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The highest-paid NFL players in 2016

By Motez Bishara, CNN

Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT) September 7, 2016
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Though Tom Brady (right) is considered one of the greatest players in history, Joe Flacco out-earns him by over $1.6 million this season. Here are the top 20 highest-paid NFL players for 2016, based on average yearly salaries in their contracts. (Source: NFL.com) Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Stafford has managed just two winning seasons out of his seven in the league -- though he has endured a weak supporting cast. The Detroit Lion QB posted an excellent 2015 (32 TDs, 13 INT, 97 QBR), and is riding an 82-game starting streak, 19th best of all time. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The new Houston Texans quarterback served four years as Peyton Manning's understudy in Denver, and compiled a 5-2 record as a starter when Manning went down with an injury during last year's Super Bowl season. Interestingly, Denver GM John Elway didn't see Osweiler as a permanent replacement for the retired Manning. "He had an opportunity to make a tremendous amount of money in Houston, and for us, it just didn't fit," Elway told the Denver Post. Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Two playoff wins in 13 seasons, along with a litany of injuries to Romo, have Dallas fans reaching for their prayer beads yet again. Romo's broken collarbone in week 2 effectively killed the 2015 season -- Dallas went 0-8 without him -- and he's out another six to 10 weeks this year with a broken bone in his back. Rob Carr/Getty Images/file
The enigmatic Cutler (#6) is .500 lifetime as a starter (68-68), and has made the playoffs just once, in 2010. Since then the Bears have had just one winning season. "Jay Cutler has gotten a lot of offensive coordinators fired, let's be honest," mused NFL analyst Marshall Faulk. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
If salaries were adjusted for headlines, Kaepernick would be at the top of the list. The former University of Nevada two-way threat led the San Francisco 49ers to a near-Super Bowl win in just his 10th career start in 2013. Though Kaepernick lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert after an injury last season, he rocked the league by refusing to stand for the national anthem during the 2016 preseason as a statement against racial injustice. Tony Avelar/AP
The former Detroit Lions pass rusher (#90), now with the Miami Dolphins, is the first non-quarterback on the list. Suh was signed for a six-year, $114 million contract in March 2015 ($60 million guaranteed), making him the highest paid defensive player in history at the time -- hefty numbers for a 29-year-old lineman with 42 career sacks. Leon Halip/Getty Images
Last season's Super Bowl MVP for the Denver Broncos single-handedly badgered Panthers quarterback Cam Newton into submission, with 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 quarterback hurries in the title game. Miller promptly signed a $114.5 million deal ($70 million guaranteed) with the Broncos, making him the richest defensive player in NFL history. Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
A former part-time receiver in college at Texas A&M, Tannehill (#17) is one of the speediest quarterbacks in the league. He's started every game since turning pro four years ago, but has yet to lead the Miami Dolphins into the playoffs. In a 44-26 win against Houston in 2015, Tannehill became the 64th quarterback in NFL history to record a perfect passer rating, throwing 4 TDs, with 18 completions in 19 attempts. Marc Serota/Getty Images
In his fourth NFL season, Cousins finally won the starting spot from Robert Griffin III and led the Washington Redskins to the playoffs in 2015. The timing was good, as Cousins' contract was up, prompting a one-year, $19.95 million deal from the 'Skins. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
It's hard to overestimate Brees' value to the city of New Orleans. When the former Charger joined the Saints in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina, the team was 3-13. Four years later, New Orleans won its first and only Super Bowl. Brees has been a Pro Bowler in eight out of his 10 seasons in the Big Easy, and holds team passing records in every major category. He has also been a face of the community, raising funds for cancer research and other charitable causes.
With four Super Bowl rings, 11 Pro Bowls and two NFL MVP awards, Brady is the one player in the list who can claim to be underpaid. At 39, he's riding a two-year, $41 million contract ($28 million guaranteed), but has left money on the table in previous negotiations to sign better players around him -- a plan that has yielded a record six Super Bowl appearances and counting. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
"Matty Ice" has also been "Matty Dependable," as Ryan has missed just two games in his eight-year career. The former Boston College standout and three-time Pro Bowler was inserted as the Atlanta Falcons' starter from day one, taking them to the playoffs four times. Ryan's postseason record is just 1-4, however; the sole win coming against the Seahawks in a 2013 conference semifinal. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Newton is arguably the most complete player on this list. At 6 foot 6 inches and 260 pounds, he has the size, speed and athleticism -- along with killer QB instincts -- to take the Carolina Panthers into the playoffs every year. He's also shown marked improvement, leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record in 2015. Newton, of course, will want to erase his disastrous Super Bowl 50 (0 touchdowns, 1 interception, sacked 6 times, 2 fumble losses) with another blistering start in 2016. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
In his 12-year pro career, Rivers has yet to appear in a Super Bowl, although he has taken the San Diego Chargers into the playoffs five times. The father of eight children has broken most of the major franchise records, surpassing Dan Fouts as the Chargers' all-time touchdown leader, wins leader and consecutive starts leader (160 and counting). In 2014, Rivers broke an NFL record by achieving five consecutive games with a passer rating of above 120. Getty Images
The two-time Super Bowl MVP is quietly coming off the best statistical season of his 12-year career (35 TDs, 14 INTs, 93.6 RTG), though the Giants missed the playoffs for the fourth year running. At times, Manning has befuddled New Yorkers with error-prone performances (as recently as 2013 he threw 27 INTs), but his legacy is cemented in New York sporting lore. If Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham can stay healthy in 2016, Manning will be operating with the most dangerous receiving corps in the league. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
"Big Ben" (#7) is the third consecutive quarterback on this list from the vaunted class of 2004. Like Manning, Roethlisberger has earned two Super Bowl rings and four Pro-Bowl appearances, though he has suffered some niggling injuries along the way. The 34-year-old missed four games in 2015 but came back to battle in the playoffs, losing to eventual champions the Denver Broncos in the conference semifinals. Rob Carr/Getty Images
It's ironic that Wilson threw the most famous interception in NFL history -- the last-minute gaff which cost the Seattle Seahawks the 2015 Super Bowl -- because the 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowler plays virtually error-free. Though standing at just 5 foot 11 inches, Wilson was the top-rated NFL quarterback in 2015, and is second all-time, trailing only Aaron Rodgers. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
That Rodgers holds the top career passer rating record while playing in frozen Lambeau Field is a testament to his talent. Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers to a 2011 championship, and is riding a seven-year playoff streak into 2016. But despite posting stellar regular-season numbers in the five seasons since the Super Bowl (a mind-boggling 170 TDs and just 33 INTs) the Packers have come up short in the playoffs. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Baltimore Ravens offering three-year, $66.4 million ($44 million guaranteed) deal to a quarterback who has never made the Pro Bowl in nine seasons seems like an aberration. But traditionally the Ravens have thrived on defense, and until Flacco came along in 2008, the team won in spite of its sputtering quarterbacks. The 2013 Super Bowl MVP brings a calm presence to a team which suffered a leadership vacuum after the retirements of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Rob Carr/Getty Images
Before last season, Luck looked like the heir-apparent to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the face of the league. But an injury-riddled 2015 (shoulder and rib problems, lacerated kidney, torn abdomen) kept him out of nine games, leaving the Indianapolis Colts out of the playoffs for the first time since making Luck the top pick of the 2012 draft. The Colts were confident enough to sign Luck to a six-year extension worth $140 million ($87 million guaranteed), and say he is fully fit for 2016. Andy Lyons/Getty Images