With record-setting NFL deals flying in left and right, the market for the biggest stars in the NFL reset once again. Joe Burrow and Nick Bosa are the latest two guys to make splashes for the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, respectively. Both teams are gunning for another shot at a Super Bowl title, having recently come short. But much of this list comprises quarterbacks instead of defensive players. Well, the cap keeps going up, and the TV money keeps increasing. Your hint is that they all play right now. So, who are the top ten highest-paid players in NFL history? Which teams have forked over cash to their leaders of the future? Here are the ten biggest contracts in NFL history.
10. Nick Bosa – five years, $170 million
Nick Bosa's new deal with the 49ers makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history. His contract has an average annual value (AAV) of $34 million. Bosa has been elite since entering the league and has ascended to a new level in the past two years. The reigning DPoY has combined for 34 sacks across the last two seasons, the most in the NFL. He's been a Pro Bowler every year he's been healthy and has led a 49ers defense that has been dominant recently.
9. Deshaun Watson – five years, $230 million
What else is there to say about this contract that hasn't been said? Watson is the black sheep on this list. His deal is massive, but its circumstances are certainly…unique. The Browns hitched their wagon to Watson as the QB of the future last year, giving him an unprecedented five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal. Oh yeah, and it was in the middle of a massive sexual assault scandal and investigation centering around Watson.
Again, this is far from the first coverage of that saga, yet it remains a dark cloud over Watson, the Browns organization, and the league for allowing it to go down the way it did. Watson wasn't particularly good last year either, leading the Browns to a 3-3 record after his suspension ended. If Watson can't turn it around in Cleveland, this may go down as one of the worst contracts of all time, in addition to one of the worst PR moves.
8. Kyler Murray – five years, $230.5 million
Kyler Murray, dual sport athlete and gamer extraordinaire. His 2022 contract made waves for some of its alleged clauses. Especially the ones regarding his required film study and in the light of some online attention to his gaming habits. But no one can argue Murray made good on his decision to go pro in the NFL rather than the MLB. Sure, on average, MLB contracts are often a little better and safer, thanks to their CBA, but Murray probably wasn't ever going to make the list of ten highest-paid MLB players ever. The Cardinals' star QB is looking to take a leap this year but will unfortunately start this season on the PUP list, meaning he's unavailable to play at least until Week 5.
7. Russell Wilson – five years, $242.588 million
Broncos country, let's ride (take two). The first year of the Russell Wilson era in Denver was a colossal failure. Management seems to think it was the coaches' fault last year, and now Sean Payton will roam the sidelines in Denver. And Wilson has been one of the NFL's best quarterbacks for a decade now and should have more in the tank. But if he doesn't, this massive deal the Broncos inked him to after giving up quite the haul to get him in the first place won't feel so good. Russell Wilson living up to the hype and big-time contract will be one of the most intriguing storylines in the AFC West this season.
6. Jalen Hurts – five years, $255 million
Jalen Hurts was the first guy to set the market for extensions this offseason. His April extension locked him up to big money on an already-stacked Eagles team. Hurts broke out at the NFL level last year, taking Philadelphia all the way to the Super Bowl and a matchup against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. Hurts has the on-field skills to be an elite dual-threat quarterback, but it's clear he's a natural leader with a magnetic pull on those around them, and that's just as important to his deal as those tangible QB skills.
5. Josh Allen – six years, $258.043 million
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Josh Allen is making great money, but he just missed this current wave of quarterback contracts, which is why he lags behind the guys around him on this list as far as AAV goes. Allen's turn to get paid was back in 2021 when he signed a then-record-breaking deal to keep him in Buffalo for the foreseeable future. It looks like a similar deal to Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert, but his money is spread out over one more year than the other guys' deals. In the long term, it may pay off for Allen and the Bills to keep a little more wiggle room free in the salary cap than their rivals have to finally get over that hump and return to the Super Bowl.
4. Lamar Jackson – five years, $260 million
Much of Lamar Jackson's career has been dominated by useless conversation regarding his ability to play quarterback and throw the football. He's shown that he can survive and thrive as an NFL quarterback and wouldn't have signed a then-NFL record deal if he wasn't an elite quarterback. While injuries have hampered his last two seasons, Jackson still routinely shows he has that MVP-level class within him. Under a new offensive coordinator, perhaps Jackson will get to show more of his arm and become the ultimate dual-threat weapon, the likes of which the league hasn't seen since Michael Vick.
3. Justin Herbert – five years, $262.5 million
Justin Herbert was the next domino to fall this offseason, littered with big-time quarterbacks getting paid big-time money. The Chargers locked up their franchise guy this offseason. And they paid handsomely to do it. Herbert has impressive numbers in his first three years in the league. The Chargers and Herbert will look to grow and develop together on their way to a playoff win. They were on the verge of breaking through last year before falling apart against Jacksonville. But since entering the league, Herbert has looked like a guy who can finally take Los Angeles deep into the playoffs.
2. Joe Burrow – five years, $275 million
He was the final domino to fall in the quarterback extension game this offseason. Joe Burrow. The Cincinnati Bengals. Five years, $275 million for an NFL-record $55 million AAV. Burrow entered Chosen One status during his legendary 2019 season at LSU. And since coming to the NFL, he's been as advertised for the Bengals. He even brought them back to the Super Bowl for the first time in roughly three decades. And while they haven't gotten the job done yet, with Burrow at the helm, Bengals fans will have to feel like anything is possible.
1. Patrick Mahomes – 10 years, $450 million
While not the highest-paying deal per year in the league, Patrick Mahomes, of course, stands apart. The best quarterback in the league committed to the Kansas City organization back in 2020 to be around for the long haul. He followed that up with another MVP and Super Bowl title and will likely make Kansas City the Super Bowl favorites every year he makes it through the season healthy. Mahomes will have a target on his back for his entire career. The price of greatness is having to fend off the pack. But it's no big deal for the best player in the league and the highest-paid player in NFL history.