Who’s the highest-paid carrier, catcher, protector, or pursuer of the pigskin on your favourite team? We’ve got the complete breakdown of the heftiest salaries on each team in the NFL, starting with the AFC.
Nobody in the NFL approaches Kobe Bryant's $30 million non-guaranteed salary for 2013, but the athletes on this list aren't exactly in danger of having transactions cancelled for insufficient funds.
Before we start, let's make something clear. We’re not anti-kickerites here at The Richest, it’s just that no kickers made the list. But because you’re dying to know: The highest-paid kicker in the NFL is the legendary Sea Bass, Sebastian Janikowski, whose 2013 non-guaranteed salary is a cool $4.96 million.
A note: We’ll assume here that the stars align for these players. We’ll expect they collect every variety of incentive, bonus and escalator, and earn every penny of non-guaranteed money. Why? Because we’re optimists, and because a rising tide lifts all boats (or so JFK used to say).
And while there's a big difference between Peyton Manning's $15 million base salary and Eli Manning's $20.85 million in potential money after bonuses (assuming all incentives are reached), we like to think that Eli will make his $20 million. We'd also like to assume that every member of the Giants front office had to have been lobotomized to think giving Eli Manning a $106 million contract was a prudent decision, but that is neither here nor there.
Enough with the chatter. On to the list of the highest salaries for each AFC team for the 2013-14 football season.
4 AFC East
Buffalo Bills: Mario Williams, Defensive End: $18.4 million
When 6’6’’ defensive juggernaut Mario Williams jumped shipped from the Houston Texans in 2012, the Buffalo Bills made him the highest-paid defensive player in history, signing the North Carolina State alum to a six-year $96 million deal.
Miami Dolphins: Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver: $17.25 million
Mike Wallace, who ran a 4.3 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, got a hefty payday when he left the Pittsburgh Steelers to join the Miami Dolphins for the 2013 season, inking a five-year, potential $60 million contract with the team.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Quarterback: $14.8 million
A shoe-in for the pantheon of Boston’s sports greats, Tom Brady could make $14.8 million in 2014. Big deal. Chew on this: In 2013, Brady’s base salary isn’t among the top 10 NFL quarterbacks, and his total, non-guaranteed money places his him behind both Mannings, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees on the list of highest-paid NFL QBs.
New York Jets: Antonio Cromartie, Defensive Back: $14.98 million
In 2014, Antonio Cromartie will reap the benefits of a 2013 restructuring of his contract to the tune of nearly $15 million. It’s tempting to say something here like, “Well, he could need every penny of it at the rate he’s fathering children.” However, that would be below the belt, a region Cromartie…OK. I’ll stop.
3 AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: Haloti Ngata, Defensive Tackle: $16 million
The four-time Pro Bowler is due to make $16 million in 2014 with a guaranteed base salary of $8.5 million. In 2013, Haloti Ngata was the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league and the second-highest-paid Raven behind Terrell Suggs.
Cincinnati Bengals: Leon Hall, Defensive Back: $8.7 million
As he’s presently sitting on the Bengals’ bench with a torn Achilles, it doesn’t look like Leon Hall will be collecting every cent of the $8.7 million the Bengals could pay him in 2014. But as I said earlier, we’re optimists, and Hall could be patrolling Paul Brown Stadium in 2014 in the form that notched him a five-year, $42 million contract with the team.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle: $12.3 million
In 2013, there was only one left tackle paid more than Joe Thomas: Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos. But there was a slight difference between the two players in 2013. Ryan Clady wound up on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury in early September. Thomas did what he’s done since his rookie year: play every single snap.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback: $18.95 million
Another incredibly durable player, Ben Roethlisberger is in the midst of an eight-year, $102 million contract. The highest-paid player in the gritty AFC North, Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback epitomizes the blue-collar mentality of the rust belt teams…even if he makes like 1,000 times the salary of the average blue-collar worker.
2 AFC South
Houston Texans: Matt Schaub, Quarterback: $14.5 million
The Pittsburgh, Pa. native hasn’t exactly done much to justify the $66 million contract he signed in 2012. It’s extremely unlikely Schaub will collect the $10 million base salary he’s due to receive in 2014, let alone any bonuses. From the looks of it, the remainder of the one-time Michael Vick-backup's career will likely be spent as the backup for somebody else.
Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis, Linebacker: $8.75 million
The highest-paid player on the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, Robert Mathis reprises that role in 2014, potentially earning $8.75 million ($3 million base). Mathis signed the deal in 2012, after a 2011 season in which he recorded 43 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks, while starting 15 games. The Alabama A&M grad has only improved since then.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Paul Posluszny, Linebacker: $9.5 million
What earned the pride of Butler, Pa., Paul Posluszny, a six-year, $45 million contract in 2011 with the Jacksonville Jaguars? In a word: consistency. Posluszny has been near the top of the league in tackles since 2010, he starts almost every game, and as a middle linebacker, he anchors and commands a defense. As the eighth-highest-paid ILB in 2013, Posluszny is a bargain for the Jags.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson, Running Back: $10 million
The second-highest-paid running back in the NFL in 2013, Chris CJ2K could make as much as $10 million in 2014. It’s tough to argue against the former Eastern Carolina Pirate getting paid: Johnson has averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry over the course of his career, and has played in at least 14 games each season. That type of productivity and durability is the stuff big contracts are made of.
1 AFC West
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, Quarterback: $17.5 million
Peyton Manning got paid when he landed in Denver, and not just from Papa John Schnatter. Manning was the third-highest-paid QB in the league in 2013, and for 2014 the veteran pigskin slinger is set to keep earning: He’s due to receive a base salary of $15 million with a potential $2.5 million bonus.
Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe, Wide Receiver: $12 million
The former LSU standout took a huge paycut to free up cap space in 2013, earning a base salary of only $750,000, and costing his team a total cap hit of $4 million. In 2014, Bowe will earn a base salary of $8.75 million, with the potential to rake in $12 million total.
Oakland Raiders: Tyvon Branch, Safety: $7.1 million
The 27-year-old safety was the third-highest-paid Oakland Raider in 2013. In 2014, Branch, who restructured his contract this year, will reap the benefits of that unselfishness, earning as much as $7.1 million. Who’s the highest-paid safety in the NFL, you ask? Why that’s Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Diego Chargers: Philip Rivers, Quarterback: $16.6 million
The final entry on our list of the highest-paid players in the AFC is San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. In 2013, Rivers was the sixth-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, with a total potential salary of $13.7 million. In 2014, the 32-year-old will improve upon that number to the tune of nearly $3 million.
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