The past two offseasons have seen the list of highest-paid quarterbacks change dramatically. Now, as we head into 2022, who tops the list, and which QBs make up the remainder of the top 10 highest-paid players at the position?
The highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL
There are a number of ways with which to judge the value of a contract. However, for our purposes, we will look at the top 10 highest-paid QBs based on the annual average value (AAV) of the deal they signed. Let’s take a look at which players make up the top 10 at the position.
10) Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings | AAV: $35 million
Kirk Cousin’s contract has been much discussed over the last two years, and the Vikings are committed to another two years with him at least. His newest extension is for one year and is worth $35 million. The deal was fully guaranteed and carries cap numbers of $31.4 million in 2022 and $36.25 million in 2023.
There are two void years on the deal. If Cousin’s contract is allowed to void, he will count for $12.5 million in dead money against the Vikings’ salary cap in 2024. However, despite everything, his extension was enough to keep him on the list of highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
T-8) Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams | AAV: $40 million
After leading the Rams to a Super Bowl, Matthew Stafford signed a four-year contract worth $160 million. He received a $60 million signing bonus and $63 million in full guarantees. A total of $130 million can become guaranteed through vesting measures. His cap number is set to rise from $13.5 million in 2022 to $50.5 million in 2025.
T-8) Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys | AAV: $40 million
Dak Prescott is now entering the second year of his four-year, $160 million contract that he signed last offseason. The Cowboys QB received a $66 million signing bonus and $126 million in total guarantees. The last of those guarantees (his 2023 salary) became so on March 20, 2022.
Prescott currently has a $34.45 million cap number this year. However, it would not be surprising if the Cowboys restructure the deal for a second time. There is $20 million in base salary that can be moved around as the Cowboys look to free up cap space.
7) Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders | AAV: $40.5 million
Derek Carr’s new three-year contract extension just sneaks in above Prescott and Stafford. He receives $121.5 million in new money, totaling $141.25 million across the next four years. He will earn $100 million of that money over the next three seasons. It is somewhat of a surprise to see Carr as the sixth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
6) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills | AAV: $43 million
The numbers in Josh Allen’s contract are somewhat mind-boggling. And yet, they do not really get close to the numbers of the man atop the list of the highest-paid QBs in the NFL. Allen signed a six-year, $258 million contract extension, with $150 million in guaranteed money and a $16.5 million signing bonus.
His cap number of $16.4 million in 2022 may seem surprisingly low. However, that number is set to jump to $39.8 million in 2023 before climbing to $51.3 million by 2025. The guarantees on this deal are set to run until the 2025 season, but this contract will likely be restructured before we reach that point anyway. There is another $30 million of incentives in this deal. If they are all met, this deal would be worth $48 million per year.
5) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs | AAV: $45 million
The 2022 season will be the first year of Patrick Mahomes’ massive 10-year, $450 million contract extension. The deal contained a relatively minor $10 million signing bonus but has $141.5 million in guarantees with a cleverly constructed rolling guarantee format. This season will see Mahomes’ cap number jump from $7.4 million in 2021 to $35.8 million in 2022, including a $27.4 million roster bonus.
The structure of Mahomes’ contract is extraordinary, as it includes huge roster bonuses each year that could easily be converted to signing bonuses to spread the cap hits. An additional $25 million in potential incentives could make this deal worth $47.5 million per year if they are all met. When he signed the contract, Mahomes topped the list of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
4) Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans | AAV: $46 million
Following his trade to the Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson signed a new five-year contract. The deal is worth $230 million, all of which is fully guaranteed. The breakdown of the deal is intriguing. Watson carries a cap number of just $10.028 million in 2022. That then rises to $54.993 million in 2023, which remains throughout the deal’s life.
3) Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals | AAV: $46.1 million
Murray and the Cardinals agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $230.5 million. The deal shoots Murray straight into second place on this list, behind only Aaron Rodgers. According to a report by Adam Schefter, $160 million is fully guaranteed.
2) Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos | AAV: $49 million
It is no surprise following his trade in the offseason that Wilson signed a big contract extension. His five-year, $245 million contract puts him close to the numbers we saw Rodgers get earlier in the offseason. He jumps from ninth on the list of highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL all the way up to second.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers | AAV: $50.3 million
After much debate, Aaron Rodgers signed his new contract. The overall terms are somewhat complicated, but the headline is three years, $150.3 million. The five-year value of the contract is $186.75 million, but only two of those are new years at $123.8 million. The deal contained a $40.8 million signing bonus and has $101.515 million guaranteed. His contract easily makes him the highest-paid QB and player in the league.