Top 25 Richest NFL Players in the World (2021)

Top 25 Richest NFL Players in the world

It’s a well-known fact that professional athletes make absolute bank, whether through contracts (salaries) or endorsements. But just who makes it, and exactly how much do they make? Read on to find out which NFL players rank in the top 25 richest in the world as of 2021 (Hint: It’s almost exclusively quarterbacks!).

Top 25 Richest NFL Players in the World 

This list will cover the top 25 richest NFL players, if you are big into football you will most likely recognize most if not all names.

25. Frank Gifford – $25 Million

Frank Gifford was 84 years old when he died on August 9, 2015. After a diverse career on and off the field, he and his wife, TV star Kathy Lee Gifford, had amassed a combined net worth of $60 million. 

Gifford’s football career playing both running back and defensive back for the New York Giants started in 1952 and spanned 12 years. After retiring from football, Gifford became a broadcaster for CBS, then served as a play-by-play announcer and commentator of ABC’s Monday Night Football for 27 years. In 1977, Gifford was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

24. Carson Palmer – $60 Million

Credits: Mike McGinnis

Talented from a young age, Carson Palmer won the 2002 Heisman Trophy while playing for USC. Palmer’s professional football career was speckled with injuries, including, in 2006, a potentially career-ending knee injury that resulted in “Carson Palmer’s Rule,” a modification to the rule involving low hits to quarterbacks.

The quarterback was drafted first overall onto the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2003 NFL Draft, subsequently played for the Oakland Raiders, and was then traded to the Arizona Cardinals, where he stayed until his retirement in 2018. 

23. Michael Strahan – $65 Million

Credits: CheatSheet

Michael Strahan set several records for sacks as a defensive end at Texas Southern University and in the NFL. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and has been involved in notable charitable endeavors.

In 2007, Strahan retired from a 15-year career with the New York Giants to be an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday, the most-watched NFL pregame show for the past 25 seasons. This position, combined with various other broadcasting/hosting stints, has left him with an annual salary of $17 million! 

22. Tony Romo – $70 Million

Tony Romo
Credits: Matthew Eisman

Following the trend of football retirees-turned media personalities, earlier this year, Tony Romo signed a $100 million contract with CBS which pays $17 million per year—making him the highest-paid sportscaster in history! 

Romo signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after playing for Eastern Illinois University. After a 14-year career, he retired in 2016 after losing his starting position due to a back injury. 

He holds a few Cowboys team records and notably held the record for the highest quarterback passer rating in the fourth quarter from 2006 to 2013. 

21. Sam Bradford – $70 Million

Credits: Matthew Healy

With a professional football career of 8 years (nine seasons 2010-2018), quarterback Sam Bradford is one of the highest-earning players in NFL history. Earning $130 million in salary alone, he was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft after playing at the University of Oklahoma.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, then to the Minnesota Vikings; in 2018, Bradford signed a contract with the Arizona Cardinals but was released after playing poorly. Aside from his wealth (including a $24 million salary!), his legacy record is for the highest regular-season pass completion percentage in 2016.     

20. Matt Ryan – $70 Million

Matt Ryan
Credits: Todd Kirkland

After playing at Boston College, Matt Ryan was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 as starting quarterback. Beginning strong, he completed his first NFL pass for a touchdown, and he currently holds the NFL records for most passing yards in a player’s first 10, 11, and 12 years.

In addition, Ryan became the first NFL player to earn $30 million from salary after signing a $150 million extension with the Falcons in 2018. In June 2020, he started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the black community in Atlanta; he donated $500,000 himself. 

19. Kirk Cousins – $70 Million

Kirk Cousins
Credits: Getty Images

Kirk Cousins played at Michigan State and was drafted onto the Washington Redskins in 2012, where he played quarterback for the next 5 years. In 2018, he joined the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent with a $84 million contract, and in 2020 signed a two-year $66 million contract extension with a $30 million signing bonus!

Cousins set numerous franchise records with the Redskins, but the $84 million contracts was both the first-ever fully guaranteed contract and the highest paying contract (as of signing) in NFL history.

18. Joe Flacco – $75 Million

Joe Flacco
Credits: Penn Live

Joe Flacco played at the University of Delaware after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh (where he also played) and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 where he was starting quarterback. Flacco was traded to the Denver Broncos following several serious injuries.

