level in 2021. Sure enough, they fulfilled that promise. Howard and the Dolphins agreed to a two-year extension with $50.691 million in new money. It’s added on top of the three years and $39 million that still existed on his old contract. As a result, Xavien Howard is the highest paid cornerback in NFL history.

Myles Garrett, edge rusher, Cleveland Browns

highest paid NFL players, Myles Garrett
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
  • Myles Garrett Contract: 5 years, $125 million ($100 million guaranteed)
  • Myles Garrett Salary: $1.035 million (2022)
  • Signing Bonus: $21 million
  • Average Salary: $25 million
  • Free Agent: 2027

Myles Garrett is the Cleveland Browns right now. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is exceeding the massive hype he carried entering the league. A yearly threat for 20-plus sacks, it should come as no surprise that one of the best pass rushers in the NFL is also among its most compensated players.

Khalil Mack, edge rusher, Los Angeles Chargers

highest paid NFL players, Chicago Bears
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
  • Khalil Mack Contract: 6 years, $141 million ($90 million guaranteed)
  • Khalil Mack Salary: $12.05 million (2022)
  • Signing Bonus: $34 million
  • Average Salary: $23.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

Khalil Mack wanted to play for a team that would pay him in 2018 and the Chicago Bears immediately showed their commitment to him. The six-year pact is one of the longest signed by an edge rusher and it’s made him one of the top paid NFL players ever since.

Should Tom Brady have stayed retired?

The reasoning for Los Angeles to acquire Mack is obvious. When healthy, he is an absolute force off the edge and he’s going to create even more havoc on the opposite side of Joey Bosa. Of course, being one of the highest paid NFL players is why Chicago only received a 2022 second-round pick for him.

Trent Williams, left tackle, San Francisco 49ers – Highest paid offensive lineman in NFL

highest-paid offensive lineman, San Francisco 49ers
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
  • Trent Williams Contract: 6 years, $138 million ($55.1 million guaranteed)
  • Trent Williams Salary: $7.25 million (2022)
  • Signing Bonus: $30.1 million
  • Average Salary: $23.01 million
  • Free Agent: 2027

A few years ago, some wondered if Trent Williams’s career might be over. It turns out, getting him away from the Washington Commanders made all the difference. San Francisco rewarded its left tackle for his dominance and he became the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history with a six-year agreement signed in 2021.

David Bakhtiari, left tackle, Green Bay Packers

highest paid offensive lineman, Green Bay Packers
Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
  • David Bakhtiari Contract: 4 years, $92 million ($61.5 million guaranteed)
  • David Bakhtiari Salary: $3.2 million (2022), $10 million roster bonus
  • Signing Bonus: $30 million
  • Average Salary: $23 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst ensured the team’s All-Pro left tackle stayed, signing him to a $92 million contract. He played at his elite standard in 2020, but a torn ACL in December 2020 has largely kept him sidelined. He’s a candidate for a contract restructure in the 2022 offseason, but the Packers likely feel confident he will return to form.

Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Los Angeles Rams

highest paid NFL player, Aaron Donald contract
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • Aaron Donald Contract: 6 years, $135 million ($86.892 million guaranteed)
  • Aaron Donald Salary: $9.25 million (2022), $5 million roster bonus
  • Signing Bonus: $40 million
  • Average Salary: $22.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

Arguably the best player in the NFL, perhaps one of the best defensive linemen ever, isn’t atop the list of highest-paid NFL players. But Aaron Donald slotting in behind Khalil Mack, Myles Garrett and Joey Bosa is simply about the position he plays and when he signed the deal (2018).

It’s a matter of fact that Donald earned the right to become the first non-quarterback to make $30 million per season. However, money isn’t the most important thing to him. It’s why, despite still being in his prime, the All-Pro tackle has mentioned walking away from the NFL. We consider that contract leverage. Donald will move up the list of the highest paid NFL players soon.

Highest paid NFL players by position

Highest paid NFL players, Jalen Ramsey
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Contracts courtesy Spotrac. All salary figures and cap hits for the highest paid NFL players are from the 2022 season.

Highest paid running backs in NFL

  • Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – $16.016 million AAV, $14.309 million cap hit, $8.4 million base salary
  • Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints – $15 million AAV, $14.5 million cap hit, $5.5 million base salary
  • Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys – $15 million AAV, $18.22 million cap hit, $12.4 million base salary
  • Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings – $12.6 million AAV, $14.309 million cap hit, $8.3 million base salary
  • Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans – $12.5 million AAV, $14 million cap hit, $12 million base salary

