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NFL Players with the Highest Career Earnings Since 2000

NFL Players with the Highest Career Earnings Since 2000
David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVNovember 25, 2023

NFL Players with the Highest Career Earnings Since 2000

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    Aaron Rodgers

    Aaron RodgersMichael Owens/Getty Images

    While the primary goal for NFL players is winning a Super Bowl, they’re all collecting paychecks along the way.

    Over time, those numbers can really add up. Second and third contracts tend to provide generational wealth—sometimes to the point of nine-figure earnings where the first number isn’t a one.

    Eleven players, in fact, have earned more than $200 million in their careers. Unsurprisingly, each one is a quarterback.

    All contract data is from Spotrac.

More to Know

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - OCTOBER 23: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 23, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

    Eli Manning ($252.3 million): A two-time Super Bowl champion, Manning spent his entire 16-year career with the New York Giants. He ranks 10th all-time in both passing yards (57,023) and touchdowns (366).

    Peyton Manning ($248.7 million): The record-setting Hall of Famer won five MVPs and two championships, guiding both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos to a title. Manning retired as the NFL’s leader in career passing yards (71,940) and touchdowns (539).

    Philip Rivers ($243.9 million): Rivers won neither an MVP nor a ring, but he still assembled a prolific career. Only five players have totaled more yards and touchdowns than Rivers, who amassed 63,440 and 421, respectively, in 16 years with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and one on the Colts.

    Kirk Cousins ($231.7 million): Although an Achilles injury ended his 2023 season, Cousins will presumably sign another deal in free agency. That contract will likely help him surpass the above trio. Cousins ranks 20th in NFL history with 270 touchdown passes.

Russell Wilson

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    DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 19:  Russell Wilson #3 of the Denver Broncos searches for a target in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High on November 19, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Career earnings: $266.4 million

    Timing is everything.

    Among the 11 players featured on this list, Cousins and Russell Wilson are the only players who haven’t yet played 15 seasons. As of the 2023 campaign, both of them are 12th-year pros.

    Wilson has parlayed an impressive start on his inexpensive rookie deal into a quarter-billion dollars of earnings.

    In a decade with the Seattle Seahawks, he guided the franchise to eight playoff trips, four NFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship. He’s spent the last two years on the Denver Broncos.

    Wilson is one of only 14 quarterbacks in league history to surpass 40,000 passing yards and 300 touchdowns.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 26: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass from the pocket in the third quarter of an NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs on Dec 26, 2021 at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Career earnings: $267.3 million

    Few players have enjoyed such a productive start to their NFL careers. As a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger replaced an injured Tommy Maddox, went 13-0 and won AP Rookie of the Year.

    Not the worst!

    “Big Ben” became a fixture in Pittsburgh, racking up 247 starts over 18 seasons and leading the Steelers to a pair of championships. In addition a third AFC title, Pittsburgh won 165 games and eight division crowns with him under center.

    Roethlisberger twice led the NFL in passing yards on his way to ranking fifth all-time with 64,088 in his career. He also tossed 418 touchdowns and is one of just eight QBs to hit 400.

Drew Brees

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    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 15: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints drops back to pass during an NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 15, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Career earnings: $269.7 million

    Short of winning a regular-season MVP, Drew Brees did just about everything imaginable in his NFL career.

    After spending five seasons on the San Diego Chargers, he signed with the New Orleans Saints. Brees played 20 years in the NFL, collecting a since-passed NFL-record 80,358 yards and 571 touchdowns.

    And his trophy case is pretty darn full.

    Brees won a Super Bowl and earned MVP in the victory, adding two AP Offensive Player of the Year honors, one Comeback Player of the Year award and All-Pro recognition five times.

    In all likelihood, Brees will be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection when he’s eligible in 2026.

Matt Ryan

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 06: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons during the week 13 NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints on December 06, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Career earnings: $303.7 million

    Similar to Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan spent the final year of a long career in Indianapolis. Primarily, though, he’s remembered for being the most productive quarterback ever for the Atlanta Falcons.

    Ryan guided the Falcons agonizingly close to a championship in 2016, a season when he secured the league MVP.

    Overall, he played 14 seasons in Atlanta and gathered most of his 62,792 yards and 381 touchdowns. Those numbers rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in NFL history.

    Ryan also won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.

Matthew Stafford

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams prepares for the snap during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Career earnings: $328.3 million

    Matthew Stafford has never—and I literally mean never—been a contender for the most prominent individual awards.

    Yes, he won Comeback Player of the Year in 2011. However, that’s an honor that requires some negative context—an injury, in his case—for eligibility. Throughout his 15 seasons (and counting), Stafford has received exactly zero votes for MVP or Offensive Player of the Year.

    But he has a ring.

    Stafford spent 12 seasons on the Detroit Lions, making his share of mistakes but elevating a hapless franchise as much as possible. He passed for more than 45,000 yards before requesting a trade in 2021.

    Detroit sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, where he immediately propelled them to a Super Bowl win.

    If he returns for 2024 and has a healthy year, Stafford will likely surpass Eli Manning to rank 10th all-time in passing yards and touchdowns.

Tom Brady

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    TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 19:  Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passes during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on December 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Career earnings: $333 million

    The wildest part? Tom Brady could’ve made more.

    For much of his 23-year career, however, Brady accepted below-market contracts to help the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers pad their rosters. (It’s also because, as he once said, his ex-wife, model Gisele Bündchen, made “a lot of money.”)

    Brady exited the NFL as the most accomplished quarterback ever. He’s a seven-time Super Bowl champion and three-time MVP who’s the all-time leader in passing yards (89,214) and touchdowns (649).

    It’s safe to say Brady is a lock to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2028 class.

Aaron Rodgers

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 25: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field on December 25, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Browns 24-22. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Career earnings: $342.5 million

    Brady is the NFL’s most accomplished quarterback, period. Aaron Rodgers, though, may be the most talented QB in history.

    A first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2005, he served as Brett Favre’s backup for three seasons. Rodgers’ debut as a starter came in 2008—the same year as Matt Ryan, for comparison—and he soon became the class of the position.

    Rodgers led the Packers to 11 postseason trips with eight NFC North crowns and a Super Bowl in 2010.

    Following the 2022 season, he requested a trade and moved from Green Bay to the New York Jets. Rodgers is expected to return in 2024 after an Achilles injury abruptly ended his debut with New York.

    Either way, Rodgers holds the NFL’s all-time lowest interception rate, and he’s currently fifth and ninth in passing yards and touchdowns, respectively, with 59,055 and 475.

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