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The nine most massive NFL contracts in league history

NFL contracts are set to boom with the league’s new $110 billion dollar TV deal, and some of the contracts in the coming years will likely be the highest in league history.

So far this offseason, we have not seen many huge contracts being handed out, simply because the talent in the market this year doesn’t have any huge names.

However, huge contracts have been given out throughout the past decade. So let us go through some of the biggest NFL contracts (or paydays, yearly) in league history.

Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings: $40 million (2020)

nfl contracts
Kirk Cousins poses with his new jersey along with, from left, Coach Mike Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and owner Mark Wilf on Thursday. (Jim Mone/AP)

I’m going to try to hold my personal opinions on these contracts to a minimum in this article. However, Kirk Cousins never deserved a $40 million contract. But he did get one in 2020.

NFL league history has perhaps never seen such an average player garner such a massive contract.

Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs: $40 million (2018)

nfl contracts
Alex Smith getting ready to let it fly (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

We are going to see the Chiefs on this list again soon. But in 2018 the Chiefs handed out $40 million to Smith.

Interestingly enough, this money was paid by the Washington Football team, at the time the Washington Redskins. This was after the Redskins traded for Smith, so they could move on from the aforementioned Kirk Cousins.

The Chiefs decided to move on from Alex Smith after one of his best years in the NFL. Why? Well because they had future MVP Patrick Mahomes on the bench. Also, because Smith never faired well in the playoffs and it was seen as the right moment to move on.

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints: $40 million (2012)

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Brees gets ready for a playoff game in New Orleans (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Drew Brees, who just recently retired, signed one of the biggest contracts in NFL History in 2012, when he signed a 5 year, $100 million contract. This made him the first $20 million-a-year player in the history of the NFL.

I assume some are confused while reading this because $40 million in 2012, isn’t $20 million as I had said in the previous sentence. Well, how many contracts work in sports is that they are frontloaded (signing bonus).

This means that while the average for the contract is $20 million each year, the Saints gave Brees a higher percentage of the contract in 2012, as an incentive.

Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons: $44.8 million (2019)

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Matt Ryan letting it fly (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Ryan, a quarterback that may be on the move this offseason, has always been held in high regard. However, the past 5 years or so have been filled with bad luck for the Falcons and Ryan.

We all know the heroics of the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. But, the Falcons have found themselves all too familiar with heartbreaking losses. The constant heart-ache has led the once-beloved quarterback to be on the fringes of the team.

However, not too long ago Ryan was given a ginormous contract. This was because the Falcons still had hope they could make one more run.

Recent futility now has the Falcons in a rebuilding stage. And a 35-year-old QB doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team.

Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs: $45 million (2020)

Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. (Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

10 years, $450 million.

That is the contract the Chiefs signed with Mahomes in July of 2020. If this was an article about the biggest contracts in NFL history, Mahomes would jump to the top. However, in terms of most per year Mahomes lands at #5.

We cannot ignore the talent Mahomes has. After the disappointing loss to the Buccaneers in this year’s Super Bowl, the sky is still the limit for Patrick Mahomes. If injury’s don’t derail his career Mahomes may end his career as the best quarterback the world has ever seen.

Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions: $51.1 million (2017)

Matthew Stafford was then the NFL’s highest-paid player. 
(AJ Mast/AP)

Matthew Stafford was supposed to be the one to lead the Lions to the promised land. He was always loyal to the Lions and had been through rebuild after rebuild with Detroit.

However, he was also loyal because they paid him to be with a massive NFL contract, racking up $225 million over his 12-year career, all 12 spent in Detroit thus far.

Now, after a blockbuster trade, he will play his first game for a different team, the Los Angeles Rams, who sent away their young QB Jarred Goff. You have to be a pretty outstanding quarterback for a team to risk their future, but many believe that Stafford is just that guy.

Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks: $53 million (2020)

Russell Wilson locked in (OTTO GREULE JR / GETTY IMAGES)

The former 3rd round pick ranks #3 in biggest paydays, for good reason. Russel Wilson was in no way touted to be the player he is today. The gritty, go-get-them attitude is what has Wilson in the place he is today, oh and of course his clutch plays that seem to come too easy for him.

Even though he may soon be moving on from the Seahawks, most soon expect an even bigger payday, as he just gets better and better year in and year out.

Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers: $66.9 million (2018)

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Aaron Rodgers celebrating in his signature style (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Rodgers, last year’s MVP, always finds himself at the top of the charts for best in the league, and that is why he has had the second-biggest payday in league history. Rodgers, who some say has more talent than Tom Brady, seems to just continue to get better and better.

Although the talent is for sure there, in recent years Aaron Rodgers has seemed to not be able to take the Packers over the hump and get them back to the promised land. 

Although it may sound unfair, you would think that 16 years of Aaron Rodgers would net more than 1 Super Bowl appearance. 

Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys: $75 million (2021)

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Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass to Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Last year started off extremely well for Prescott as he was heavily involved in the MVP discussions. However, a terrible ankle injury sidelined him for the rest of the season, leaving the Cowboys with… well, Andy Dalton.

Many weren’t sure if this injury would have an impact on a contract extension. Jerry Jones, it seemed, wasn’t sure if he wanted to open his pockets for his young quarterback, but he definitely did.

Handing Prescott a 4 year, $160 million contract, with the largest first-year salary of $75 million ever, Jones definitely paid up with this NFL contract.

NFL yearly contracts change the perception of league history

One of the most fun times of the year for sports fans isn’t when the season starts, but instead during free agency. It is a time of hope, that your team will put together an amazing offseason, get that huge star and change the future of the team.

However, it is also a very fun period for some of the league’s best, who garner huge contracts. And currently, the NFL is in that free agency period.

The NFL and its new deal means the league is flush with cash. Thus, teams will be too. Look for superstars, and even average quarterbacks, to soon garner even loftier NFL contracts than we have ever seen before.