With NFL quarterbacks earning more and more money each year, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos are proof that handing out lucrative contracts to signal callers can ultimately pay off. Cam Newton and Peyton Manning will meet in the 2016 Super Bowl as two of the league’s highest paid players.
In 2015, only Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made more money than Newton, who earned $31 million. Manning has already made $17 million, and he could make more depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game.
Newton signed one of the biggest contracts in league history this past offseason. Carolina gave the former No.1 overall draft pick a five-year deal worth $103.8 million. With a $22.5 million signing bonus and a $7.5 million roster bonus, the star quarterback has been well compensated for the 19 starts he’ll make this season.
There is often a fear that elite players won’t put up the same numbers once they earn a monster payday. But that hasn’t been the case with Newton, who is playing the best football of his career and set to win his first MVP award. The quarterback is still running as much as he ever has with 132 carries in the regular season, but he’s remained healthy, taking almost every snap for the NFC champs.
"Nothing about this contract changes my approach to the game," Newton said in June via The Charlotte Observer. "It's still going to be the person who's willing to win at all costs, but I have to understand what I mean to this team. We always have talks -- coach (Ron) Rivera and I, as well as Mr. (Dave) Gettleman -- about playing smart and being smart when I'm on the field. And I feel like I've done a great job to this point and will be more mindful of the hits that I take when running, and make this process go smoothly."
After taking a $4 million pay cut to start the season, Manning’s $15 million base salary for the 2015 season ranked him ninth among all quarterbacks. But when the quarterback agreed to the change in his contract, he was given the chance to earn all of it back. Manning was paid $2 million for starting in and winning the AFC Championship, and he’ll get another $2 million if he starts on Sunday and beats the Panthers.
Entering the season, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo ranked ninth among all NFL players with a $17 million salary for the 2015 season. Making $19 million this year would tie Manning with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who ranks fifth among quarterbacks and seventh among all players. Defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh are the only non-quarterbacks who will be paid more than Manning this season.
Manning could earn $21.5 million if he returns to Denver for the 2016 season, but the 14-time Pro Bowler might call it quits after Super Bowl 50.
"Everybody in the locker room wants to get a ring for Peyton, for DeMarcus [Ware], for ourselves," cornerback Chris Harris Jr . said via ESPN.com, when asked if player bonuses or impending free agency would affect Denver.
"We all know you have to take care of how you play, the rest of those things take care of themselves. If the team wins the championship, everybody benefits."
Russell Wilson made just $662,434 in the 2013 season when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Manning earned $25 million that season.