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Biggest NFL Contracts Heading Into the Season

Joel Anderson

Another NFL season is fast approaching, and some of the world’s biggest, strongest athletes are getting themselves into shape. But, they’re definitely not doing it for free. The best NFL players earn at least eight-figure salaries, and about a dozen have contracts that pay them an average of more than $20 million a year. Now, their teams just have to hope the players perform to their salary level.

So, here’s a look at the 25 players who are playing on the NFL’s biggest contracts heading into the 2019 season.

C.J. Mosley: $85M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $43 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

The Baltimore Ravens long have had a reputation for fielding a hard-hitting, fearsome defense, making them the envy of the NFL. Seeking to build a Ravens-style defense, the New York Jets spent lavishly to lock up inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who recorded at least 105 tackles in four of his five seasons in the NFL, in free agency.

Olivier Vernon: $85M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $40.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2021

The Cleveland Browns, with their long rebuilding project nearing an end, acquired outside linebacker Olivier Vernon in a trade with the New York Giants in March. The trade could prove a win-win for both sides. The Giants acquired a much-needed offensive lineman, Kevin Zeitler, while the Browns will pair Vernon with young star Myles Garrett.

Dee Ford: $85.5M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $19.8 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

A good pass rusher is essential in the NFL, so the San Francisco 49ers sent a 2020 second-round draft pick to Kansas City for Dee Ford, who racked up 13 sacks and 29 quarterback hits last season. His big payday came just a year after injuries limited Ford to just six games during the 2017 season.


Nick Foles: $88M for 4 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $45.1 million
  • Free Agent: 2023

Even just a few years ago, the idea of signing Nick Foles to a four-year deal that guarantees him $45 million would have been laughable. Prior to 2017, he largely was considered a journeyman quarterback who could be a capable backup but not one to carry a team. But, one injury to Carson Wentz — and the small matter of that 2018 Super Bowl ring Foles earned as the quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles — secured Foles a big deal to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.

Odell Beckham Jr.: $90M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $41 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Odell Beckham Jr. will be the top receiving threat for the, ahem, Cleveland Browns in 2019. The Browns are hoping OBJ, acquired in the offseason from the New York Giants, brings his career average of 14 yards per catch with him to the shores of Lake Erie.

Trey Flowers: $90M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $40 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Defensive end Trey Flowers and wide receiver Danny Amendola are former New England Patriots who signed deals with the Detroit Lions this offseason — not a coincidence given that Lions head coach Matt Patricia came from the New England organization.

Alex Smith: $94M for 4 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $55 million
  • Free Agent: 2023

Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith will be earning his money from the sidelines this season. Recovery from a devastating compound leg fracture suffered last November and subsequent infection is expected to keep him out of action the entire season.

Andy Dalton: $96M for 6 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $17 million
  • Free Agent: 2021

Some Cincinnati Bengals fans might be fed up with quarterback Andy Dalton over his lack of postseason success — he’s 0-4 in the playoffs — but he’s been remarkably consistent over his eight seasons in Cincinnati. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll surpass 30,000 career passing yards this season.

Tyron Smith: $97.6M for 8 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $22.1 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

A left tackle is essential to protecting the quarterback from getting hit from behind — a play that often results in injuries and/or turnovers. As such, the nearly $100 million the Dallas Cowboys plan to pay Tyron Smith over his eight-year deal makes a lot of sense to keep star quarterback Dak Prescott safe from big sacks.

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J.J. Watt: $100M for 6 Years

  • Guaranteed Money: $30.8 million
  • Free Agent: 2022

Defensive end J.J. Watt was back for a full season with the Houston Texans in 2018 after missing most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons to injury. He racked up 16 sacks, forced seven fumbles and was named first-team All-Pro for the fifth time in 2018.

Fletcher Cox: $102.6M for 6 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $36.3 million
  • Free Agent: 2023

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has a reputation as an absolute beast up the middle on the Philadelphia Eagles defense. The Eagles got 5.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits from him during 2017 — a season they capped off with a Super Bowl win. But last season, his 10.5 sacks and 34 quarterback hits represented a really astonishing total for an interior lineman.

