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12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL

Vincent Frank

Who are the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL right now? Have these signal-callers lived up to expectations?

With the 2022 offseason now upon us, a lot will be made of quarterback contracts and some potential blockbuster trades that have already happened. 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 just surpassed him with a huge payday from the Green Bay Packers.

Below, we look at the 12 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league today.

Related: Everything you need to know about the NFL calendar

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers — highest-paid player in the NFL

highest-paid nfl qbs: aaron rodgers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
  • 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. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson landing spots
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
  • 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.

Related: Ideal Deshaun Watson trade scenarios

On the field, Watson remains one of the most-talented young quarterbacks in the game. Still only 26, he will return to the field next season after sitting out the entire 2021 campaign. He’ll do so in a new uniform with an NFL-record $230 million in guaranteed cash.

3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL: Patrick Mahomes
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  • 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.

4. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL: Josh Allen
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
  • 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 retirements of Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.

Related: Sportsnaut’s 2022 NFL QB rankings

5. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
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  • 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.

6. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
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  • 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?

7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Highest-paid-NFL-quarterbacks-Dak-Prescott
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
  • 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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8. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos

Seattle-Seahawks-Russell-Wilson
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  • Russell Wilson contract: 4 years, $140 million ($70 million guaranteed)
  • Russell Wilson salary: $19 million (2022)
  • Signing bonus: $65 million
  • Average salary: $35 million

Shocking. That has to be the best way to describe the blockbuster trade that sent Russell Wilson from Seattle to the Denver Broncos on March 8. A Super Bowl winner already in his career, Wilson now joins a contending team after major struggles in the Pacific Northwest last season.

Underpaid in the grand scheme of things, Denver adds one of the better quarterbacks of the modern era. Since jumping on to the scene as a rookie back in 2012, Russ has tallied 315 total touchdowns against 87 interceptions. He led Seattle to the playoffs eight times and earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl.

9. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

Detroit-Lions-Jared-Goff
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  • 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.

Related: Fantasy football dynasty rankings for 2022

10. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota-Vikings-Kirk-Cousins
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  • 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.

Related: NFL power rankings for 2022

11. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

Indianapolis-Colts-Carson-Wentz
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  • 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.”

Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard on QB situation (Jan. 20, 2022)

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. The good news for Indy? Wentz is set to count $28.29 million against the cap in 2022, after which point the team can get out from under his deal with no dead cap hit.

12. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts

Atlanta-Falcons-Matt-Ryan
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
  • Matt Ryan contract: 5 years, $150 million ($94.5 million guaranteed)
  • Matt Ryan salary: $16.25 million (2022)
  • Signing bonus: $46.5 million
  • Average salary: $30 million

Ryan is an interesting case study. As a former Super Bowl quarterback and NFL MVP, he remains one of the most-accomplished players at his position in the league. The former No. 3 pick from Boston College has also gotten paid like it. Heading into the 2022 season, Ryan has earned a whopping career salary of $267 million. For comparison’s sake, Aaron Rodgers has made $263 million throughout his career.

As for Ryan’s future, it seemed like he was committed to staying with Atlanta throughout the remainder of his career.

“You know, from the top down, (owner) Arthur Blank has been unbelievable to me my entire career. I am thankful that I was drafted here. I ended up in a building which is a great place to be a part of. It’s a great place to live. My family and I like it here. It’s the right place for us. I believe we have the right guys to win. And I want to do it here.”

Matt Ryan to Sportsnaut (Oct. 7, 2021)

That changed after the Falcons flirted with acquiring Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans. Once Watson was dealt to the Cleveland Browns, it became clear that Ryan was not happy with the Falcons organization. Hence, why he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for pennies on the dollar.

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Highest-paid NFL quarterbacks on rookie deals

NFL Week 16, Trevor Lawrence
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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 2022 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.

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