Morse was quietly a big part of Kansas City’s record-setting offense in 2018. The Buffalo Bills noticed and signed him to a four-year, $44.5 million contract in the offseason that will pay him a massive $19.2 million this year.
19. MATTHEW STAFFORD, DETROIT LIONS – $19.5 MILLION:
Once billed as one of the top future stars of the NFL, Lions leader Stafford has quite a bit of making up to do if he wants to regain that status following one of his worst years ever last season.
He signed a five-year, $15 million extension with the team that will pay him $19.5 million in 2019. He’s shown flashes, but the Lions haven’t exactly gotten much done with Stafford under center. Second-year coach Matt Patricia will try to change that this year, yet the pressure is on Stafford to start finding huge wins in order to justify his pay.
There has been much discussion the Raiders could look to move on from Carr and his huge contract sometime soon. Reports have said Oakland head coach Jon Gruden is souring on Carr as his starting QB of the future.
That’s not hard to see considering Carr’s five-year, $125 million deal. But for now, Carr has star wideout Antonio Brown as his new toy, and he’ll be making $20 million this year to prove he can lead Oakland to the future. He probably one has one more year to do so, however. In terms of salary, Carr is tied with this next elite player…
17. MIKE EVANS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – $20 MILLION:
This rangy receiver from Texas A&M has shown all the skills to be an elite pass catcher in the NFL for many years to come despite his team not being among the best. He now has aggressive-minded head coach Bruce Arians behind him, and the sky could be the limit for Evans as a result. A lot of it will depend on quarterback Jameis Winston.
Evans signed a five-year, $82.5 million extension including $38.26 million guaranteed in 2018. He’ll make $20 million of it this year, and it’s looking like he’ll earn every penny if the right pieces fall into place.
Mariota could be running out of time to prove he’s truly the leader the Tennessee Titans envisioned when they drafted him with the second pick of the 2015 draft. He showed some flashes early in his career, but since then he’s been injured in many games.
He’s now slated to make $20.9 million in the final year of his rookie contract. It’s probably another make-or-break proposition for Mariota, as he won’t likely be signed to a huge extension unless he stays healthy and puts some results on the field. Still, his big-time salary ties him with this controversial star on our list…
15. JAMEIS WINSTON, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – $20.9 MILLION:
This Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida State has brought all of the controversy he had in college to the NFL with him. He was infamously suspended for three games to start last season.
With that now a risk for new Buccaneers leader Bruce Arians, Winston will be on a short leash in 2019. His off-field behavior may be questionable, but his on-field play hasn’t been the best either. Set to make $20.9 million like Marcus Mariota, Winston has to prove he’s worth the big money in 2019. If he doesn’t Tampa could be looking for a new quarterback.
Ford flashed rare pass-rushing ability in his career-best 2018 year, which was not surprisingly a contract year. The Chiefs defense was towards the worst in the league through no fault of Ford, yet they still decided to trade him to San Francisco for a second-round pick.
They saw it fit to lavish Ford with a five-year, $85 million deal that will make him a jaw-dropping $21 million in 2019. This figure shows the impact of the salary cap going up, with teams breaking the bank for talented pass rushers.
13. ANDREW LUCK, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – $21.1 MILLION:
Luck silenced his many doubters by rebounding from a season-ending shoulder surgery to put up huge numbers last year. He’s expected to accomplish more of the same this year.
Luck isn’t up with the absolute top of NFL earners like you’d think he would be but that’s only because he’s in the middle of a five-year, $122.97 contract. With $21.1 million in earnings for 2019, he approaches the top 10 overall.
His Super Bowl-winning career with the Seattle Seahawks came to a bitter, unfortunate end last year. The Pro Bowl safety broke his leg after Seattle failed to lock him up in a long-term contract.
Thomas was quickly one of the most coveted players in free agency, and Baltimore signed him to a four-year, $55 million contract. Thomas will earn $22 million of that money this season alone, making him the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL in 2019.
11. ZA’DARIUS SMITH, GREEN BAY PACKERS – $22.3 MILLION:
Baltimore traded up in the fourth round of the 2015 draft to take Smith, giving up longtime tackle Haloti Ngata. Smith quietly rose up as an effective if not spectacular pass rusher in the NFL.
He notched 8.5 sacks last year, which led the storied Baltimore defense.
And what timing that turned out to be, as Smith signed a whopping four-year, $66 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. The other half of their effort to majorly bulk their pass rush through free agency, Smith will score a solid $22.3 million for his services in 2019. Smith may be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Green Bay was willing to pay – a lot – to find out.
We’re getting up to the best of the best now, and there may be no better player to begin the list of top 10 highest-paid players than Brees. The record-setting Saint only appears to be getting better with age, and his 2018 season proved that without a doubt.
