Football wasn't about the money in the beginning. Maybe the players wanted to be like their dads who played in the NFL, or maybe they just wanted to have fun with their friends after school. Maybe they wanted to make the kind of money given to professional athletes, but as a kid, you don't play because you'll get you'll get paid someday, when you grow up. No, when most guys first started playing, it was for the love of the game.
In time, it became a means to an end. Playing well in high school led to scholarship offers, which led to an opportunity to play against some of the best young football players in the country (and hopefully receive an education). For those who excelled the opportunity to make a fortune in the NFL was presented to them.
What players can make has changed dramatically since the NFL first started playing. Back in 1965 the New York Jets made waves when they signed Joe Namath to a rookie deal worth $427,000. Rookie minimum for the 2015 season is $435,000 (for one year).
Back in the day guys needed off-season jobs in order to make ends meet. Now guys are setting up their grandchildren for life with the kind of money they make.
The best paying gig comes as no surprise. Of the top 25 highest paid players in NFL history 13 of them are quarterbacks (eight of the top ten are QBs also). Only one wide receiver made the top ten (No. 9 Larry Fitzgerald). Only one defender made the top ten (No. 6 Julius Peppers); eight made the top 25.
Perhaps the most telling name on the list is Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas (No. 17). He is the only offensive lineman in the top 25. You would think teams might want to pay the guys that protect their high priced quarterbacks a little better, but they don't.
The top 25 highest paid players in NFL history are as follows:
25. Ndaukong Suh, Miami Dolphins, Defensive Tackle– $90,715,157
24. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens, Linebacker– $92,710,000
23. Charles Woodson, Oakland Raiders, Safety– $92,918,000
22. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, Quarterback– $93,778,969
21. Dwight Freeney, Arizona Cardinals, Linebacker– $96,122,902
20. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, Quarterback– $96,189,307
19. Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts, Wide Receiver– $96,434,470
18. Jared Allen, Carolina Panthers, Linebacker– $97,861,748
17. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns, Offensive Tackle– $98,850,000
16. Darrelle Revis, New York Jets, Cornerback– $101,199,500
15. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Quarterback– $111,223,256
14. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills, Defensive Lineman– $111,900,000
13. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Wide Receiver– $113,816,086
12. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, Quarterback– $117,950,000
11. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, Quarterback– $118,920,000
10. Michael Vick, Pittsburgh Steelers, Quarterback– $121,211,000
9. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, Wide Receiver– $129,282,500
8. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, Quarterback– $138,127,242
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, Quarterback– $140,529,382
6. Julius Peppers, Green Bay Packers, Linebacker– $147,963,880
5. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, Quarterback– $150,455,000
4. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, Quarterback– $151,910,000
3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, Quarterback– $162,779,500
2. Eli Manning, New York Giants, Quarterback— $187,770,000
The highest paid player in NFL history is….
1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, Quarterback– $244,732,000