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Is that defensive end making more money than Tom Brady? We wondered the same thing, so with the help of Forbes' highest-paid athletes list and our own knowledge of football, here are 10 of the richest NFL players. Earnings include salary, winnings and endorsements.
The roster of richest NFL players includes a lot of D-FENCE and a Manning sandwich.
Team: Denver Broncos
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $42.4 million
Peyton Manning, perennial Pro Bowler and former Heisman Trophy winner, masterminded the prolific Indianapolis Colts offense for 13 seasons, signing a couple of record-setting contracts along the way. After sitting out the 2011 season with a neck injury, Manning tested the free-agent market and got a mile-high pile of money from the Denver Broncos, who hope he's the missing piece for a Super Bowl run.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Position: Nose tackle
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $37.3 million
As they say, good nose tackles are hard to find, and they don't come much better than three-time Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata, who anchors one of the best defenses in the league playing for the Baltimore Ravens. No wonder they signed him to a five-year $61 million contract extension in 2011 to make him one of the highest-paid players in the league.
Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Position: Wide receiver
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $36.8 million
With a rare combination of size, speed, hands and football smarts, Larry Fitzgerald Jr. is one of just a few NFL wide receivers who can dominate even the most skilled defenders. Fitzgerald holds franchise records for receiving touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards, so it's no surprise he also has the biggest contract in the franchise's history, too, with nearly $50 million guaranteed.
Team: Detroit Lions
Position: Defensive tackle
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $36 million
Another dominant defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh's first name means "house of spears" in the Ngemba language of his father's native Cameroon, but it might as well mean "house of cash." As the second overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, he signed a monster contract worth a guaranteed $40 million and went on to make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
Team: Carolina Panthers
Position: Defensive end
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $34.4 million
He may not be a household name yet, but Johnson has made a big impact both on the field, sacking opposing quarterbacks 30 times, and on the Carolina Panthers' payroll. Johnson signed a six-year, $70-million-plus contract last year to become the franchise's highest-paid player.
Team: Buffalo Bills (2012 season)
Position: Defensive end
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $33.2 million
Famously selected ahead of USC phenom Reggie Bush in the 2006 draft, defensive end Mario Williams went on to justify his draft position -- and his hefty rookie contract -- by logging 53 sacks and two Pro Bowl selections in his first six seasons in the league. After playing out his rookie contract in Houston, Williams signed a six-year contract worth at least $50 million with the Buffalo Bills.
Team: New York Jets
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $28.3 million
Considered among the best cornerbacks in the league, Darrelle Revis has earned four Pro Bowl berths and broken up nearly 100 passes in his five seasons with the New York Jets. The "Gang Green" earned its nickname in 2010, signing Revis to a four-year contract extension worth $46 million.
Team: St. Louis Rams
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $27.8 million
With his record-setting six-year $76 million rookie contract, Heisman winner Sam Bradford became the poster child for NFL owners' frustration with rookie salaries. While not exactly setting the league on fire in his first two seasons, if Bradford can return the moribund Rams' offense to its former glory, he may yet earn another big payday, as franchise quarterbacks are incredibly difficult to come by.
Team: New England Patriots
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $27.1 million
With three Super Bowl rings and seven Pro Bowl selections, no quarterback in the NFL is more decorated than Tom Brady. Reflecting his central role in the franchise's success over the last decade, the New England Patriots signed him to a four-year, $72 million contract extension in 2010, making him the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time.
Team: New York Giants
Earnings (June 2011-June 2012): $26.6 million
A two-time Super Bowl winner who famously thwarted the Patriots' run at a perfect season in 2007, Eli Manning's clutch-quarterbacking skills are highly valued by the New York Giants, who signed him to a six-year contract in 2009 worth nearly $100 million.
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