The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. At least that’s what their contracts indicate.
All 15 of the highest-paid players in the NFL based on average annual salary are quarterbacks, according to Spotrac, which tracks NFL contracts and salaries. The highest-paid non-QB in the league this year is Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s average salary is $31.7 million, which ranks 16th in the league.
Before the 2023 NFL season kicks off on September 7 with a game between the Detroit Lions and reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, fans may be wondering who the top-paid players in the league are.
Here are the top 10 (well technically, 11) highest-paid players in the NFL this season based on average annual salary, with contract figures provided by Spotrac and OverTheCap.com.
Who are the 10 highest-paid NFL players?
T-9. New York Giants QB Daniel Jones, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford — $40 million
8. Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen — $43 million
7. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes — $45 million
6. Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson — $46 million
5. Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray — $46.1 million
Arizona signed Murray to a five-year extension worth $230.5 million last summer. Murray then had what might have been his worst season in the NFL.
The 5-foot-10 QB won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in his first year and followed with back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. But last season, Murray set career lows in passing yards per game, passing touchdown percentage and yards per pass attempt before tearing his ACL last December. The fourth-year pro isn’t expected to be healthy enough to play when the new season begins.
4. Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson — $49 million
Wilson’s contract didn’t seem so bad at the time.
The Broncos sent five draft picks, including two first-rounders and two second-rounders, and three players to the Seattle Seahawks for Wilson last March. Then, right before the 2022 season, Denver signed Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension that included $165 in guaranteed money. The Broncos traded so many assets and spent so much money thinking Wilson was their franchise QB, but the nine-time Pro Bowler wasn’t in 2022.
Wilson set career lows in touchdown passes (16) and completion percentage (60.5). The Broncos scored the fewest points in the NFL and finished 5-12.
3. Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts — $51 million
When Hurts and the Eagles agreed to his $255 million contract extension in mid-April, the 25-year-old was the highest-paid player in NFL history based on average annual value. Since then, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert surpassed him with their new contracts. Third place isn’t that bad in this case. Hurts’ deal comes with just over $179 million in guarantees.
The Eagles reached the Super Bowl last season with Hurts leading the way. He finished second in MVP voting after throwing for 22 touchdowns, running for 13 more, and leading the Eagles to the top seed in the NFC.
2. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson — $52 million
Before Herbert’s contract, Jackson held the title of highest-paid NFL player.
Jackson and the Ravens agreed to a five-year, $260 million contract right before the 2023 NFL Draft. The deal includes $185 million in guaranteed money. The 26-year-old signal-caller is a two-time Pro Bowler and was named league MVP in 2019. Baltimore and Jackson finally agreed to the deal after 27 months of negotiations.
1. Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert — $52.5 million
The Chargers and their 25-year-old quarterback agreed to a five-year, $262.5 million extension a day before training camp opened in July. The deal includes a no-trade clause, $133.7 million in guarantees, and keeps Herbert tied to the Chargers through the 2029 season.
Herbert was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Pro Bowler and former Offensive Rookie of the Year has passed for 14,089 yards, the most of any player in NFL history through their first three seasons in the league. Herbert has thrown 25 or more touchdowns in each of his three seasons, making him one of two quarterbacks in NFL history to do that. The other? Peyton Manning.
Herbert threw for 4,739 yards and 25 touchdowns last season while leading the Chargers to the playoffs.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow will be a player to keep an eye on as a possibility to surpass Herbert. Burrow is the next top-tier QB up for an extension and has been in talks with the Bengals this offseason.