NFL contracts are incredibly complicated. The league’s collective bargaining agreement is a 316-page brick of a legal document that deals with painfully complex concepts such as nonexclusive franchise tags, dead money, salary caps, nontrade clauses and cap hits. A player can earn a six-figure base salary — the 2019 league minimum for a rookie is $495,000 — but finish the year with tens of millions of dollars in earnings.
That’s because professional football contracts include a web of financial incentives such as signing bonuses, roster bonuses, workout bonuses and reporting bonuses. The only sure way to tell what a player makes in a given year is to look at his yearly cash earnings, which can vary wildly from one year to the next depending on how the player’s contract is structured. Here’s a look at the highest-earning player on all 32 NFL teams in terms of 2019 yearly cash earnings.
Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
- Total cash: $24,084,924
The Cardinals invested in their future in 2019 with the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick — 22-year-old Heisman Trophy winner and two-sport phenom Kyler Murray, who walked away from a $4.6 million signing bonus he earned after being drafted by baseball’s Oakland A’s last year. The quarterback opted for football, instead. In doing so, he landed a four-year, $35.16 million contract, virtually all of which is guaranteed. Thanks to a $23.5 million signing bonus, he’ll earn only six figures a year in base salary for the duration of his contract.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
- Total cash: $44,750,000
Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan has been with Atlanta since the Falcons drafted him in the first round in 2008. He cemented his future with the team when he signed a five-year, $150 million contract that includes a $46.5 million signing bonus. He’s guaranteed $100 million — a full two-thirds of his contract — and he’ll earn an average of $30 million a year before he becomes a free agent in 2024.
Baltimore Ravens: Earl Thomas
- Total cash: $22,000,000
Before joining the Ravens in 2019, free safety Earl Thomas spent nine seasons as part of the so-called “Legion of Boom,” a defensive juggernaut that led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl glory. He’s guaranteed $32 million of his four-year, $55 million contract with Baltimore. He landed a $20 million signing bonus and will earn an average salary of $13.75 million a year until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
Buffalo Bills: Mitch Morse
- Total cash: $19,187,500
Center Mitch Morse finished his contract with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 and signed a free-agency deal with the Bills. The fifth-year NFL veteran’s new contract will pay him $44.5 million over four years, for an average annual salary of nearly $11.13 million. An $11 million signing bonus was part of the deal, which helped Morse earn a total guarantee of nearly $26.18 million.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
- Total cash: $16,700,000
Nearly all of quarterback Cam Newton’s total cash for the year will come from his $16.2 million base salary. It’s part of a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension Newton signed in 2015, with $60 million of it guaranteed. The deal includes a $22.5 million signing bonus and pays the 2015 league Most Valuable Player an average salary of $20.76 million a year.
Chicago Bears: Khalil Mack
- Total cash: $15,500,000
When the Chicago Bears signed Khalil Mack in 2018 to a six-year, $141 million contract, it was the biggest deal for any defensive player in NFL history. The outside linebacker and former Oakland Raiders star landed a $34 million signing bonus and a $90 million total guarantee as part of the package, $60 million of which was guaranteed at signing. He’s now earning an average salary of $23.5 million.
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton
- Total cash: $16,200,000
Quarterback Andy Dalton, now in his ninth season, has been with the Bengals for his entire career. He’s nearing the end of a six-year, $96 million contract extension signed in 2014, which includes a $12 million signing bonus and $17 million total guaranteed. He earns an average salary of $16 million a season, which is his exact base salary in 2019, representing nearly all of his total cash for the year.
Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham Jr.
- Total cash: $17,000,000
When the Browns traded for Odell Beckham Jr., they got a great deal on a great player. That’s because the New York Giants picked up the tab for about half of the nearly $41 million he was guaranteed — a $20 million signing bonus and nearly $1.46 million in his 2018 base salary — when they inked his contract extension in 2018. The six-year veteran wide receiver is starting a five-year, $90 million contract that pays him an average salary of $18 million and a total guarantee of $65 million.
Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence
- Total cash: $31,100,000
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has spent all five years of his NFL career in Dallas. He recently signed a five-year, $105 million contract extension that comes with a $25 million signing bonus and pays him an average salary of $21 million. Per the deal, $65 million is guaranteed in total, $48 million of it guaranteed at signing.
