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The highest-paid NFL players in 2018

By Motez Bishara, CNN

Published 1050 GMT (1850 HKT) August 3, 2018
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Super Bowl winners Russell Wilson (left), of the Seattle Seahawks, and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots are two elite NFL quarterbacks, yet neither is in the top 10 of the league's highest paid players. Here is a list of the top 20 NFL earners, based on average salary per year. (Source: overthecap.com) Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Landing on his fourth team in his sixth NFL season, Case Keenum is finally getting paid. After throwing a miraculous last-play touchdown against the Saints in January to lift the Vikings into the NFC title game, Minnesota allowed Keenum to walk away as a free agent. The 30-year-old -- who holds NCAA records in passing yards and touchdown passes from a stellar career at the University of Houston -- signed with the Denver Broncos for two years and $36 million. Rob Carr/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The only non-quarterback on the list, Denver Broncos' linebacker Von Miller is on pace for a Hall of Fame career. The MVP of Super Bowl 50 is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl appearance in a row and sixth overall. In 2016, Miller signed a $114.5 million deal ($70 million guaranteed) with the Broncos, making him the richest defensive player in NFL history. The former Texas A&M Aggie also has a side business farming chickens. Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
He's back. Though the Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill (#17) showed promise during his first five seasons in the league, his knee injury last pre-season knocked him out for all of 2017. A former part-time receiver in college at Texas A&M, Tannehill was one of the speediest quarterbacks in the league -- a quality which will be tested in his comeback. In 2015, Tannehill became the 64th quarterback in NFL history to record a perfect passer rating in a win against Houston, throwing four TDs, with 18 completions in 19 attempts. Marc Serota/Getty Images
Sam Bradford has moved again. After seemingly finding a home in Minnesota following a solid 2016, Bradford underwent the third knee operation of his career early into the 2017 campaign, then lost his starting job to Case Keenum. As a free agent, Bradford signed a deal with the Arizona Cardinals for $20 million this season, $15 million of it guaranteed. It is his fourth team in nine seasons. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
At 41, Tom Brady is coming off his third league MVP award, and was one quarter away from wining his sixth Super Bowl in February. Though the 13-time Pro Bowler shows no signs of slowing down, he sits at the midway point of starting quarterback salaries in the NFL. Brady, in fact, has more Super Bowl starts (eight) than his former backup and third-highest paid player Jimmy Garoppolo has in his entire career (seven). Brady has two seasons left on a $41 million deal and indicated he would like to play until he is 45. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Has "Killer" Cam Newton finally put his disastrous Super Bowl 50 appearance behind him? The 2015 league MVP played in a funk all of 2016 while his Carolina Panthers limped to a 6-10 record. Last year, however, Newton was more assertive after undergoing rotator cuff surgery during the off season. Throwing for 22 TDs and rushing for six more, the Panthers headed back to the playoffs, only to be knocked out by New Orleans in the first round. The 29-year-old -- who is equally known for his fashion sense -- signed a five-year, $103.8 million extension in 2015. Sean Gardner/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Although his statistics make him a solid Hall of Fame candidate, Philip Rivers has yet to appear in a Super Bowl during his 14-year career. And although he has led the San Diego Chargers into the playoffs five times, Rivers is going through a four-year playoff drought. In 2017 Rivers and the Chargers moved to Los Angeles where they played to a half-empty soccer stadium. Still, Rivers posted solid numbers of 28 TDs and 10 interceptions. The 36-year-old is halfway through a four-year, $83.25 million deal. The Chargers, who did not draft a quarterback, do not appear in a rush to replace him. Getty Images
The 2017 season was nothing short of a disaster for Eli Manning. The two-time Super Bowl MVP was benched for the first time in his career, ending his active playing streak at 210 games, second all-time for QBs. Though Manning was reappointed the New York Giants starter two weeks later, the team finished with just three wins, its worst season in 40 years. But Giants fans have a few reasons to be positive: Landing explosive Penn State running back Saquon Barkley as the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft -- signed to a $31 million, four-year deal -- and the return of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from ankle surgery, who is looking for a big contract extension of his own. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Though "Big Ben" (#7) has flirted with the idea of retirement, the two-time Super Bowl champion has been a model of consistency in Pittsburgh. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger had another excellent season in 2017, earning his sixth Pro Bowl selection -- and fourth in a row -- before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Rob Carr/Getty Images
