Every March, the NFL's free agency period begins. And, as is customary, NFL teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to enhance their teams and strive for a Super Bowl.
The NFL offseason in 2022 will be no different, and the list of the league's highest-paid players will undoubtedly change as a result.
The free-agent market will play a role in some of the adjustments to the list of highest-paid players in 2021. More of them, however, will arrive as a result of contract extensions or restructured contracts for top players across the league.
Aaron Rodgers, for example, has already agreed to a lucrative contract extension that will pay him more than $50 million per year. Meanwhile, after leading the Rams to a Super Bowl triumph, Matthew Stafford remains underpaid and appears to be on the verge of receiving a raise.
The burgeoning quarterback market will undoubtedly produce a slew of new high-paid quarterbacks, but don't overlook the market for top-tier pass rushers. Aaron Donald and Nick Bosa might soon get record-breaking contracts, while a slew of talented receivers, including Deebo Samuel, is in line for lucrative extensions.
Identifying the highest-paid NFL players is a difficult task. You can look at how much a player makes in guarantees, how much they make in any particular season, or how much they make on an annual basis over the course of their deal. In most cases, though, arranging it by annual value is the best option.
The highest-paid players in the NFL in 2022
1. Aaron Rodgers
Salary: $50.3 million per year
Rodgers agreed to a three-year agreement with the Packers, making him the highest-paid player in the NFL in 2022.
The two-time MVP will be the first NFL player to make more than $50 million each season, and his guaranteed money of $150.6 million is the highest in NFL history.
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Over the last two seasons, Rodgers has completed 69.8% of his throws for 8,414 yards, 85 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. During his 17-year tenure with the Packers, he won one Super Bowl.
2. Patrick Mahomes
Salary: $45 million per year
In his four years as a starter, Mahomes has been to two Super Bowls and has never failed to reach the AFC Championship Game. During his 17-game career, he has averaged 5,129 yards, 41 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
The Chiefs don't appear to be regretting giving him the NFL's largest contract — ten years, $450 million — anytime soon.
3. Josh Allen
Salary: $43 million per year
Allen received a contract worth $150 million in guarantees in August 2021, the biggest in NFL history before Rodgers' new deal. In each of his four NFL seasons, he has made significant progress, leading the Bills to double-digit wins and playoff appearances in three of them.
In 2021, he had a career-high 763 running yards and 42 total touchdowns. Before the Bills were defeated in the divisional round of the playoffs, he threw for 637 yards and nine touchdowns in two postseason games in 2022.
4) Dak Prescott
Salary: $40 million per year
Prescott bounced back in 2021 after a catastrophic ankle injury 2020, posting a career-high 68.8 completion percentage and 37 passing touchdowns.
As a starter, he has a 53-32 record, but he has gone 1-3 in four postseason starts. This includes a 23-17 loss against the 49ers in the playoffs last year.
5) Deshaun Watson
Salary: $39 million per year
In 2020, Watson set NFL records for passing yards (4,823) and yards per attempt (8.9). He's one of the game's top young quarterbacks, but he's been accused of sexual misconduct and assault in 22 civil cases and 10 criminal accusations.
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It's unknown when (or if) he'll return to the game, but it doesn't appear to be in Houston.
6) Russell Wilson
Salary: $35 million per year
Wilson was traded to the Broncos in the offseason of 2022, although his ranking among the NFL's highest-paid players will not be affected. Before missing his first game in 2021 due to a finger injury, the former Seahawk started 149 consecutive regular-season games.
During his career, Wilson has averaged 3,987 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, and nine interceptions per 17 games played. During his second season, he also won a Super Bowl and was awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2020.
7) Jared Goff
Salary: $33.5 million per year
Goff got a rich contract with the Rams before being traded to the Lions in the Matthew Stafford trade in 2021. In his debut season in Detroit, Goff completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 3,245 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.
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When he wasn't coached by Sean McVay, he went 3-10-1 and had a career record of 3-17-1.
8) Kirk Cousins
Salary: $33 million per year
Cousins was brought to Minnesota to help them get past a stumbling block. He hasn't done that, but in back-to-back seasons, he has passed for at least 4,200 yards and 33 touchdowns. He is, however, just.500 in his career as a starter, with a 59-59-2 record.
9) Carson Wentz
Salary: $32 million per year
After throwing a league-high 15 interceptions in 2020 and being benched in favor of Jalen Hurts, Wentz signed a long-term agreement with the Eagles but was traded to the Colts shortly after.
Wentz's numbers were improved in 2021, with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but the Colts finished 9-8 with Wentz averaging 6.9 yards per attempt. In 2022, he was traded again, and he now has the opportunity to prove himself to the Commanders.
10) Aaron Donald
Salary: $31.6 million per year
Aaron Donald, who was previously ranked No. 23 on this list, became the second Aaron to sign a massive agreement this offseason. The Rams defensive tackle signed a two-year, $65 million contract with a $30 million option for a third year.
The deal comes with three years left on Donald's present contract, although whispers persisted prior to the Super Bowl and following the Rams' first triumph of Donald's career that he was considering retirement if he and the Rams couldn't revise his contract.
Donald has 98 sacks in his career and recently won his first Super Bowl. He's been an All-Pro for the past seven years and has won the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year award three times in the last five years.
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From the defensive tackle position, he has never had fewer than eight sacks in a season and once had a league-high 20.5 sacks — just two shy of Strahan and Watt's record of 22.5 sacks.
Donald's contract was restructured, and he received a $40 million raise over the next two seasons, bringing his total earnings to $65 million. Donald has an option to extend his contract for a third year, increasing his total compensation to $95 million.