No NFL team wants to be left out at the quarterback position. Over the years, we've seen plenty of great teams lose because of spotty quarterback play and many mediocre teams elevated by an elite-level quarterback.
When NFL teams get a guy they like at QB, they don't like to let them go. After a certain point, their only option is to pay them; and over the last decade or so, the quarterback market has skyrocketed.
Seeing $100 million contracts doled out in the NFL was once a rarity. Now, it's par for the course for good quarterbacks. While it's true that an increase in overall league revenue has partially fueled that, franchises' fears of losing a quality quarterback have also played a massive role in that. Because of that, passers in the league are higher-paid than ever, and often, each new contract signed seeks to one-up a recent one.
That may change in the wake of Patrick Mahomes' record-setting contract, but as long as the NFL exists, there will be a high-end market for quarterbacks. That's part of why teams are set to shell out over $1 billion to compensate the NFL's 10 highest-paid quarterbacks.
In 2021, there are 10 quarterbacks making more than $30 million during the season, but one quarterback tops the class at $45 million per year. Here's an in-depth look at the highest-earning NFL quarterbacks for 2021 and into the future.
(All salary numbers are via Spotrac.com).
Which NFL quarterback has the highest salary?
NFL contracts are a bit trickier than most other professional sports because they aren't fully guaranteed and often contain within them incentives. That said, the best way to determine the highest salary of a quarterback is to use the average annual value of their contract; the base salary for players is often far less than what the quarterbacks earn.
In 2021, Patrick Mahomes has the highest average salary at $45 million. He is one of three quarterbacks set to make more than $40 million in a year, joining Josh Allen ($43 million) and Dak Prescott ($40 million).
Below is the full top 10 in average annual value, which includes all quarterbacks making $30 million or more in a season.
|Rank||Player||Average annual value|
|1||Patrick Mahomes||$45 million|
|2||Josh Allen||$43 million|
|3||Dak Prescott||$40 million|
|4||Deshaun Watson||$39 milllion|
|5||Russell Wilson||$35 million|
|T-6||Aaron Rodgers||$33.5 million|
|T-6||Jared Goff||$33.5 million|
|8||Kirk Cousins||$33 million|
|9||Carson Wentz||$32 million|
|10||Matt Ryan||$30 million|
Which NFL quarterback makes the most guaranteed money?
Josh Allen makes more guaranteed money than any quarterback in the NFL at $150 million. He set the NFL record when he agreed to a six-year, $258 million extension with the Bills just before the start of the 2021 preseason. Allen's $150 million in guarantees broke the previous record set by Patrick Mahomes by about $8.5 million.
Eight quarterbacks are making more than $100 million in guarantees. They are Allen, Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. Ryan Tannehill ($91 million guaranteed) just missed out on the top 10.
|1||Josh Allen||$150 million|
|2||Patrick Mahomes||$141.5 million|
|3||Dak Prescott||$126 million|
|4||Deshaun Watson||$110.7 million|
|5||Jared Goff||$110 million|
|6||Carson Wentz||$108 million|
|7||Russell Wilson||$107 million|
|8||Matt Ryan||$100 million|
|9||Aaron Rodgers||$98.7 million|
|10||Matthew Stafford||$92 million|
Which NFL quarterback has the largest overall contract?
Patrick Mahomes owns the largest NFL contract among quarterbacks with his $450 million deal. He is set to make nearly $200 million more than the next closest competitor, Josh Allen, albeit on a deal that is four years longer than that of Allen. Mahomes and Allen are the only two quarterbacks signed to deals worth an excess of $200 million.
Only 13 NFL quarterbacks are signed to deals worth more than $100 million in total. Most of the others are on rookie-scale deals or possess high-end backup price-tags. The middle class for quarterbacks is largely gone in terms of total value, as only Kirk Cousins is being paid between $36 million and $118 million. The Vikings' starter is on a deal worth $66 million.
|Rank||Player||Total contract value|
|1||Patrick Mahomes||$450 million|
|2||Josh Allen||$258 million|
|3||Dak Prescott||$160 million|
|4||Deshaun Watson||$156 million|
|5||Matt Ryan||$150 million|
|6||Russell Wilson||$140 million|
|7||Jimmy Garoppolo||$137.5 million|
|8||Matthew Stafford||$135 million|
|T-9||Aaron Rodgers||$134 million|
|T-9||Jared Goff||$134 million|
Which NFL quarterback has the highest career earnings?
Tom Brady has rarely been among the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks, but he has been in the league long enough to have the most career earnings. The current Bucs starter has earned $291.1 million in salary during his NFL career. He will crack the $300 million mark in 2021, but he won't hold onto the top spot for long.
Once Mahomes and Allen's extensions kick in — which will occur after the rookie portion of their contracts officially end — they will quickly climb to the top and draw nearer to Brady. It may take five or six years, but the two will eventually push Brady out of the top spot — unless the 44-year-old continues to push father time to his limits.
|1||Tom Brady||$291.1 million|
|2||Ben Roethlisberger||$267.3 million|
|3||Matt Ryan||$267 million|
|4||Aaron Rodgers||$263.3 million|
|5||Matthew Stafford||$246.5 million|
|6||Russell Wilson||$181.4 million|
|7||Joe Flacco||$171.1 million|
|8||Kirk Cousins||$161.7 million|
|9||Ryan Tannehill||$140 million|
|10||Cam Newton||$130.9 million|