As teams splash the cash in free agency this offseason, it’s worth keeping in mind that many NFL players won’t have long careers in which they can keep accumulating money.
The nature of contracts in the NFL, combined with the high turnover and relatively short athletic peaks of players, means earning potential can wildly fluctuate year to year.
The players that do go on to have long, lucrative careers are usually stars and household names – and often quarterbacks.
Here are the active players who have the highest career earnings at their position, according to Spotrac.com.
Quarterback: Eli Manning
If you were expecting Tom Brady or Drew Brees, they’re second and third on the list behind the New York Giants quarterback. The younger Manning brother has so far raked in $219,280,004 for his career, which is second only to brother Peyton ($248,732,000) all-time. Manning’s stats may not justify his bank account, but his two Super Bowl rings have made him worth every penny.
Running back: Adrian Peterson
It’s difficult to sustain a prolonged career as a running back, considering the short shelf-life for the position. But Adrian Peterson, who is arguably the greatest running back ever for a player at his peak, has managed to keep the paychecks coming in even now at the age of 33, having collected $98,208,319 in total.
Wide receiver: Larry Fitzgerald
There are only three wide receivers who’ve cracked nine figures for career earnings, with the Arizona Cardinals star topping Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson with $151,296,387. The 34-year-old will enter his 15th season this year, which could be his final one as retirement beckons.
Tight end: Jason Witten
The ageless wonder holds a slight edge over Tony Gonzalez with $72,753,000 banked so far. It seems like every year the Dallas Cowboys tight end catches at least 60 passes and provides the quarterback with a reliable safety valve. What’s truly remarkable is the 35-year-old has missed all of one game in his career.
Offensive lineman: Joe Thomas
Thomas isn’t technically an active player anymore, but because he just announced his retirement and is the all-time leader for offensive linemen with $122,850,000, we’ll count it. The Cleveland Browns will miss his consistent protection and blocking as they cope without the mainstay for the first time in a long time.
Defensive lineman: Julius Peppers
The defensive end is still collecting paychecks all these years later. It feels like a long time ago Peppers was one of the game’s premier pass rushers in his first stint with Carolina, but he’s still managed to carve out a long career after his prime and earn $159,973,786. Any retirement plans are on hold for another year.
Linebacker: Terrell Suggs
The Baltimore Ravens linebacker isn’t bowing out of the league just yet. And why should he? Suggs racked up 11.0 sacks last season and continues to strike fear in opposing quarterbacks as an effective pass rusher. With $101,210,000 already made, it’s likely money isn’t the main factor in him continuing to play at 35.
Cornerback: Darrelle Revis
It’s been a fast decline for the cornerback, who not that long ago was considered the best at his position and earning an annual salary of $17 million in 2016. But Revis’ future in the NFL is uncertain after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs last month. At least he has $124,211,129 to fall back on.
Safety: Eric Berry
Charles Woodson is the all-time top-earner for safeties, but Berry slides in behind him and ahead of Troy Polamalu with $71,850,300 collected over his career. Just last year, the Kansas City Chiefs playmaker inked a six-year, $78m deal, but ruptured his Achilles in the 2017 opener to miss the rest of the season.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
No one would be surprised if the left-footed kicker called it a career at the age of 40, but he apparently isn’t retiring just yet. Regardless, he won’t be on the Oakland Raiders next season as he tries to find a new home. But his $51,270,137 career earnings should be more than enough to rest his head on at night.
Know more about Sport360 Application