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Joe Burrow and the 50 Best Rookie Deals in NFL History

·11 min read
Joe Robbins / Getty Images
Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals rookie Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft out of LSU, signed the top contract for this year’s class. But his deal – worth $36,190,137 – doesn’t even rank in the top 50 rookie contracts in NFL history, even with a $23 million signing bonus.

Money: 27 Richest No. 1 NFL Draft Picks

That’s not because NFL owners are suddenly cheap and thrifty. In 2011, the NFL players’ union and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that set a wage scale for rookies. That means each team gets a certain amount of money for signing rookies and undrafted free agents each year, so franchises won’t break the bank on first-round picks anymore.

Read on to see which rookies landed the biggest contracts in NFL history.

Last updated: Jan. 7, 2021

©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock
©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock

50. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wide Receiver

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $38,250,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $7,650,000

AP/Shutterstock / AP/Shutterstock
AP/Shutterstock / AP/Shutterstock

49. Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver

  • Year of draft: 2003

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Houston Texans

  • Total value of rookie contract: $39,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $9,000,000

  • Average contract value: $6,500,000

©Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock
©Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock

48. Mike Williams, Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2002

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Buffalo Bills

  • Total value of rookie contract: $39,256,875

  • Signing bonus: $7,275,000

  • Average contract value: $6,542,813

©Carlos Osorio/AP/Shutterstock
©Carlos Osorio/AP/Shutterstock

47. Charles Rogers, Wide Receiver

  • Year of draft: 2003

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Detroit Lions

  • Total value of rookie contract: $39,400,000

  • Signing bonus: $9,100,000

  • Average contract value: $6,566,667

©Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock
©Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/Shutterstock

46. Rolando McClain, Inside Linebacker

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $40,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $8,000,000

©Ron Schwane/AP/Shutterstock
©Ron Schwane/AP/Shutterstock

45. Joe Haden, Cornerback

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cleveland Browns

  • Total value of rookie contract: $40,056,742

  • Signing bonus: $12,000,000

  • Average contract value: $8,011,348

Grant Halverson / Getty Images
Grant Halverson / Getty Images

44. Philip Rivers, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2004

  • Team signed rookie contract with: New York Giants

  • Total value of rookie contract: $40,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $7,650,000

  • Average contract value: $6,750,000

Note: Rivers was immediately traded to the Chargers.

Jon Durr / Getty Images
Jon Durr / Getty Images

43. Adrian Peterson, Running Back

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Minnesota Vikings

  • Total value of rookie contract: $40,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,000,000

  • Average contract value: $8,100,000

©Tom Uhlman/AP/Shutterstock
©Tom Uhlman/AP/Shutterstock

42. LaRon Landry, Safety

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Minnesota Vikings

  • Total value of rookie contract: $40,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,000,000

  • Average contract value: $8,100,000

©Bryan Woolston/AP/Shutterstock
©Bryan Woolston/AP/Shutterstock

41. Andre Smith, Right Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cincinnati Bengals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $42,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $7,000,000

Read More: What Playing in Empty Stadiums Will Cost Every NFL Franchise

©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock
©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock

40. Darren McFadden, Running Back

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $42,043,750

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $7,007,292

©AP/Shutterstock
©AP/Shutterstock

39. Joe Thomas, Left Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cleveland Browns

  • Total value of rookie contract: $42,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $6,360,000

  • Average contract value: $8,500,000

Steve Dykes / Getty Images
Steve Dykes / Getty Images

38. Carson Palmer, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2003

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cincinnati Bengals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $42,697,500

  • Signing bonus: $15,000,000

  • Average contract value: $7,116,250

©Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock
©Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock

37. Antrel Rolle, Safety

  • Year of draft: 2005

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Arizona Cardinals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $43,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $7,116,667

©Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock
©Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock

36. Michael Huff, Safety

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $43,200,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $8,640,000

Al Bello / Getty Images
Al Bello / Getty Images

35. Eli Manning, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2004

  • Team signed rookie contract with: San Diego Chargers

  • Total value of rookie contract: $45,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,000,000

  • Average contract value: $7,500,000

Note: Manning was immediately traded to the Giants.

