NFL players, especially quarterbacks, have the opportunity to earn a lot of money during their careers. They usually have several different streams of income, including their NFL contracts, endorsements, investments, and businesses.
While their player contracts are not always necessarily their largest source of income, they are the only stream where the exact amount earned is known by the public.
Here are the five highest-earning NFL players of all time, based only on the total amount of money they have accumulated from all of their NFL team contracts, up to and including the 2022 NFL season.
Here are five NFL players who have earned the most career money from their team contracts:
#5 - Drew Brees - $273,873,000
When Drew Brees retired at the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season, he was the highest earning player of all time. Now that he has been away from football for more than a year, he has been surpassed by four current players in career earnings.
There have been rumors that have surfaced lately that Brees could be considering coming out of retirement and making a return to the field. He recently stated on Twitter that it's a possibility, though it's unclear how serious he is about it. If he were to return, he could join a rare group of players who have exceeded 300 million dollars in career contract earnings.
#4 - Matt Ryan - $291,758,823
Matt Ryan had spent his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons. After winning an MVP award and helping the Falcons win an NFC Championship, they have regularly made him one of the highest-paid players in the league.
After one of the most successful careers in Falcons history, Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts during the 2022 offseason. Now he will play for a different team for the first time in his career.
#3 - Matthew Stafford - $301,058,824
Whether it be for the Detroit Lions or Los Angeles Rams, Matthew Stafford has consistently been one of the highest earning players each season since he entered the league, with the exception of his rookie deal. He was quick to climb the rankings of the highest earning players of all time.
Stafford will be just the third player ever to eclipse 300 million dollars in career contract earnings at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL season. He reached the milestone faster than any other player by a significant margin. He eclipsed 300 million dollars in four and nine fewer years than the only two other players who have done so.
#2 - Aaron Rodgers - $306,692,206
Aaron Rodgers signed a massive contract extension during the 2022 offseason, making him the highest-paid player in the league by average annual value (AAV). He is the first player ever to sign a contract that eclipses 50 million dollars in AAV.
The Green Bay Packers rewarded Rodgers with a mega-deal after his recent dominance in the regular season each year. He has won 13 games in each of the last three regular seasons while also winning the MVP award in each of the last two seasons.
#1 - Tom Brady - $317,594,794
Tom Brady became the first player ever to surpass 300 million dollars in career earnings from contracts during his career. Following the 2021 NFL season, he was the only player ever to reach that milestone, but he will be joined by Stafford and Rodgers during the 2022 NFL season.
Brady has achieved his contract wealth mostly because of his longevity. He has routinely taken a reduced salary during his career, so his team has the ability to improve their roster in other areas. His strategy has helped him accomplish his goal of winning Super Bowls and he currently has seven rings.