As nice as it feels to be liked by the masses, the NFL is not a popularity contest. Many of today’s top players would rather be respected as great talents than be adored for being pleasant individuals. Of course, when it comes to earning massive paychecks as the highest-paid NFL players, it never hurts to be a hit both on and off the field.
Although the average salary in the National Football League is $2.1 million, according to the fine folks at Forbes, the 15 players at the top of the financial food chain combined to make $535 million in salary, bonuses, and endorsement money during the past year. In case you wonder how this figure is calculated, take a look at Forbes’ methodology:
Our earnings figures consider salary and bonuses (signing, roster, option, playoff and workout) earned between June 1, 2015 and June 1, 2016. They also include estimated earnings from endorsements, appearances and licensing money paid by the NFL Players Association. Our June cutoff means we did not include players with new contracts signed over the summer like Luck ($139.1 million), Von Miller ($114.5 million) and Fletcher Cox ($102.6 million).
In the end, of course, all anyone cares about is which players came out on top. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 15 highest-paid NFL players in 2016.
- Trent Williams
Total earnings: $25.6 million
Since the Washington Redskins selected Trent Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, he quickly emerged as one of the top left tackles in the game today. The former Oklahoma Sooner has earned four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. He was handsomely rewarded to protect the blind side, and according to Forbes, was the 15th highest-paid NFL player over the past year with $25.6 million in total earnings. Given this information, the above picture is clearly not Williams’ reaction to his most recent bank statement.
- Cameron Jordan
Total earnings: $25.9 million
Now in his sixth NFL season, all with the New Orleans Saints, defensive end Cameron Jordan has amassed 40 sacks, recovered eight fumbles, and made two separate trips (2013 and 2015) to the Pro Bowl. For his efforts, the Saints rewarded the former Cal Bear with a five-year, $55 million contract that runs through the 2020 season. While Jordan has only earned $100,000 in endorsements this past year, when you’ve managed to collect $25.8 million in salary and bonuses, you can afford to let the little things slide.
- Luke Kuechly
Total earnings: $27.1 million
The Carolina Panthers know full well what kind of player they have in Luke Kuechly, which is why they had no problem rewarding him with a five-year, $62 million deal back in 2015. Of course, when you’re arguably the best inside linebacker in the game, as evidenced by three trips to the Pro Bowl and three First-Team All-Pro selections since 2012, not only do you make money for your work on the field ($26.1 million in salary and bonuses), you also earn coin from endorsement opportunities ($1 million in the last year) with companies like Nike and Pepsi among others.
- Julio Jones
Total earnings: $27.2 million
In 2015, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had the best season of his career. He led the NFL in receptions (136), receiving yards (1,871), and yards per game (116.9); earned his third career trip to the Pro Bowl, and received First-Team All-Pro honors. As far as his total haul ($27.2 million) over the last year is concerned, it’s safe to say he more than earned it.
- Olivier Vernon
Total earnings: $29 million
Don’t let the above picture fool you, Olivier Vernon is no longer with the Miami Dolphins, as the defensive end signed with the New York Giants this past offseason for a cool $85 million over fives years. The real joke, however, is that the former Miami Hurricanes star has banked $29 million in the last year without ever having made a Pro Bowl or received All-NFL honors. Yeah, this is us laughing.