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Who is the Highest Paid NFL Player?

Owing to all the confusion about NFL contracts and salaries, determining who is the highest paid NFL player in the history of this league becomes a daunting task. The best way out is to get all the basics of NFL contracts and salaries right before you begin your hunt.
The technicalities of NFL player contracts can make it a bit difficult to determine who the highest paid NFL player ever is. Suppose there are two players - player 1 has signed a 5 year contract amounting US$100 million, while player 2 has signed a 2 year contract amounting to US$80 million. So who is the highest paid among the two? Going by the lump sum contract amount player 1 has to be the highest paid player with US$100 million, but if average annual salary is taken into consideration his US$100 million only amount to US$20 million a year. This makes player 2 - with an annual average salary of US$40 million, the highest paid player in the league. All in all, one has to understand how NFL contracts work if he is to determine who the highest paid players in NFL are.

NFL Player Salaries

Taking the total contract value when determining who the highest paid player in the National Football League (NFL) seems to be a good option. But the fact that NFL player salaries―as per the contract―are non-guaranteed, which means that the team is only required to pay as per the contract as long as the player is a member of the team, can result in some confusion when it comes to end result. As per the non-guarantee contract system the player is not entitled for any compensation after he quits the team. If a player has signed a 3 year contract with the team for US$3 million, and he quits after two year stint with the team for some or the other reason, then he is only entitled for the US$2 million, while the remaining amount becomes null and void.

While NFL contract is not guaranteed, the signing-bonus money is guaranteed indeed. The signing-bonus attribute of player's salary is advantageous for the team as well as player. While the team gets to spend more amount than the stipulated salary cap, for the player it is a cent percent win-win situation as the signing-bonus is guaranteed to be paid unlike NFL contracts which are not guaranteed. Yet another way to find out the highest paid player in the NFL is to go by average annual salary - which is the total amount he is entitled to earn a year on the basis of his contract. If a player signs a 3-year contract with the team for US$3 million, then his average annual salary amounts to US$1 million - which he will be earning every year.

Highest Paid NFL Player

As of today, Payton Manning - the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, holds the distinction of being the highest earning NFL player with his annual earning amounting to US$30.8 million. Further breakup reveals that Manning makes a whopping US$15 million in endorsements in addition to US$15.8 million that he earns from his contract with the Colts. In the list of highest paid NFL players, he is followed by Matthew Stafford - the quarterback for Detroit Lions, and younger brother Eli Manning - the quarterback for New York Giants, on the second and third positions respectively. Given below are the details of top 10 highest paid NFL players as of 2010 NFL season.

Rank Player Team Earning
1 Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts $30,800,000
2 Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions $27,650,000
3 Eli Manning New York Giants $26,500,000
4 Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers $25,850,000
5 Terrell Suggs Baltimore Ravens $24,975,000
6 Albert Haynesworth Washington Redskins $24,750,000
7 Brett Favre Retired NFL Quarterback $24,000,000*
8 Darrius Heyward-Bey Oakland Raiders $21,505,000
9 Jason Smith St Louis Rams $20,645,000
10 Julius Peppers Chicago Bears $20,075,000
*On 1st March, 2001, Brett Favre signed a US$100 million 10 year extension with the Green Bay Packers which along with his endorsements earned him the sum of US$24 million a year until he retired in 2010, and put him in the list of highest paid players.

On the other hand, the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the highest paid NFL player in history in terms of the average annual salary. Brady signed a four-year US$72 million extension deal with the Patriots on 10th September, 2010. The extension deal - which includes US$48.5 million guaranteed money, has propelled him to the top spot in the list of highest paid NFL players with an average salary amounting to around US$18 million. In course of his journey to the top spot, Brady surpassed the record of highest NFL salary held by Eli Manning - the New York Giants quarterback, who earned US$16.3 million per year as per his six-year US$97.5 million extension deal. 4 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl wins, 2 Super Bowl MVP titles - with those figures it is least surprising to see Brady being given this raw deal by the Patriots.

Tom Brady's contract with the New England Patriots is expected to keep him with the team until 2014 season, but will he continue to be the highest paid star till then. It is difficult to predict anything so soon with so much of money changing hands. In fact, the Colts' management has already announced that they intend to offer a new deal to Peyton Manning - who is in the last year of his 7 year contract with the team, which will make him the highest paid NFL star within the next few months to come. How much will he earn then? Only time will tell!
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 3/16/2011
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