The Arizona Cardinals made Patrick Peterson the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL after agreeing to a five-year, $70 million contract extension Wednesday. Considered one of the best at his position, and equally good as a punt returner, the two-time All-Pro is guaranteed $48 million in the deal. But since his pay raise won’t kick in until next season, Peterson is not among the 10 highest paid players in the NFL for the upcoming 2014 season.
Based off salaries broken down by Spotrac, Peterson will play this season under the rookie contract he signed in 2011 and make just over $2.8 million. Instead he’ll get a healthy bump with $10 million in salary in 2015. Yet Peterson won’t even crack the top 20 that year either.
While the market has been rather robust for the NFL’s top defensive backs, in order to crack the top 10 of the highest paid players in the league this year you either have to be a quarterback or play along the defensive line. The Cleveland Browns agreed to a five-year, $68 million contract with corner Joe Haden earlier this year, and corner Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks came to terms on a four-year, $66 million deal as well. But like Peterson, neither Sherman nor Haden will crack the top 10 this year or even next. Sherman will be the No. 23 highest-paid player in the league in 2015 at $10 million in salary.
Last year, six defenders made it into the top 10, but then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Darrelle Revis was the only defensive back to make it. The rest were either linebackers or defensive ends.
This year running backs and offensive lineman don’t make an appearance until Minnesota rusher Adrian Peterson at No. 12 with $11.75 million and Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas at No. 15 with $10.9 million. Though he got a slight pay bump Peterson took a big drop from No. 7 last year, but of course each contract is different, and players can see their wages shoot up or down year-over-year or if they agree to re-structure their contracts to give their respective teams some extra salary cap space.
This year five quarterbacks take up five of the top six spots, compared to only three in the top 10 last year. There is also a new No. 1 earner, the spot Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning held last year. We’ve also included each player's salary cap hit, which is their salary combined with bonuses that counts against their team’s salary cap.
Entering the first season of his seven-year, $126.7 million deal with the Bears, Cutler has plenty to live up to. Chicago and its fans will certainly expect the 31-year-old to carry the team back to the Super Bowl. Cutler did play very well last season before a shoulder injury forced him to miss five total games, but the potential is there for him and the Bears this season. Cap Hit: $18.5 million
Up one spot from last year, Eli Manning is coming off his worst season as a pro. He led the NFL with 27 interceptions compared to 18 touchdowns and the Giants went 7-9 in 2013, the first sub-.500 record they posted with Manning under center since his rookie season in 2004. Cap Hit: $20.4 million
Peyton Manning was No. 1 last year, but his salary remains the same from 2013. He set the league on fire by guiding the highest scoring offense in league history to the Super Bowl, only to fall flat in the title game. Still he’s expected to lead Denver deep into the playoffs again, making his salary seem like a bargain. Cap Hit: $17.5 million
Wallace had a disappointing 2013 after signing a five-year, $60 million deal with Miami. He came up with a career-high 73 receptions for 930 yards but netted a career-worst five touchdowns and 12.7 yards per reception. He’s one of the more surprising names on this list, but maybe at the end of this season Wallace could be a bargain. Cap Hit: $17.25 million
The No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, Bradford has the benefit, or curse, of being the last top selection to sign a rookie deal before the NFL instituted the rookie pay scale. The six-year, $78 million rookie contract he signed has maybe put expectations too high for Bradford. He’s up from No. 19 last year, but 2014 could be make-or-break for Bradford. He was limited to seven games after tearing an ACL in 2013, and he’s never taken the Rams to the playoffs. Cap Hit: $17.6 million
Rivers got the Chargers back into the playoffs by leading the NFL in completion percentage at a career-best 69.5 percent, along with 32 touchdowns to 11 picks. His salary bumped up by $1.8 million, but he stays at the same spot from last year. Cap Hit: $16.6 million
The first defensive player on the list, Long cracks the top 10 for the first time in his career. Long totaled 8.5 sacks last year, and while’s still one of the best pass rushers in the game he might not even be best d-end on his team. Long might see fellow-Ram Robert Quinn surpass him on this list in the near future. Cap Hit: $14.9 million
The only player in the top 10 who has the franchise tag placed on him, Hardy has improved every year he’s been in the league and posted 15.0 sacks for the Panthers punishing defense in 2013. Hardy is still growing as a player and could earn big money in free agency next year if Carolina lets him walk. They might be more inclined to do so after Hardy was found guilty on two counts of domestic violence earlier this month. Cap Hit: $13.116 million
One of the best d-tackles in the league, McCoy will enter the highest-earning year of his rookie contract and makes the top 10. He totaled 9.5 sacks last year, pretty high for his position, but the Bucs will have to shell out big bucks in order to keep him. McCoy and the Bucs are currently working on a new contract. It’s unlikely they let him go and we’ll see him rise on this list. Cap Hit: $15.6 million
Suh is also looking for a contract extension, but the Lions have put off the talks. His massive physical presence has made Suh one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but his maturity and accusations of dirty play may give Detroit pause. Suh actually represents the highest salary cap hit of any player this year at $22.4 million. Cap Hit: $22.4 million