Misfortune befell him yet again when he suffered a neck injury that required surgery (April 2020) which ended his 2019 season and resulted in the release from the Broncos.

Earlier this year, Flacco signed a $1.5 million contract with the New York Jets but is currently on the active/physically unable to perform list as of July 2020.

17. Philip Rivers – $80 Million

Credits: AthlonSports

After playing at North Carolina State University, Philip Rivers was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 2004 NFL Draft. After finishing a six-year contract for $92 million, he signed an additional four-year contract with the Chargers for $84 million in 2015.

During his time with the Chargers, Rivers pulled off a number of fourth-quarter comebacks, and he currently holds sixth place for total career regular-season pass completions. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts for $25 million in 2020. 

16. Tom Condon – $100 Million

To be fair, while Tom Condon did play football, he has earned most of his wealth from his time as a professional sports agent. While at Boston College, he was drafted to play offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs in 1974, then the New England Patriots in 1985, and earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore during the off-season.

As of 2019, Sam Bradford, Drew Brees, Eli, and Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, and J.J. Watt were on his client roster. 

15. Joe Montana – $100 Million

Joe Montana
Credits: Thearom W. Henderson

Having played at Notre Dame and graduated with a degree in business administration and marketing, Joe Montana was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1979 NFL Draft. After a ‘quarterback controversy’, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993 and signed a 3-year $10 million contract.

Over his professional football career, he led over 30 fourth quarter ‘come-from-behind’ victories. Among many other awards and accomplishments, Montana was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Today, he produces his own wine under the Montagia label. 

14. Fran Tarkenton – $100 Million

Credits: Vikings

H. Darr Beiser/USA TODAY Sports

Fran Tarkenton has led a full life, from NFL quarterback to media personality to computer software executive, earning himself a $100 million net worth. He first played at the University of Georgia and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1961 NFL Draft.

He played for the Vikings for 6 seasons, the New York Giants for 5 seasons after that, and the Vikings again for another 7 seasons after that. Fran Tarkenton owned every major quarterback record at his retirement and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He owns multiple businesses and $40 million in Apple stock (reportedly). 

13. Brett Favre – $100 Million

Brett Favre
Credits: Pennlive

Brett Favre played college football for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and four different NFL teams over the course of his professional football career: the Atlanta Falcons (1991), the Green Bay Packers (1992-2007), the New York Jets (2008), and the Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010). He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Favre still holds many NFL records, including third place for total regular-season pass completions, only behind Drew Brees and Tom Brady (both of which are still active in the NFL). Both during and after his professional career, Favre raked in money through endorsements. 

12. Ben Roethlisberger – $100 Million

Credits: Gene J. Puskar

Ben Roethlisberger played at Miami University and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 NFL Draft. At the young age of 23, he became the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl in NFL history at Super Bowl XL. He has also established himself as one of the most efficient passers in NFL history.

Due to sexual assault allegations in 2008 and 2010, Roethlisberger lost endorsement deals—which must not hurt too badly since he signed an eight-year $102 million contract with the Steelers in 2008. Most recently, in 2019, he signed a two-year $68 million contract extension, with a $37.5 million signing bonus.

11. Aaron Rodgers – $120 Million

Aaron Rodgers
Credits: Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers played for the California Golden Bears (UC Berkley) and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft. He replaced Brett Favre as quarterback after Favre made his first retirement announcement in 2008.

Among other impressive records, Rodgers holds the first place for the NFL’s all-time regular-season career passer rating. His contracts with the Packers break down as follows: a six-year $65 million extension in 2008, a five-year $110 million extension in 2013, and a four-year $134 million extension (with a $57.5 million signing bonus!) with the Packers in 2018.

10. Russel Wilson – $125 Million

Russel Wilson
Credits: AP Photo

Remarkably talented from a young age, Russel Wilson first played football and baseball for North Carolina State. He then played for the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a year, and then trained for the NFL Scouting Combine and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Wilson is one of two players with a career passer rating over 100 (second to Aaron Rodgers). His contracts with the Seahawks break down as follows: a four-year $2.99 million contract in 2012, a four-year $87.6 million contract extension in 2015, and another four-year $140 million contract extension in 2019. 

