Highest-Paid NFL Players in 2022
The NFL is the most profitable of North America's four major professional sports leagues — ahead of the NBA, MLB and NHL. In 2021, all 32 teams received a record $345 million from the NFL in national revenue.
With that type of money, player salaries and signing bonuses are soaring to record heights. These are the highest-paid NFL players for the 2022 season.
10. Terry McLaurin — $29.47 Million
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 4 seasons (2019-present)
Teams: Washington Commanders (2019-present)
Career highlights: PFWA All-Rookie Team (2019)
Bottom line: The Washington Commanders need to keep their talent in place. The prime example of this in the 2022 offseason was signing wide receiver Terry McLaurin to a three-year, $71 million contract extension with a record $28 million signing bonus.
McLaurin was deserving. He's had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Commanders in 2020 and 2021, but like anyone else involved in the team's offense, he's not scoring a lot of touchdowns.
8. Cooper Kupp — $30 Million (Tie)
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 6 seasons (2017-present)
Teams: Los Angeles Rams
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2022), Super Bowl MVP (2022), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2021), NFL All-Pro (2021), Pro Bowl (2021), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2017)
Bottom line: No NFL player was more deserving of a mega-contract than Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp following the 2021 season.
Kupp won the NFL's receiving Triple Crown after he led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, then proceeded to set the NFL record with 33 receptions in a single postseason.
He capped things off by leading the Rams to a Super Bowl win and earning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors with eight receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score.
8. Tom Brady — $30 Million (Tie)
Career: 24 seasons (2000-present)
Teams: New England Patriots (2000-19), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020-present)
Career highlights: Seven-time Super Bowl champion (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020), five-time Super Bowl MVP (2003, 2004, 204, 2016, 2021), three-time NFL MVP (2007, 2010, 2017), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2009), two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2007, 2010), six-time NFL ALl-Pro (2005, 2007, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2021), 15-time Pro Bowl (2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009-18, 2021), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL 100th Anniversary Team, AP Male Athlete of the Year (2007), Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2005)
Bottom line: Themost tiresome story of the 2022 NFL offseason was Tom Brady's retirement, then un-retirement — a ridiculous dance that ended with Brady returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 24th NFL season.
Brady is still among the NFL's elite quarterbacks as he closes in on his 45th birthday in August 2022. He's only one season removed from winning the Super Bowl and led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 2021.
7. Jaire Alexander — $31.07 Million
Career: 5 seasons (2018-present)
Teams: Green Bay Packers
Career highlights: NFL All-Pro (2020), Pro Bowl (2020), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2018)
Bottom line: Jaire Alexander's $31.07 million salary in 2022 includes a $30 million signing bonus — the largest in Green Bay Packers franchise history outside of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Alexander only played four games in 2021 and still received a four-year, $84 million contract extension and will count significantly more against the salary cap in upcoming seasons for the Packers.
Alexander got a tremendous amount of money for a player that's been not only hurt but hasn't necessarily put up big numbers. He only has five career interceptions through his first four seasons.
6. Aaron Donald — $31.5 Million
Position: Defensive tackle
Career: 9 seasons (2014-present)
Teams: St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2022), three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2017, 2018, 2020), seven-time NFL All-Pro (2015-21), eight-time Pro Bowl (2014-21), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2014), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2014)
Bottom line: We can start having the conversation about where Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ranks among the greatest defensive players of all time — as long as we can agree he's already top 10.
Donald, who is already a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, cemented his status as one of the all-time greats by leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory following the 2021 season.
He followed his Super Bowl win by renegotiating his six-year, $135 million contract to add $40 million over the last three years, making him the first defensive player in NFL history to make over $30 million per season.
5. Kirk Cousins — $40 Million
Career: 11 seasons (2012-present)
Teams: Washington Football team (2012-17), Minnesota Vikings (2018-present)
Career highlights: Pro Bowl (2015), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2014)
2021 salary: $33 million
Bottom line: Kirk Cousins is a truly average quarterback who has become incredibly rich playing in the NFL and not doing a whole lot.
Consider this. Through 10 NFL seasons, Cousins has been the full-time starter on just two teams with winning records and has a 1-2 record in the postseason.
When he received a one-year, $35 million contract extension from the Minnesota Vikings in March 2022, it pushed his career NFL earnings to $231 million.
4. Aaron Rodgers — $42 Million
Career: 18 seasons (2005-present)
Teams: Green Bay Packers
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2010), Super Bowl MVP (2010), four-time NFL MVP (2011, 2014, 2020, 2021), five-time NFL All-Pro (2011, 2012, 2014, 2020, 2021),10-time Pro Bowl (2009, 2011, 2012, 2014-16, 2018-21), NFL 2010s All-Decade team, AP Athlete of the Year (2011)
2021 salary: $33.5 million
Bottom line: Almost two decades into his NFL career, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains one of the NFL's elite players and is already a surefire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's also a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player and has been named the NFL MVP the last two years.
After speculation in the 2022 offseason that Rodgers might retire or demand a trade to another team, he signed a three-year, $150.8 million contract extension on March 16, which briefly made him the highest-paid player in North American professional team sports.
3. Deshaun Watson — $46 Million
Teams: Houston Texans (2017-21), Cleveland Browns (2022-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Pro Bowl (2018-20), PFWA All-Rookie Team (2020)
Bottom line: Deshaun Watson's life and career seemed to fall apart heading into the 2021 season, when he was accused of sexual misconduct by over two dozen massage and spa workers in Texas. Somehow things have gotten worse in the ensuing year.
Watson sat out the entire 2021 season while the NFL investigated the accusations — and still got paid his $10.5 million salary. The three-time Pro Bowler and NFL passing leader in 2020, then got a miracle reprieve from the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to an unprecedented, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.
Plot twist. Watson could be suspended by the NFL for the entire 2022 season, and the Browns will still have to pay him all but $952,000 of his $46 million yearly salary.
2. Josh Allen — $46.9 Million
Teams: Buffalo Bills (2018-present)
Career highlights: NFL All-Pro (2020), Pro Bowl (2020)
Bottom line: After leading the Buffalo Bills to the AFC championship game following the 2020 season, quarterback Josh Allen was rewarded with a six-year contract extension for a whopping $258 million.
It's a world away from the player who didn't receive a single Division I offer out of high school in central California and had to go the juco route before becoming a star at the University of Wyoming.
If Allen can somehow get the Bills back to the Super Bowl, he'll be worth every penny. He might already be.
1. Matthew Stafford — $61.5 Million
Teams: Detroit Lions (2009-20), Los Angeles Rams (2021-present)
Career highlights: Super Bowl champion (2021), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2011), Pro Bowl (2014)
Bottom line: If you want to know how the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl following the 2021 season or might repeat as champs in 2022, look no further than this list, which features three Rams in the top 10 highest-paid players in the NFL, topped by quarterback Matthew Stafford's staggering $61.5 million salary for 2022.
It filled our hearts with no small amount of joy to see Stafford get a shot with a competent franchise when he was traded to the Rams before the 2021 season.
If you know football, you know Stafford is the real deal. He spent 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions and never won a playoff game, but the fact the team was ever even in the playoffs was usually due to some on-field miracle Stafford conducted.
He also holds the NFL record for most fourth-quarter comebacks in a single season with eight in 2016.
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