He’s loaded on offense with receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara. New Orleans will be considered one of the favorites to make it to the Super bowl out of the NFC. So until he truly slows down, the record-setting Brees will earn every bit of his $23 million after signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension last year.
But somehow, this rookie quarterback will out-earn Brees…
Murray, along with head coach Kliff Kingsbury, has been tasked with rebuilding the embarrassing Cardinals from the ground up. The Heisman-winning quarterback out of Oklahoma was drafted with the team’s first overall selection in the draft this year. Arizona traded Josh Rosen, another QB whom they traded up to select in 2018, for comparable scraps in order to make room for Murray.
The pressure is on, and not just because of those topics but also his contract. Murray signed a four-year, $35.16 million deal after being drafted, $24.1 million of which will be paid this year.
Patience could be thin in the desert, so Murray will have to recreate his collegiate magic quickly.
8. BRANDIN COOKS, LOS ANGELES RAMS -$27.5 MILLION:
The speedster whom Los Angeles traded for in 2018 certainly helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl last year. It’s debatable whether or not he lived up to his contract, although there are a lot of mouths to feed in the L.A. offense.
After securing Cooks from the Patriots, they offered him a five-year, $81 million extension, $27.5 million of which will be paid this season. Cooks is the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL this season as a result.
Cousins did little to live up to his unprecedented three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract with the Vikings last offseason. After going 13-3 and reaching the 2017 NFC title game, Minnesota had eyes on taking the next step and making the Super Bowl last year.
Instead, Cousins lead the team to a disappointing 8-8 record and they missed the playoffs despite his gaudy stats. True, it wasn’t his entire fault as his offensive line was horrible and the defense took a step back. However, the three-year price tag of $28 million per is a tough pill to swallow for the franchise right now. If he doesn’t deliver in 2019, that factor will multiply exponentially.
Flowers was an integral piece of the Pats’ Super Bowl run last season, and it came at the right time. He reunited with former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in Detroit with a massive free-agent deal in tow. Flowers is on the books for an incredible five years at $90 million, $28.9 million of which will go out this year.
Patriots players who left Bill Belichick’s tutelage haven’t always panned out when other teams paid them. Detroit is counting on Flowers to recreate his AFC East success. We’ll see if that’s feasible in the NFC North, where he’ll face some slightly different QBs than he did against the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins.
5. NICK FOLES, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – $30.8 MILLION:
Foles was probably always going to get paid – one way or another – when he led the Eagles to a miraculous Super Bowl in the 2017 season when starting QB Carson Wentz tore his ACL. He took over once again at the end of the 2018 season, leading the Eagles to a playoff victory.
Foles bet on himself and hit free agency. Jacksonville was the only player and came calling, signing Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract that will pay him the ransom of $30.8 million this year.
We all knew Lawrence was about to get paid when Dallas franchise tagged him this offseason. His performance rushing the passer last year was simply too much to deny. Despite several big names to pay, the Cowboys had to lock up Lawrence.
They did with a five-year, $105 million deal including $48 million guaranteed. He’ll earn $31.1 million of that this year, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
3. RUSSELL WILSON, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – $35 MILLION:
This Super Bowl-winning passer from the Seattle Seahawks made headlines by setting his own contract deadline for his team to get a deal done. He was also rumored to potentially have a contract that took into account salary cap increases. That didn’t ultimately happen, but the fact it was even talked about could be groundbreaking for future such deals in the NFL.
As for Wilson’s contract, he signed a four-year, $140 million deal featuring $70 million guaranteed, $35 million of which he’ll get this year. The Seahawks did what they had to do.
Ryan took the Falcon to the brink of winning the Super Bowl in early 2017. While they didn’t get there, Atlanta rewarded their leader with a ridiculous five-year, $150 million extension with $94.5 million in guaranteed money. The Falcons’ longtime QB hasn’t picked up the wins to perhaps justify a deal of such magnitude since.
However, he is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL and has a stocked arsenal of pass catchers at his disposal. Still, the pressure is on Ryan and Falcons coach Dan Quinn to recreate some of their 2016 magic, as Ryan will earn a jaw-dropping $44.75 million as the second highest-paid player in the NFL in 2019.
1. BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS – $45 MILLION:
Roethlisberger was at the center of a hotbed of drama and controversy involving former Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown ever since the end of last season. It got so bad that ‘Big Ben’ even apologized for his public comments after the fact.
Ii was also a shame that he never reached a Super Bowl with Brown and also-departed running back Le’Veon Bell by his side. But the Steelers clearly still believe in the aging and oft-injured passer.
They handed him a two-year, $68 million extension with $37.5 million guaranteed after last season. He has still secured elite passing numbers. His new running mates are wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner, not a bad pair to start over with.
He’ll lead one of the NFL’s most storied franchises into the future, and for his efforts, he’ll be paid $45 million in 2019 as the highest-paid player in the NFL this season.