Denver Broncos: Joe Flacco
- Total cash: $18,500,000
Joe Flacco led the Ravens for 11 seasons, drafted by Baltimore in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft. This year, however, he’ll sport Broncos blue and orange after he and his three-year, $66.4 million contract were traded to Denver. The deal includes a $40 million signing bonus and guarantees the quarterback a total of $44 million — all $44 million is guaranteed at signing. He’ll earn an average salary of $21.13 million, but this year, all $18.5 million in total cash comes from his base salary.
Detroit Lions: Trey Flowers
- Total cash: $28,875,000
Defensive end Trey Flowers spent four years in New England after the Patriots drafted him in the fourth round in 2015. This year, however, he starts a five-year, $90 million contract with the Lions that pays him an average salary of $18 million. The deal calls for $56 million guaranteed, including $40 million at signing, as well as a $28.07 million signing bonus.
Green Bay Packers: Za'Darius Smith
- Total cash: $22,250,000
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens, but Cheeseheads are now welcoming the quarterback hunter to Green Bay. Smith signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Packers that includes a $20 million signing bonus — the same amount he’s guaranteed at signing and in total. He’ll earn an average annual salary of $16.5 million until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney
- Total cash: $15,967,200
The Texans drafted outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, but as he approached unrestricted free agency in 2019, Houston — which didn’t even have a full-time general manager at the time — was unable to sign him to a long-term contract before the league deadline. Instead, he signed the one-year franchise tag that pays him $15.97 million with no signing bonuses or guarantees.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
- Total cash: $21,125,000
The Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick to fill the giant shoes of Peyton Manning when the veteran quarterback and the team parted ways in 2012. Luck is now in the middle of a five-year, $122.97 million contract that pays him an average salary of more than $24.59 million a year. It guaranteed him $44 million at signing, $87 million overall and came with a $32 million signing bonus.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Nick Foles
- Total cash: $30,750,000
Nick Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory in stunning fashion over the vaunted New England Patriots following a historic run through the 2017 season. Foles earned the title of Super Bowl MVP — and he did it as a backup. Now, the quarterback is a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars after signing a four-year, $88 million contract that includes a $25 million signing bonus. He’s guaranteed $50.13 million in total, $45.13 million at signing and will earn an average salary of $22 million.
Kansas City Chiefs: Frank Clark
- Total cash: $17,800,000
Defensive end Frank Clark earned just less than $4 million during his four-year tenure with the Seahawks after Seattle drafted him in 2015. He’ll start this season, however, with a much bigger bank account as part of the Kansas City Chiefs. Clark signed a five-year, $104 million contract that includes a $19 million signing bonus and pays him an average salary of $20.8 million. He’s guaranteed $62.31 million, $43.81 million at signing.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Ingram
- Total cash: $17,000,000
Outside linebacker Melvin Ingram has seven NFL seasons under his belt, all with the Chargers. He’s now in the middle of a four-year, $64 million contract extension that pays him an average salary of $16 million. Every penny of his $34 million guarantee was guaranteed at signing, and his deal also includes a $10.5 million signing bonus.
Los Angeles Rams: Brandin Cooks
- Total cash: $27,459,000
The New Orleans Saints drafted Brandin Cooks in 2014 and the wide receiver did a brief stint with the Patriots in 2017 before joining the Rams in 2018. He signed a five-year, $81 million contract that pays him an average salary of $16.2 million through 2024 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The deal includes a $7 million signing bonus and guarantees him $49.46 million, $20.46 million of which was guaranteed at signing.
Miami Dolphins: Xavien Howard
- Total cash: $15,285,641
The Dolphins drafted Xavien Howard in 2016 and locked the cornerback in with a contract extension that will pay him $75.25 million over five years. The deal, which includes a $7 million signing bonus, guarantees Howard more than $39.26 million, $27.19 million of which was guaranteed at signing. He’ll earn an average salary of $15.05 million a year.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins
- Total cash: $28,000,000
When quarterback Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings in 2018 after a run with the Washington Redskins, he became the highest-paid player in football at the time, surpassing the megacontract Matthew Stafford inked with Detroit the year prior. Cousins’ deal pays him $84 million over three years for an average salary of $28 million, including a $3 million signing bonus. Not only is all $84 million guaranteed, but the entire contract was guaranteed at signing.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
- Total cash: $15,000,000
It gets harder every year for even the most ardent Patriots haters to argue that Tom Brady isn’t the greatest quarterback in history. In 2019, Brady won his sixth championship, and it was New England’s fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years. Before the 2018 season started, Brady signed a two-year, $30 million contract extension that includes a $10 million signing bonus and pays him an average salary of $15 million. The $10 million in guaranteed money was paid at signing.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
- Total cash: $23,000,000
The Chargers signed Drew Brees in 2001, but the 18-year NFL veteran has been the quarterback for the Saints since 2006. His most recent contract keeps him in New Orleans for another two years as part of a deal that pays him $50 million and includes a $13.5 million signing bonus. His average salary is $25 million and he’s guaranteed $27 million, $20.7 million of which was guaranteed at signing.