9. John Elway – $145 Million

Credits: USA Today Sports

John Elway played at Stanford University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He controversially strong-armed his trade from the Baltimore Colts (who picked him in the 1983 NFL Draft) to the Denver Broncos, where he spent the entirety of his 16-year career, eventually performing the play popularly known as “The Drive”.

He later refused an offer for a 20% stake in the Broncos—which would now be worth around $600 million! Elway made a number of other bad investments, but he has seen success with the various car dealerships he established over the years. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. 

8. Roger Goodell – $150 Million

Roger Goodell
Credits: David J. Philip

Roger Goodell is the Commissioner of the NFL. He played football, basketball, and baseball in high school, but was prevented from playing football for Washington & Jefferson College due to an injury sustained in high school.

He graduated with a degree in economics and immediately became an administrative intern for the NFL in a New York office. Since being appointed Commissioner in 2006, he’s made a total of $328.7 million from his “incentive-based” contracts. 

7. Eli Manning – $150 Million

Credits: Steven Ryan

Eli Manning played at the University of Mississippi (graduating with a degree in marketing) and ended up on the New York Giants where he stayed for a successful 16-year career. He retired in 2020.

He made $8-10 million annually from endorsements alone, and his contracts with the Giants break down as follows: a six-year $45 million contract in 2004, a six-year $97.5 million extension in 2009, and a four-year $84 million extension in 2015.

6. Drew Brees – $180 Million

Drew Brees
Credits: David Goldman

As one of the most talented quarterbacks of all time, Drew Brees first played at Purdue (graduating with a degree in industrial management) and was drafted by the San Diego chargers in the 2001 NFL Draft. He then negotiated a deal with the New Orleans Saints in 2006, where he remains to this day. Among other impressive stats, Brees holds third place for career passer rating at 98.4. 

His contracts break down as follows: a one-year $8 million contract with the Chargers in 2005, a six-year $60 million deal with the Saints in 2006, a five-year $100 million extension in 2012, a two-year $50 million extension in 2018, and a two-year $50 million extension in 2020. 

5. Tom Brady – $200 Million

Tom Brady
Credits: Adam Glanzman

After playing at the University of Michigan, Tom Brady was selected by the New England Patriots in the 2000 NFL Draft. He was selected very late in the draft and is thus considered the biggest “steal” in NFL Draft history.

Brady has the most Super Bowl titles of any quarterback. His contract history breaks down as follows: a four-year $72 million extension with the Patriots in 2009, a three-year $27 million extension in 2013, and a two-year $70 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

4. Steve Young – $200 Million

Credits: Kyle Terada

Steve Young, a direct descendent of Brigham Young, first played for BYU and was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 1987 after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986.  He set many NFL records during his 15-year career.

Before playing in the NFL, he signed a $40 million contract with the USFL in 1984. He has led a successful business career since his retirement, serving as managing director for the equity firm he co-founded- Huntsman Gay Global Capital (HGGC).

3. John Madden – $200 Million

Credits: Kirby Lee

John Madden, of the Madden NFL video game series, played at an assortment of colleges before being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958. Injuries to both knees ended his NFL career before it even began.

He proceeded to become a successful coach (for the Oakland Raiders in 1969 at just 32!) and became known for his commentating and Madden NFL endorsements (to which the majority of his wealth is owed).

2. Peyton Manning – $250 Million

Peyton Manning
Credits: Michael Hickey

Peyton Manning, brother to Eli Manning, is well-known both for his successful NFL career and for his frequent endorsements of major brands and companies. He played at the University of Tennessee and was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft, where he stayed until 2010.

He then signed a five-year $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos in 2012 and retired in 2017 after an 18-year career. 

1. Roger Staubach – $600 Million

Credits: Sharon Ellman

Roger Staubach began his football career at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 but didn’t actually play in the NFL until 1969, upon completion of his military service.

Roger Staubach negotiated his own first contract ($75,000 per year for three years) and played for the Cowboys for 11 years. He then started a commercial real estate business – The Staubach Company—which he sold in 2008 for a cool $613 million. 

Top 25 Richest NFL Players in the World (Rankings)

Final Words

While these numbers may seem astronomical, remember that the NFL has taken a huge financial hit this year because of the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how this toll affects future contracts. Comment who you think will set the next record-breaking contract!

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