It can be difficult to become one of the richest players in the NFL. Because of the physicality of the league, careers can end suddenly after one unfortunate hit or one misstep on the field. However, there are a few players who have been consistent and proven their worth to be rewarded with big paychecks.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who are slated to be the richest in the 2021 NFL season. It shouldn’t at all be surprising that the vast majority of players on the top 10 list are quarterbacks, but there are a couple of other positions that make an appearance as well.
10. Fletcher Cox
Cap Hit: $23,880,000
Cracking the very beginning of the top 10 is Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The 30-year-old defensive tackle is the highest-paid at his position in the league, but that money is well worth it for the durability and impact he brings to the table. He recorded an extremely impressive 34 quarterback hits in 2018.
9. DeMarcus Lawrence
Cap Hit: $25,000,000
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has a gaudy $25 million cap hit this year. Lawrence is still only 28 years old, but his production has declined in recent seasons. His best years came in 2017 and 2018, where he recorded at least 10.5 sacks in each campaign. He’s currently the richest edge rusher in the NFL.
8. Frank Clark
Cap Hit: $25,800,000
Coming off the edge at number 8 is Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Frank Clark. Clark’s contract and cap figure are easily explainable. The Chiefs are a win-now franchise and look to pay money to players who will help them win right away. His rich contract will be fully justified if he makes big plays in big games.
7. Ben Roethlisberger
Cap Hit: $25,910,000
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is still viewed as an asset by his team. He was brought back by the team for an 18th season and will eat up a large chunk of their salary cap. Roethlisberger’s rich price will be well worth the investment if he can finish the season strong, something he was unable to do last year.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo
Cap Hit: $26,382,352
It feels like his time in the Bay Area might be coming to an abrupt end, but San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has become a very rich man during his stint with the team. When he’s been healthy, Garoppolo has earned his money, as he has a career 22-8 record as a starter in San Francisco. One of the biggest offseason storylines will be when/if the 49ers deal the veteran to give rookie quarterback Trey Lance the starting job.
5. Matt Ryan
Cap Hit: $26,912,500
If Matt Ryan is able to involve Kyle Pitts, Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones next year, Atlanta could find themselves back in the playoffs. The team is paying its veterans a lot of money, and Ryan could earn even more in 2022 and 2023 if he doesn’t opt out. The rich just seem to get richer in Atlanta with regards to contracts and talent.
4. Ryan Tannehill
Cap Hit: $29,500,000
Tannehill’s two seasons with the Tennessee Titans could not have gone much better, and the team rewarded him with a new contract before last season. He is regarded as a solid player, and now he is also one of the richest players in the league.
3. Kirk Cousins
Cap Hit: $31,000,000
In an aggressive attempt to upgrade under center, the Minnesota Vikings gave quarterback Kirk Cousins a boatload of money. He’s currently in the second year of a three-year contract, and is scheduled to account for a $31 million cap hit in 2021. As one of the richest quarterbacks, Cousins is still out to prove he is elite.
2. Russell Wilson
Cap Hit: $32,000,000
There is arguably no player more synonymous with his current NFL franchise than Russell Wilson is to the Seattle Seahawks. Seemingly since his first day in the NFL, Wilson has been an inspiration to teammates and fans in the Emerald City. While he started his career as more of a game manager, Wilson has evolved into a playmaker and dynamic weapon. In April 2019, the Seahawks rewarded him with a rich new contract that guaranteed him $107 million.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Cap Hit: $37,202,000
We finally arrive at the player who’s been the talk of the offseason so far. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been making headlines over the last couple of weeks. If the Packers do end up trading the future Hall of Famer, they would lose a lot of production, but would gain a lot of salary cap relief. Rodgers is set to account for over $37 million against the cap in 2021, which is by far the highest total in the league.