It's not as simple as pointing to a single dollar amount when creating a list of the highest paid players in the NFL. Contracts mean a number of things — there's the base salary, the overall value of the contract, the annual average value of each deal and, perhaps most importantly for the teams themselves, the salary cap "hit."
If Aaron Rodgers indeed signs a reported deal of $200 million for four years in Green Bay, he'll become the highest-paid player in the league in terms of annual value. Technically, there will be contracts worth more in overall dollars, such as the 10-year deal signed by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Using Spotrac as the guide, where does Rodgers rank? Let's start with that annual value consideration.
If the $50 million per year is accurate, Rodgers is at the top of this chart. Next up, you'd have:
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City ($45 million). The massive 10-year deal he signed in 2020 has made him very rich indeed, and why not? Even though Rodgers has the last two MVPs, it's still arguable that Mahomes ranks as the best quarterback in football. The 2018 MVP is still just 26 years old and has put the Chiefs into the AFC championship game four straight years, with two Super Bowl berths and one championship.
Josh Allen, Buffalo ($43 million). Were it not for Mahomes, Allen's Bills might have much better luck in recent years. Buffalo has been to the playoffs each of the past three seasons with Allen, falling to the Chiefs twice (including in a wild overtime loss this year). He'll be 26 soon, and he signed in 2021 on a deal that takes him through 2028, months after taking second to Rodgers in the 2020 MVP vote.
Dak Prescott, Dallas ($40 million). Though injuries have been part of Prescott's story, there's no question he's a difference maker when he's on the field. Prescott played in 16 games this year and helped Dallas own the No. 1 offense in the league. He's soon to be 29 and signed through 2024 with a void year thereafter. Dallas won six more games in 2021 after not having Prescott for most of 2020.
Deshaun Watson, Houston ($39 million). Watson represents a tough financial burden because he didn't play at all last year while under investigation for sexual harassment. He's technically under contract through 2025 and is still only 26 years old, but his legal standing complicates his ability to play for the Texans (or anyone else). There's a potential out in his deal after 2023.
Russell Wilson, Denver ($35 million). After rumblings of his discontent in Seattle, news broke after the Rodgers extension that Wilson had been traded to Denver. He's still just 33 years old and signed through 2023, with five straight Pro Bowls and nine of them in his 10 years. The 2021 season, however, was his worst in terms of wins and losses (the Seahawks went 6-8 with him in an injury-abbreviated campaign).
Next three: Jared Goff, Detroit ($33.5 million); Kirk Cousins, Minnesota ($33 million); Carson Wentz, Indianapolis ($30 million).
Biggest for a non-quarterback: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers ($28 million)
Cap hit for 2022
"Cap hit" is itself a fluctuating concept based on whether or not a player gets released and has remaining costs that come due sooner as a consequence.
We don't yet know where Rodgers' expected cap hit will fall after terms of the deal are hashed out. At $46.6 million, he was on track to be the second biggest hit in the league, but this deal will lower that number. Here's who's atop the list otherwise:
Matt Ryan, Atlanta ($48.6 million). Ryan was the MVP of the league in 2016 but hasn't even been selected to a Pro Bowl since. At age 36 in the 2021 season, the Falcons went 7-10 last year and 4-12 in 2020. Ryan is signed through the 2023 season.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota ($45 million). It isn't lost on Packers fans that this deal has handcuffed the Vikings to a degree, though Cousins has been a Pro Bowler in two of the last three seasons. Even still, the Vikings have only had one winning season in his four at the helm, and his completion percentage has trended downward. He's signed for one more season.
Watson, Houston ($40.4 million). As noted above, Watson's status remains unclear going forward. He wasn't officially suspended last year, and there's a chance he's traded this offseason.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee ($38.6 million). Bet you didn't expect to see him here, did you? Soon to be 34, Tannehill has been steady and did, after all, lead the team to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs this year, but he's not regarded as one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. He's signed through 2023 with two void years after that, and a potential out after the upcoming season.
Wilson, Denver ($37 million). The University of Wisconsin alumnus has caused the Packers problems over the years; he should be less of a thorn in the AFC.
Next three: Mahomes, Kansas City ($35.8 million); Prescott, Dallas ($34.5 million); Goff, Detroit ($31.1 million)
Biggest for a non-quarterback: Watt, Pittsburgh ($31 million)
Full contract value
If we consider all the dollars that are figured into a contract, there's one guy who stands far above others on the list. Rodgers, again, would be third here if the $200 million is accurate.
Mahomes, Kansas City ($450 million). His 10-year deal with the Chiefs seems fitting for one of the league's true superstars.
Allen, Buffalo ($258 million). His signing just before the 2021 season will make the still-ascending player one of the best-paid in football.
Prescott, Dallas ($160 million). Prescott signed the four-year, $160 deal last year, and the Cowboys are reportedly in the midst of restructuring it in 2022.
Watson, Houston ($156 million). Watson's four-year deal signed in January of 2021 for $156 already looks like a dubious move, though not because of his play on the field.
Atlanta ($150 million). The deal Ryan signed back in 2018 briefly making him the highest paid quartebrack in NFL history is still among the richest in the league.
Next three: Khalil Mack, Chicago ($141 million); Wilson, Denver ($140 million); Trent Williams, San Francisco ($138 million)
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Who are NFL's highest paid players after Aaron Rodgers' Packers deal?