©Steve Nesius/AP/Shutterstock
©Steve Nesius/AP/Shutterstock

34. Gaines Adams, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Total value of rookie contract: $45,325,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $7,554,167

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

33. Julius Peppers, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2002

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Carolina Panthers

  • Total value of rookie contract: $46,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $9,100,000

  • Average contract value: $6,571,429

©Mark Lyons/EPA/Shutterstock
©Mark Lyons/EPA/Shutterstock

32. David Carr, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2002

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Houston Texans

  • Total value of rookie contract: $46,200,000

  • Signing bonus: $10,920,000

  • Average contract value: $6,600,000

Read More: Biggest Contract Busts in the NFL

©Bill Kostroun/AP/Shutterstock
©Bill Kostroun/AP/Shutterstock

31. Tim Couch, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 1999

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cleveland Browns

  • Total value of rookie contract: $47,950,000

  • Signing bonus: $12,250,000

  • Average contract value: $6,850,000

Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com
Alexey Stiop / Shutterstock.com

30. Peyton Manning, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 1998

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Indianapolis Colts

  • Total value of rookie contract: $48,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $11,600,000

  • Average contract value: $8,000,000

Mitchell Leff / Getty Images
Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

29. Jay Cutler, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Denver Broncos

  • Total value of rookie contract: $48,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $8,000,000

©John Bazemore/AP/Shutterstock
©John Bazemore/AP/Shutterstock

28. Russell Okung, Left Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Seattle Seahawks

  • Total value of rookie contract: $48,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $1,680,000

  • Average contract value: $8,083,333

AP/Shutterstock / AP/Shutterstock
AP/Shutterstock / AP/Shutterstock

27. Alex Smith, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2005

  • Team signed rookie contract with: San Francisco 49ers

  • Total value of rookie contract: $49,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $1,000,000

  • Average contract value: $8,250,000

©Edouard H R Gluck/AP/Shutterstock
©Edouard H R Gluck/AP/Shutterstock

26. Vernon Gholston, Linebacker

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: New York Jets

  • Total value of rookie contract: $50,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,000,000

©Ed Zurga/AP/Shutterstock
©Ed Zurga/AP/Shutterstock

25. Eric Berry, Safety

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Total value of rookie contract: $50,044,300

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,008,860

©Ed Zurga/AP/Shutterstock
©Ed Zurga/AP/Shutterstock

24. Glenn Dorsey, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Total value of rookie contract: $50,425,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,085,000

©Ross Franklin/AP/Shutterstock
©Ross Franklin/AP/Shutterstock

23. Matt Leinart, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Arizona Cardinals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $50,460,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $8,410,000

Read More: Which NFL Hall of Famer Has the Highest Net Worth?

k / Bill Kostroun/AP/Shutterstock
k / Bill Kostroun/AP/Shutterstock

22. Mark Sanchez, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: New York Jets

  • Total value of rookie contract: $50,500,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,100,000

©Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock
©Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

21. Reggie Bush, Running Back

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: New Orleans Saints

  • Total value of rookie contract: $52,500,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $8,750,000

©Michael Perez/AP/Shutterstock
©Michael Perez/AP/Shutterstock

20. Donovan McNabb, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 1999

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Philadelphia Eagles

  • Total value of rookie contract: $53,700,000

  • Signing bonus: $11,300,000

  • Average contract value: $7,671,429

©Dave Einsel/AP/Shutterstock
©Dave Einsel/AP/Shutterstock

19. Mario Williams, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Houston Texans

  • Total value of rookie contract: $54,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $9,000,000

Cliff McBride / Getty Images
Cliff McBride / Getty Images

18. Gerald McCoy, Defensive Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Total value of rookie contract: $55,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,600,000

  • Average contract value: $11,000,000

©Weston Kenney/AP/Shutterstock
©Weston Kenney/AP/Shutterstock

17. Chris Long, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: St. Louis Rams

  • Total value of rookie contract: $55,025,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $11,005,000

©Rick Osentoski/AP/Shutterstock
©Rick Osentoski/AP/Shutterstock

16. Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Detroit Lions

  • Total value of rookie contract: $55,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $14,000,000

  • Average contract value: $9,250,000

©Al Behrman/AP/Shutterstock
©Al Behrman/AP/Shutterstock

15. Akili Smith, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 1999

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Cincinnati Bengals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $56,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $10,800,000