Cam Newton: $103.8M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $41 million
  • Free Agent: 2021

Former MVP Cam Newton is set to earn another $16.2 million in base salary in 2019 as he continues playing on his five-year, $100 million-plus deal. The quarterback is under contract for three more seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

Frank Clark: $104M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $43.8 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Defensive end Frank Clark had 35 sacks during his tenure in Seattle despite starting just 33 games across four seasons. That paid off in a big way in the offseason when he signed a five-year pact with the Kansas City Chiefs that guarantees him at least $43.8 million.

DeMarcus Lawrence: $105M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $48 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

DeMarcus Lawrence has a combined 25 sacks over his past two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, making him a fixture at defensive end. The Boise State product was the 34th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Von Miller: $114.1M for 6 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $42 million
  • Free Agent: 2022

Edge rushers are among the most essential pieces of an NFL defense, so it’s not surprising to see so many defensive ends and outside linebackers on this list. The Denver Broncos’ Von Miller is, of course, among the best outside linebackers in football — notching another 14.5 sacks last season.

Andrew Luck: $123M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $44 million
  • Free Agent: 2022

Of the 16 NFL contracts with a total value in excess of $100 million, nine are for quarterbacks — indicating just how important a good passer is to a successful football team. And while Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t have a lot of, ahem, luck as injuries caused him to miss the entire 2017 season, he bounced back with 39 touchdown passes last season.

Derek Carr: $125M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $40 million
  • Free Agent: 2023, potential opt-out after 2019

Derek Carr had the look of a future franchise quarterback after his breakout 2016 season when he led the Oakland Raiders to the playoffs. Things haven’t gone as well since, with the Raiders finishing 4-12 in a miserable 2018 season.

Carson Wentz: $128M for 4 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $66.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

Two of the players on this list were both rostered as quarterbacks with the Philadelphia Eagles as recently as the 2018 season. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. And while not many teams would be ready to part with a quarterback less than two years removed from him leading a team to a Super Bowl win, Carson Wentz has played so well the Eagles opted to commit big money to him rather than Nick Foles.

Aaron Rodgers: $134M for 4 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $79.2 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Aaron Rodgers had a lot of his qualities as a leader come under fire this offseason following a damning piece from Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne that detailed an emotionally distant star who has undermined his own success by mistreating his coaches and teammates. However, with Rodgers managing to throw for nearly 4,500 yards last season while throwing just two interceptions, there might not be a lot of Green Bay Packers fans ready to turn on their star quarterback.

Aaron Donald: $135M for 6 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $50 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

Apparently, the key to winning a huge NFL deal might be having the name Aaron. Or, at least in the case of the last two Aarons, it might have more to do with being among the absolute best players at your position. Aaron Donald has proven to be a powerful force in the interior for a Los Angeles Rams defense that was stellar in the Super Bowl earlier this year.

Matthew Stafford: $135M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $60.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2023

While Georgia product Matthew Stafford hasn’t quite steered the Detroit Lions to the playoff success they desperately crave, he has been consistently passing the football. The quarterback has thrown for at least 4,200 yards in seven of the past eight seasons.

Jimmy Garoppolo: $137.5M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $41.7 million
  • Free Agent: 2023

San Francisco 49ers fans probably don’t feel like they got their money’s worth last year, when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the former backup in New England, played just three games before suffering a season-ending left ACL injury. He’ll be looking to show fans he’s worth his five-year deal this season.

Russell Wilson: $140M for 4 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $70 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Russell Wilson’s NFL success came fast, coming one interception away from leading the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in his second and third years in the league. However, the Seahawks’ failure to get back to the big game probably isn’t on Wilson — he threw 35 touchdowns last season to just seven interceptions while completing a career-high 65.6 percent of his pass attempts.

Khalil Mack: $141M for 6 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $60 million
  • Free Agent: 2025

The only player who isn’t a quarterback in the top five, defensive end Khalil Mack was big news when he was traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2018 season. But anyone who has read “The Blind Side” probably understands why. In today’s NFL, the only thing more important than your quarterback is the guy you send to get the other team’s quarterback.

Matt Ryan: $150M for 5 Years


  • Guaranteed Money: $94.5 million
  • Free Agent: 2024

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s megadeal prior to the 2018 season contains the most guaranteed money of any current NFL contract at a little under $95 million. That edges out Kirk Cousins, who got all of the $84 million in his three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings guaranteed. That said, Ryan’s average annual salary of $30 million ranks fifth behind Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Biggest NFL Contracts Heading Into the Season