Quarterback is the most important position in sports, and NFL signal-callers are paid handsomely for their performance. As the league’s salary cap continues to increase, QB salaries have subsequently skyrocketed, both in terms of average annual value (AAV), total value, and guaranteed money. Heading into the 2023 season, who is the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, and who else makes up the top 10?
Who Is the Highest-Paid Quarterback in the NFL?
After working out an extension with the Cincinnati Bengals in September 2023, Joe Burrow became the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. He signed a five-year, $275 million that will average $55 million per season, blowing past the previous high-water mark of $52.5 million annually.
Burrow will receive $219.01 million in total guarantees, the second-most in NFL history behind Deshaun Watson’s $230 million.
Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, had been under contract through 2024 after the Bengals exercised his fifth-year option. His new extension will keep him in Cincinnati through 2029.
Highest-Paid Quarterbacks 2-10
2) Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers | AAV: $52.5 million
Justin Herbert was the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback for roughly six weeks until being usurped by Burrow. He inked a five-year, $262.5 million deal, setting a $52.5 million average that Burrow’s team clearly used in negotiation with the Bengals.
Herbert’s new contract includes $133.7 million fully guaranteed and an injury guarantee of $193.7 million. His guarantees include his base salaries from 2023-25 and option bonuses in 2024 and 2025.
Herbert has option bonuses in each season of his deal until its conclusion in 2029. His cap chargers will stay below $20 million in each of the next two seasons before ballooning to $37 million and counting in 2025.
3) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens | AAV: $52 million
The Baltimore Ravens initially deployed the franchise tag on Lamar Jackson to retain him this offseason, but they ultimately agreed to a long-term pact with their former MVP quarterback. Jackson received a five-year, $260 million contract that made him the league’s highest-paid signal-caller for several months.
Jackson’s accord came with a $185 million total guarantee and a $135 million injury guarantee. His 2023 and 2024 salaries, 2024 roster bonus, and 2024 and 2025 option bonuses are fully guaranteed for injury.
Jackson is due to collect $51.25 million base salaries in 2026 and 2027, when his cap charges will reach nearly $75 million. However, his contract is essentially designed to be restructured and give the Ravens cap relief at a later date.
4) Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles | AAV: $51 million
For a brief time, Jalen Hurts had the mantle as the highest-paid QB after agreeing to a five-year, $255 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in April 2023.
In addition to his $51 million average annual salary, Hurts will receive $179.304 million in guarantees and a no-trade clause. He’ll get $110 fully guaranteed and $126.5 million before Year 2 of the deal, while he can earn another $15 million via incentives. Hurts is now under contract through 2028.
5) Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos | AAV: $49 million
After being traded to the Denver Broncos, Wilson signed a five-year contract extension worth $49 million a year. The contract contains $124 million fully guaranteed and $161 million in total guarantees.
The good news for the Broncos is that Wilson will count just $22 million against their salary cap in 2023. However, with that cap hit jumping to $35.4 million in 2024 and then over $50 million from 2025 onwards, Denver will be hoping for a marked improvement over Wilson’s 2022 performance.
The Broncos could get out of Wilson’s contract by designating him as a post-June 1 cut after the 2023 season. However, it would cost the same amount of cap space — $35.4 million — to retain Wilson as it would to release him.
6) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals | AAV: $46.1 million
We saw Kyler Murray sign a five-year contract extension worth $46.1 million during the 2022 NFL offseason. Murray’s contract contained $103.3 million fully guaranteed at signing and a total of $189.5 million in total guarantees.
The Cardinals will not see Murray’s salary cap number jump until 2024. In 2023, he is due to count for $16.007 million against the cap. He was also due a $36 million option bonus this offseason.
Arizona’s new regime could choose to move on from Murray after the 2023 campaign, but his contract is structured in such a way that a release is nearly impossible before 2024. However, the Cardinals could probably find a willing trade partner.
7) Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns | AAV: $46 million
Deshaun Watson’s contract completely altered the quarterback market. In order to convince Watson to waive his no-trade clause and choose them as his next destination, the Cleveland Browns gave Watson guaranteed all $230 million of his deal.
No other quarterback has come close to matching Watson’s full guarantee, and his contract became divisive, especially among rival NFL owners hoping to sign their own quarterbacks to new deals. Subsequent QB extensions have followed traditional structures instead of using Watson’s fully guaranteed pact as a model.
8) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $45 million
Patrick Mahomes’ 10-year contract extension highlights the varying ways to value NFL contracts. If we ranked these deals by total value, Mahomes would be — by far — the highest-paid QB in the league, with a total value in excess of $450 million.
The length and structure of Mahomes’ contract are different from anything previously seen in the NFL. Mahomes’ contract contains rolling guarantees that make it nearly impossible for the Chiefs to cut him in the future without taking on massive amounts of dead money.
But the deal is also team-friendly in other ways. Kansas City gained cost certainty and locked in an AAV already falling below the rest of the QB market. And Mahomes’ cash flows — just $116 million through three years — trails most other significant quarterback contracts.
9) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills | AAV: $43 million
The fact that Josh Allen’s contract — with an AAV of $43 million — is ninth on this list indicates how the QB landscape has changed in the past few years. When Allen signed this deal in 2021, he was the NFL’s second-highest-paid QB.
Allen’s six-year contract is worth $258.034 million, with $100.039 million fully guaranteed at signing and $150 million in total guarantees.
The Bills restructured Allen’s deal for the first time in 2023, converting $26.42 million of his base salary into a signing bonus. As such, his cap charge for this season is just $18.6 million. However, Allen’s cap number will jump to $47.1 million in 2024 and $56.6 million in 2025.
T-10) Daniel Jones, New York Giants | AAV: $40 million
The New York Giants faced a potential decision in the 2023 offseason, when both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley were scheduled to hit the open market. Big Blue reached an extension four-year, $160 million deal with Jones just before the franchise tag deadline, allowing the Giants to deploy the tender on Barkley instead.
Jones received $81 million fully guaranteed at signing, including a $36 million signing bonus. New York restructured his deal this offseason, so his cap charges will leap to $40 million beginning in 2024.
The Giants will have to decide on Jones before 2026, the final year of his contract, as his cap number will rise to an untenable $58.6 million.
T-10) Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams | AAV: $40 million
After winning Super Bowl 56, the Los Angeles Rams signed Matthew Stafford to a four-year contract extension worth $160 million. Stafford received $63 million in full guarantees, including a $60 million signing bonus.
Because Stafford was on L.A.’s roster on the third day of the 2023 league year, a further $57 million became guaranteed ($26 million option bonus and $31 million base salary in 2024).
Unless they’re willing to absorb $50 million in dead money, the Rams can’t realistically get out of Stafford’s contract until after the 2024 campaign. Trading him is nearly impossible at this point.
T-10) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $40 million
It doesn’t seem that long ago when Dak Prescott signed a four-year contract worth $160 million, but 2023 will be the third year of the deal. The deal contained $126 million in total guarantees, which included a $66 million signing bonus.
The Dallas Cowboys restructured Prescott’s deal this offseason. While that helped the club create needed cap space, it also increased his 2024 cap charge to $59.5 million. Given that 2024 is the final year of Prescott’s pact, he’ll have immense leverage in extension negotiations with the Cowboys.