  • Average contract value: $8,000,000

Read More: The Highest-Paid Player on Every NFL, MLB & NBA Team

©Reed Hoffmann/AP/Shutterstock
©Reed Hoffmann/AP/Shutterstock

14. Tyson Jackson, Defensive End

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Kansas City Chiefs

  • Total value of rookie contract: $57,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $11,400,000

©Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock
©Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock

13. Jake Long, Left Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Miami Dolphins

  • Total value of rookie contract: $57,750,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $11,550,000

Ann Heisenfelt/AP / Shutterstock.com
Ann Heisenfelt/AP / Shutterstock.com

12. Vince Young, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2006

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Tennessee Titans

  • Total value of rookie contract: $58,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $9,666,667

©Rick Scuteri/AP/Shutterstock
©Rick Scuteri/AP/Shutterstock

11. Trent Williams, Left Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Washington Redskins

  • Total value of rookie contract: $60,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,000,000

  • Average contract value: $10,000,000

©Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock
©Elaine Thompson/AP/Shutterstock

10. Aaron Curry, Outside Linebacker

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Seattle Seahawks

  • Total value of rookie contract: $60,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,000,000

©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock
©Ben Margot/AP/Shutterstock

9. Robert Gallery, Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2004

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $60,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $8,000,016

  • Average contract value: $8,571,429

©Frank Franklin II/AP/Shutterstock
©Frank Franklin II/AP/Shutterstock

8. Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver

  • Year of draft: 2004

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Arizona Cardinals

  • Total value of rookie contract: $60,417,500

  • Signing bonus: $7,500,000

  • Average contract value: $10,069,583

©Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock
©Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

7. JaMarcus Russell, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2007

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Oakland Raiders

  • Total value of rookie contract: $61,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,166,667

©Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock
©Seth Perlman/AP/Shutterstock

6. Jason Smith, Left Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: St. Louis Rams

  • Total value of rookie contract: $61,775,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $10,295,833

Read More: 13 NFL Players Who Lost Millions

Jerry Zitterman / Shutterstock.com
Jerry Zitterman / Shutterstock.com

5. Michael Vick, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2001

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Atlanta Falcons

  • Total value of rookie contract: $62,000,000

  • Signing bonus: $3,000,000

  • Average contract value: $10,333,333

Patrick Smith / Getty Images
Patrick Smith / Getty Images

4. Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Detroit Lions

  • Total value of rookie contract: $63,502,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $12,700,400

Kevin C.  Cox / Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

3. Matt Ryan, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2008

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Atlanta Falcons

  • Total value of rookie contract: $67,500,000

  • Signing bonus: $7,450,000

  • Average contract value: $11,250,000

Leon Halip / Getty Images
Leon Halip / Getty Images

2. Matthew Stafford, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2009

  • Team signed rookie contract with: Detroit Lions

  • Total value of rookie contract: $72,000,000

  • Signing bonus: None

  • Average contract value: $12,000,000

Brett Carlsen / Getty Images
Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

1. Sam Bradford, Quarterback

  • Year of draft: 2010

  • Team signed rookie contract with: St. Louis Rams

  • Total value of rookie contract: $78,045,000

  • Signing bonus: $17,975,000

  • Average contract value: $13,007,500

More From GOBankingRates

Methodology: For this piece, GOBankingRates used Spotrac’s NFL Draft Tracker data to find Joe Burrow and the 50 Best Rookie Deals in NFL History. GOBankingRates first found the ten (depending on data availability) largest rookie contracts in terms of total value from the 2020 to 1979 NFL drafts, which is the latest data available. Once these 280 contracts were sourced, GOBankingRates found the following info for all contracts: (1) player name; (2) year of the draft; (3) pick in the draft in which the player was selected; (4) team signed rookie contract with; (5) position played; (6) age at time of signing; (7) college team; (8) length of contract in years; (9) total value of rookie contract; (10) signing bonus; and (11) average contract value calculated by dividing factor (9) by (8). Once all these factors were determined GOBankingRates ranked the contracts solely on the basis of factor (9) with the largest 50 rookie contracts in terms of total value being deemed best. All data was collected and is up to date as of Oct. 5, 2020.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Joe Burrow and the 50 Best Rookie Deals in NFL History