Our list for the 10 highest paid players in the 2016 NFL season is based on total cash and not base salaries, which means players receiving huge signing bonuses for more recent contract deals fill up the top 10. Five non-quarterbacks made it on the list: Muhammad Wilkerson, Justin Houston, Olivier Vernon, Fletcher Cox and Von Miller. Among quarterbacks, only one, Brock Osweiler, didn’t sign the massive deal with the team he played for last season.
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans: $21 million
After half a season of starting in Denver, and a full playoff of sitting down, Osweiler didn’t want to stay with the Broncos anymore, landing a four-year, $72 million deal with the Texans, that includes $37 million in guaranteed salary and $12 million as a signing bonus. He makes $4 million as base salary in 2016.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: $22 million
The 34-year old quarterback signed a four-year extension with the Chargers on August 17, 2015. That includes $37.5 million in full guarantees and a $22.5 million signing bonus. He makes $16.5 million in base salary in 2016.
Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets: $22 million
After it looked like the Jets would have to trade Wilkerson, the two sides came to an agreement over a long term contract. The defensive end signed a five-year, $86 million contract, with $36.8 million fully guaranteed. This comes with a $15 million signing bonus, and a $2.5 million base salary in 2016.
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs: $23.5 million
Houston and the Chiefs agreed to a six-year extension on August 2015. The 27-year old linebacker gets $101 million including 32.5 million fully guaranteed. This means a $20.5 million signing bonus. He’ll make $14.9 million as base salary in 2016.
Von Miller, Denver Broncos: $25 million
Despite the back and forth between the Super Bowl MVP and the Broncos, there was no way Miller wasn’t getting a long term deal this offseason. In the end, the numbers came up to six years and $114.5 million. He got $42 million guaranteed upon signing, including a $17.5 million signing bonus and a $6 million roster bonus. In 2016, his base salary is $2 million.
Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles: $27.3 million
The Eagles defensive tackle signed a six-year, $102.6 million deal with the Eagles, which includes a $26 million signing bonus and $36.3 million in fully guaranteed money. He’ll make $1.3 million as base salary in 2016, and his cap hit doesn’t become substantial until the 2018 season ($6.5 million this year, $9.4 million the next).
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: $28.7 million
Back in March, Brady signed a two-year extension worth $41 million, which includes $28 million fully guaranteed, all coming in the form of a signing bonus. In 2016, his base salary is only $764,000 after the four-game suspension was upheld.
Olivier Vernon, New York Giants: $29 million
Vernon signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the New York Giants this offseason, one of the two players in the top 10 switching teams. His signing bonus is $20 million, part of $40 million in full guarantees. He’ll make $1.75 million in base salary in 2016.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: $29 million
Flacco played in just 10 games for the Ravens last season, part of an injury plague that destroyed their season, which wasn’t going well from the start. He signed a three-year extension in March, keeping him with the team until 2021. The extension is worth $66.4 million. It’s $44 million fully guaranteed, $40 million as a signing bonus. His base salary in 2016 is $4 million.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: $30 million
Luck signed the big quarterback contract that sets a standard for the next extensions lined up for franchise QBs coming off their rookie deals. Luck signed a five-year extension worth $122.7 million with the Colts, with $47 million fully guaranteed. The signing bonus is $32 million. He’ll have a base salary of $12 million in 2016.
And if we’re going by base salary:
10. Justin Houston, Chiefs: $14.9 million
9. Matt Ryan, Falcons: $15.75 million
8. Jay Cutler, Bears: $16 million
7. Philip Rivers, Chargers: $16.5 million
6-5. Darrelle Revis, Jets: $17 million
6-5. Matthew Stafford, Lions: $17 million
4. Eli Manning, Giants: $17.5 million
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: $17.75 million
2. Drew Brees, Saints: $19.75 million
Number one: Kirk Cousins, Redskins: $19.95 million (franchise tag)