Though standing at just 5 foot 11 inches, Russell Wilson is second all-time in NFL passer rating, trailing only Aaron Rodgers. Wilson, who clinched a Super Bowl ring in 2015, then threw the most famous interception in NFL history in the 2016 Super Bowl, is coming off a season where he led the league with 34 TD passes and the Seattle Seahawks with 586 rushing yards. Wilson signed a four-year $87.6 million deal in 2015. Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Still the NFL's all-time career passer rating leader, Aaron Rodgers is coming off a season that required surgery on a broken collarbone. Playing in only seven games, the injury interrupted Rodgers' eight-year playoff streak punctuated with a 2011 Super Bowl. Rodgers, 34, has two years left on a five-year, $110 million deal, but the Green Bay Packers have stated they would like to lock in an extension soon. Rodgers, however, is reportedly in no rush to sign -- although a deal will likely make him the NFL's highest paid player. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Now in the last season of a three-year, $66.4 million ($44 million guaranteed) deal with the Baltimore Ravens, the 2013 Super Bowl MVP may struggle to get another large NFL payout. The 33-year-old, known for his poise and arm strength, has not led Baltimore to the playoffs since 2014 -- leading the team to draft exciting Louisville QB Lamar Jackson in the first round. Don't cry for Flacco, however: His previous deal spanned six years for $120 million. Rob Carr/Getty Images
Quarterback Alex Smith (#11) was a Pro Bowler in three of his five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs -- yet landed in a Washington Redskins uniform for 2018. Going into his 13th NFL season -- which includes five playoff births -- Smith is a veteran who will steer a Redskins team coming off a disappointing 7-9 season in a tough NFC East. Peter Aiken/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
The forgotten man on the top 20 list, Andrew Luck signed his $123 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts after a solid 2016 campaign where he started 15 games and threw 31 TDs. Luck was also sacked a league-high 41 times, however, and promptly underwent shoulder surgery on his throwing arm. The 28-year-old Stanford alumnus missed the entire 2017 season, but is poised for a return. Given just 38% of his salary is guaranteed, Luck will be wise to avoid another sack-riddled season. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
At 39, Drew Brees is coming off one of his best seasons, completing 72% of his passes for 23 TDs and just eight interceptions. Easily the greatest quarterback in Saints history -- last season marked his 11th Pro Bowl appearance -- Brees is also cherished as a humanitarian in New Orleans. The Saints were poised to make it back to the NFC title game in January, but gave up a heartbreaking last-minute touchdown to the Vikings instead. In March, Brees was rewarded with a two-year $50 million deal.
The Oakland Raiders made Derek Carr their franchise QB in 2017 with a five-year, $125 million deal -- briefly crowning the former Fresno State man as the highest paid player in the league. Carr has been a Pro-Bowler three of his first four seasons in Oakland, and should be a mainstay with the team well into its planned move to Las Vegas set for 2020. Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Weeks before the start of the 2017 campaign, Detroit made Stafford the highest-paid player in NFL history with a five year, $135 million deal. Though he led the NFL in passing yards, the Lions failed to make the playoffs last season. Stafford is the Lions' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. The 10-year veteran's 112-game starting streak is tied for 8th best all time. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A former backup to Tom Brady in New England, Jimmy Garoppolo took over a terrible 1-10 San Francisco 49ers team last season and promptly won the final five games. Although he has only started seven games his entire career, Garoppolo was rewarded with a five-year, $137.5 million contract in the offseason. Now the pressure is on. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Unable to agree on a a long-term deal with the Washington Redskins, Cousins' patience finally paid off to the tune of a $84 million over three years with the Minnesota Vikings. After successfully betting on himself, the 2016 Pro-Bowler laid out the blueprint for future NFL contracts by receiving the highest fully guaranteed deal in league history. Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Last season was a reassuring comeback for "Matty Ice" after suffering perhaps the most remarkable blown lead in sports history at Super Bowl 51 to the New England Patriots. Four-time Pro Bowler Ryan led the Atlanta Falcons back to the playoffs in 2017, losing to eventual champions the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round. His five-year $150 million contract makes him the first $30 million player in NFL history.