The NBA offseason has seen some of the league’s top players sign lucrative deals in free agency, but none of them compare to what the highest-paid NFL players will make in 2015. While LeBron James’ contract will pay him $23 million next year, he wouldn’t even rank in the top-four among football players for the upcoming season.
The highest-paid NFL players aren’t necessarily the best. The likes of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady don’t rank near the top of the list, while a few players who have underperformed of late do.
Below is a look at the 10 highest-paid players in the NFL for the 2015 season, via spotrac.com.
1) Ben Roethlisberger, $35.25 million
The quarterback was owed $11.6 million for 2015 under his previous deal, but his contract extension makes him the highest-paid player in the sport. Roethlisberger will make most of his money in the first three years of the five-year contract, as the Pittsburgh Steelers hope he can pick up where he left off in 2014. The two-time Super Bowl champion set career marks with 4,952 passing yards and 32 touchdowns, posing a 103.3 passer rating. It will be hard for him to live up to his $35 million price tag, but a similar season in 2015 could make the Steelers a top title contender.
2) Cam Newton, $31 million
Newton had his worst statistical season in 2014, and he was rewarded with a nine-figure contract. The quarterback will make less money in the latter years of his deal, but he’ll need to have a better season to be worth what he’ll be earning in 2015. The quarterback led the Carolina Panthers to the playoffs by winning an historically bad division, throwing 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. His 82.1 passer rating was the lowest of his career, ranking 26th in the NFL.
3) Ndamukong Suh, $26.5 million
Suh was the most highly sought-after free agent of the offseason, and the Miami Dolphins are hoping that the contract they awarded him pays off. Miami gave the defensive tackle $114 million over six years with a guarantee of nearly $60 million. Suh has been one of the best players at his position since he was drafted in 2010, failing to reach the Pro Bowl in just one season. Last year, he had 8.5 sacks and 53 combined tackles.
4) Matt Ryan, $23.5 million
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback has put up big numbers since signing his five-year extension in 2013, but that hasn’t led to many wins. Ryan has thrown for over 9,000 yards and 54 touchdown passes in the last two years, but Atlanta is 10-22 with no playoff appearances during that time. The Falcons’ defense hasn’t done Ryan any favors, but another losing season could force Atlanta to question why they gave their quarterback so much money.
5) Jay Cutler, $20.5 million
The Chicago Bears quarterback has proven to be the most overpaid player in the top 10. Cutler hasn’t led his team to the playoffs since the 2010 season, and while his salary ranks fourth among quarterbacks, there are plenty more than three signal callers that are better than him. He’ll enter 2015 as the Bears’ starting quarterback, but he was benched towards the end of last year. If Chicago had a better option, they’d likely take it.
6) J.J. Watt, $19.969 million
If any player on this list is worth what they’ll be making in the 2015 season, it’s the Houston Texans defensive end. Watt might have been the league’s top performer last year, finishing second in voting for NFL MVP, an award that’s only been given to two defensive players. The 26-year-old recorded 20.5 sacks for the second time in three years, and he even managed to score three touchdowns on the offensive end. His peers just voted him as the league’s No.1 player, and he’s worth every bit of his nearly $20 million salary.
7) Drew Brees, $19 million
Brees has spent the last decade as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, but his time as an elite player could be fading. He failed to lead the New Orleans Saints to the playoffs in 2014, and his age could finally be catching up to him. But Brees still managed to throw for nearly 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last year, and the Saints should put up a lot of points in the upcoming season.
8) Eli Manning, $17.5 million
Manning certainly isn’t a top-10 player in the NFL, and he threw 27 interceptions just two seasons ago. But the quarterback has won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, who have rewarded him for his efforts. Manning is entering the final year of his contract, and his performance will determine what kind of deal he gets in 2016. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz as his top two receivers, Manning will have the weapons necessary to post big numbers.
9) Tony Romo, $17 million
Despite the constant criticism that he faces, Romo hasn’t made the Dallas Cowboys regret making him one of the highest-paid players in the league. He had his best season ever in 2014, posting a 113.2 passer rating and leading the team to a 12-4 record. Dallas fell short to the Green Bay Packers in the postseason, but Romo has helped make Dallas one of the favorites in the NFC.
10) Cameron Jordan, $16.969 million
The full length of Jordan’s contract isn’t worth nearly as much as the rest of the players in the top 10, but his five-year extension will give him close to $27 million over the first two years of the deal. The defensive end had his best season in 2013, totaling 12.5 sacks. He had 7.5 sacks and 51 combined tackles in 2014, though the New Orleans Saints are likely hoping for an increase in those totals next year.