New York Giants: Daniel Jones
- Total cash: $17,179,768
The Giants drafted 22-year-old quarterback Daniel Jones in the first round in 2019 and signed him to a rookie contract that will pay him $25.66 million over four years, all of which is guaranteed at signing. Although he’ll earn an average salary of $6.42 million, his deal comes with a $16.68 million signing bonus, which makes him the highest-paid player on the squad in 2019, despite a base salary of less than $500,000.
New York Jets: C.J. Mosley
- Total cash: $19,000,000
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley played with the Ravens from the time he was drafted in 2014 through his unrestricted free agency in 2019. Then the Jets scooped him up with a five-year, $85 million contract that includes a $7.5 million signing bonus and $51 million in guarantees. Of that, $43 million is guaranteed at signing, and he’ll earn an average salary of $17 million.
Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell
- Total cash: $21,322,864
The Raiders drafted defensive end Clelin Ferrell in the first round in 2019 and signed him to a four-year, $31.36 million contract. Although his base salary is less than $500,000, the rookie is the highest-paid payer on the team this year, thanks to a $20.83 million signing bonus. Not only is his entire contract guaranteed, but it’s all guaranteed at signing. He’ll earn an average salary of $7.84 million.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz
- Total cash: $17,087,683
The Eagles drafted Carson Wentz as their franchise quarterback in 2016, but he watched from the sidelines, nursing an injury, as backup Nick Foles led Philadelphia to Super Bowl glory following the 2017 season. He then suffered another significant injury in 2018. Even still, the Eagles signed Wentz to a huge, four-year, $128 million contract extension that pays him an average salary of $32 million. Nearly $108 million of his contract is guaranteed, and his extension includes a $16.37 million signing bonus.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
- Total cash: $45,000,000
Pittsburgh drafted career Steeler Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, and the Big Ben era will continue for now, thanks to a two-year, $68 million contract extension. The 15-year veteran’s deal includes a $37.5 million signing bonus, the same amount of his contract that’s guaranteed at signing. He’ll earn an average salary of $34 million.
San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa
- Total cash: $22,916,356
San Francisco picked defensive end Nick Bosa in the first round of the 2019 draft and signed him to a four-year, $33.55 million rookie contract that includes a $22.42 million signing bonus. He’s guaranteed every dollar of his contract, and he’ll earn an average salary of $8.39 million.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
- Total cash: $35,000,000
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson signed a contract extension that gave him the richest deal in NFL history. The four-year, $140 million contract includes a record $65 million signing bonus. He’ll earn an average salary of $35 million, and $107 million of his contract is guaranteed, $70 million of it at signing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston
- Total cash: $20,922,000
Jameis Winston has been with the Buccaneers since Tampa Bay drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2015. His four-year, $25.35 million contract is nearing its end; he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2020. His entire contract, which included a $16.7 million signing bonus, was guaranteed at signing. The Buccaneers exercised their $20.922 million option for 2019.
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota
- Total cash: $20,922,000
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will earn the exact same dollar amount as Jameis Winston this year. Also like Winston, he’s in his final year before unrestricted free agency, had his whole contract guaranteed at signing and credits his entire 2019 total cash to the fifth-year contract extension. His initial four-year, $24.21 million contract included a $15.87 million signing bonus.
Washington Redskins: Landon Collins
- Total cash: $15,825,000
The Giants drafted free safety Landon Collins in 2015, and he remained in New York until he entered unrestricted free agency this year. The Redskins signed him to a six-year, $84 million contract that includes a $15 million signing bonus. Under the contract terms, $44.5 million is guaranteed in total, $26 million of it at signing and he’ll earn an average salary of $14 million.
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