They are the stars of the gridiron, the ones we wait for and watch every Sunday and Monday night. The best games ever played can be identified and described by a word or two. From “The Catch” to “The Drive,” football will always be a part of our culture.
The players make the game memorable. Their awesome combination of strength, speed, agility, range, intelligence and brute force leaves the fans in awe. Sure they have pads and helmets to protect them, but in this highly profitable, albeit violent, sport, it is just right that the stars earn millions as they put their bodies on the line each and every week. Here is a list of the top 10 highest paid players in the National Football League.
10 Dwight Freeney, Defensive End, Indianapolis Colts - $19,035,000
He is a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. He played in college for Syracuse University where he earned All-American honors. Chosen in the first round of the 2002 draft, Freeney has been selected for the Pro Bowl seven times. He is on the final year of a six-year, $72 million contract. While he is the franchise leader in sacks, his numbers went down this year. He has been forced to play an outside linebacker role because of his team’s defensive realignment. Still, he has helped the team into the playoffs in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, so he may still have deserved the salary he took in this year.
9 Elvis Dumervil, Defensive End, Denver Broncos - $18,948,000
He plays defensive end for the Denver Broncos. He was an All-American back in college when he played for the University of Louisville. A fourth round draft pick in 2006, Dumvervil has made the Pro Bowl twice. He signed a rich contract with the team that will keep him in Colorado until 2015. He missed out on the 2010 season, however, with a torn pectoral muscle.
8 Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos - $18,000,000
He used to be the face of the Indianapolis Colts. He led the team to several playoff appearances and a Super Bowl championship. He is a four-time Most Valuable Player awardee, 12-time Pro Bowler and has passed for over 4,000 yards for 12 seasons. He is also the Colts’ leader in touchdown passes and passing yards. Sports Illustrated named him the NFL Player of the Decade. He then missed the entire 2011 season because of a neck injury. He then transferred to the Broncos and he picked up right where he left off. The Broncos easily made the playoffs with the best record in its conference.
7 Chris Long, Defensive End, St. Louis Rams - $16,360,000
He was a second round draft pick in 2008. He used to play college football for the University of Virginia. He plays both sides of the defensive end. His versatility is his main asset, which allows him to play as a linebacker in certain situations. He led his team in sacks in 2012 with 11.5. He also led the Rams in quarterback hits and hurries. Long has also been named a Pro Bowl alternate for three straight seasons.
6 Sam Bradford, Quarterback, St. Louis Rams - $15,595,000
He is the quarterback of the St. Louis Rams. He played in college for the University of Oklahoma, where he set an NCAA record for most touchdown passes by a freshman quarterback with 36. As a sophomore, he won the Heisman Trophy for college football’s best player. He was the first pick overall in the 2010 draft and Bradford immediately made an impact. He set a record for most completions by a rookie quarterback in the NFL. He was also awarded as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
5 Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers - $15,310,00
He is the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers. He played in college for the North Carolina State University. He actually was only traded to the Chargers for Eli Manning, who went to the New York Giants. In San Diego, he came off the bench to lead the Chargers to a 14-2 record in his first full season as a starter. He also led the team to its first playoff win since 1994. The team has also gone to the conference championship game.
4 Jared Allen, Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings - $15,203,194
Jared Allen is a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings. He played college football in Idaho State before being picked by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. He has been chosen five times for the Pro Bowl and has been an All-Pro four times. He has recorded 117 sacks in his career. He already holds the franchise record for most sacks in a single season.
3 Trent Williams, Offensive Tackle, Washington Redskins - $14,000,000
Trent Williams used to play college football for the University of Oklahoma where he was an All-American. He was drafted in 2010 when he was considered as one of the best prospects at the offensive tackle position. He was named offensive co-captain of the Redskins in 2011 along with veteran Santana Moss. He has been plagued with drug problems, however. Still, he had his best season in 2012 and was named to the Pro Bowl.
2 Michael Vick, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles - $13,900,000
Michael Vick is a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. He played college football in Virginia Tech where he was a Heisman Trophy candidate. He left after his second year in college. The Atlanta Falcons picked him first overall in the 2001 draft. He led the team to a couple of playoff appearances. He also had three Pro Bowl appearances. He hit a low in 2007, however, after he was implicated, charged and imprisoned for operating a dog fighting ring. He served almost two years in prison and home confinement. He then signed with the Eagles in 2009, became its starting quarterback in 2010 and led the team to the playoffs in 2011.
1 Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals - $13,250,000
He plays wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. He played college football for the University of Pittsburgh. He was chosen in the 2004 draft as the third overall pick. He is also a six-time Pro Bowler.