Highest paid wide receivers in NFL

  • Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins — $30 million annually, $120 total value
  • Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders — $28.25 million annually, $141.25 total value
  • DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals – $27.25 million AAV, $25 million cap hit, $6.65 million base salary
  • Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills — $26 million AAV, $70 million total guaranteed
  • A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles — $25 million AAV, $57 million total guaranteed
  • Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers – $20.025 million AAV, $19.2 million cap hit, $16.5 million base salary
  • Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns – $20 million AAV, $22 million cap hit, $20 million base salary
  • Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers — $20 million AAV, $14 million cap hit, $7 million base salary
  • Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — $20 million AAV, TBD, TBD
  • Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – $19.25 million AAV, $24.7 million cap hit, $15.35 million base salary
  • Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – #19.18 million AAV, fully guaranteed (franchise tag)
  • Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs – $18 million AAV, $54 million total value
  • Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars – $18 million AAV, $72 million total value

Highest paid tight ends in NFL

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
  • George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – $15 million AAV, $16.011 million cap hit, $11.45 million base salary
  • Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs – $14.312 million AAV, $8.855 million cap hit, $6.5 million base salary
  • Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles – $14.25 million AAV, $3.766 million cap hit, $1.080 million base salary
  • David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – $14.1 million AAV
  • Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens – $14 million AAV, $9.657 million cap hit, $3.5 million base salary

Highest paid offensive linemen in NFL

  • Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers – $23.01 million AAV, $14.031 million cap hit, $7.25 million base salary
  • David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers – $23 million AAV, $22.768 million cap hit, $3.2 million base salary
  • Laremy Tunsil, Houston Texans – $22 million AAV, $26.153 million cap hit, $17.85 million base salary
  • Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens – $19.75 million AAV, $18.552 million cap hit, $9.5 million base salary
  • Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints – $19.2 million AAV, $23.041 million cap hit, $10.5 million base salary

Highest paid defensive linemen in NFL

  • Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns – $25 million AAV, $12.961 million cap hit, $1.035 million base salary
  • Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams – $22.5 million AAV, $26.75 million cap hit, $9.25 million base salary
  • DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys – $21 million AAV, $27 million cap hit, $19 million base salary
  • Leonard Williams, New York Giants – $21 million AAV, $27.3 million cap hit, $19 million base salary
  • DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts – $21 million AAV, $16 million cap hit, $11 million base salary

Highest paid edge rushers in NFL

  • T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers – $28.002 million AAV, $31.118 million cap hit, $24 million base salary
  • Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers –$27 million AAV, $28.25 million cap hit, $21.25 million base salary
  • Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers – $23.5 million AAV, $30.15 million cap hit, $12.05 million base salary
  • Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders, $23.5 million AAV, $94 million total value
  • Von Miller, Buffalo Bills — $20 million AAV, $120 million total value
  • Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – $17 million AAV, $18.75 million cap hit, $16.25 million base salary

Highest paid linebackers in NFL

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
  • Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts – $19.7 million AAV, $10.916 million cap hit, $6.916 million base salary
  • Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers – $19.045 million AAV, $8.124 million cap hit, $2.564 million base salary
  • C.J. Mosley, New York Jets – $17 million AAV, $17.5 million cap hit, $16 million base salary
  • Foyesada Oluokun, Jacksonville Jaguars – $15 million AAV, $45 million total value
  • Zach Cunningham, Tennessee Titans – $14.5 million AAV, $10.5 million cap hit, $10 million base salary

Highest paid cornerbacks in NFL

  • Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns – $25.126 million AAV
  • Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins – $25.345 million AAV
  • Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers – $21 million AAV, $30 million signing bonus (NFL record for CBs)
  • Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams – $20 million AAV, $23.2 million cap hit, $15 million base salary
  • Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints – $19.52 million AAV, $27.453 million cap hit, $9.1 million base salary
  • Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens – $19.5 million AAV, $17.45 million cap hit, $10 million base salary
  • Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills – $17.25 million AAV, $16.403 million cap hit, $9.95 million base salary
  • Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles – $16.683 million AAV, $22.035 million cap hit, $16 million base salary
  • J.C. Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers – $16.5 million AAV, $82.5 million total value

Highest paid safety in NFL

  • Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks – $17.5 million AAV, $9.11 million cap hit, $2 million base salary
  • Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings – $16 million AAV, $13.407 million cap hit, $2.95 million base salary
  • Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos – $15.2 million AAV, $18.85 million cap hit, $15.1 million base salary
  • Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals – $14.75 million AAV, $14.775 million cap hit, $11 million base salary
  • Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears – $14.6 million cap hit, $15.09 million cap hit, $11 million base salary

Highest paid kicker in NFL

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
  • Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens – $5 million AAV, $5.908 million cap hit, $3.5 million base salary
  • Graham Gano, New York Giants – $4.666 million AAV, $4.671 million cap hit, $3.75 million base salary
  • Daniel Carlson, Las Vegas Raiders – $4.6 million AAV, $4.234 million cap hit, $3.434 million base salary