7 Athletes Who Earned the Most Money in 2015

Professional athletes are some of the highest-paid individuals in the United States. Knowing that, we have decided to dive into the Spotrac database to put together a list of the highest-paid athletes in all of American sports for the 2015 calendar year. In compiling our list, we considered cash earnings only – signing bonuses, roster bonuses, and base salaries. We did not consider endorsement money or performance bonuses. Without further delay, here is a look at the seven American professional athletes who are set to earn the most money in 2015.

7.  Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Miami Dolphins

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Leon Halip/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $26,500,000

Back in March, Suh signed a six-year, $114.4 million contract with the Dolphins that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. His deal included a $25.5 million signing bonus that was paid to him on the day he signed his contract with the Dolphins and accounts for most of his earnings this year.

6.  Justin Verlander, pitcher, Detroit Tigers

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rob Carr/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $28,000,000

Based on his production the last two years, it would be hard to not classify Verlander as one of the most overpaid players in Major League Baseball. With that being said, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball when he signed his seven-year, $180 million deal prior to the 2013 season. Verlander has a base salary of $28 million in 2015, and is guaranteed to make another $112 million over the next four seasons – $28 million per year – with a $22 million vesting option for the 2020 season.

4.  (tie) Jon Lester, pitcher, Chicago Cubs

David Banks/Getty Images

David Banks/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $30,000,000

Lester signed a six-year, $155 million deal with the Cubs last December that made him one of the highest-paid players in Major League Baseball. His deal included a $30 million signing bonus that paid him $15 million at the time of signing and will pay him $3 million per year from 2016-2020. In addition to his signing bonus, Lester also has a base salary of $15 million in 2015. Expect to see Him remain on this list for the next three or four years.

4.  (tie) Clayton Kershaw, pitcher Los Angeles Dodgers

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $30,000,000

Kershaw signed a massive seven-year, $215 million contract extension with the Dodgers in January 2014 that included an $18 million signing bonus that was paid to him at the time he signed. He will earn $30 million in base salary this year, and from 2016-2020, Kershaw will make an average of just over $32.6 million per season. The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner will likely be on this list every year for the remainder of his current contract.

3.  Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina Panthers

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $31,000,000

Newton signed a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension with the Panthers in June that will pay him a cash total of $31 million in 2015. He collected a signing bonus of $22.5 million on the day he inked his contract and a roster bonus of $7.5 million less than a week after his signing, and he will make a base salary of $1 million in 2015. With that being said, the structure of Newton’s contract means that his time on this list will more than likely end after the 2015 season.

2.  Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings:  $31,700,000

Wilson’s recent four-year, $87.6 million contract extension with the Seahawks made the 26-year-old signal caller the second-highest paid quarterback in the league in terms of average yearly value. His deal included a signing bonus of $31 million – paid at the time of signing – and a base salary of $700,000 for the 2015 season. Like Newton, the structure of Wilson’s contract means that his time on this list will not extend beyond 2015.

1.  Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

2015 Cash Earnings: $35,250,000

Roethlisberger recently restructured his contract to give the Steelers more salary cap flexibility, and the 33-year-old quarterback was rewarded for his flexibility. His new contract will pay him $87.4 million over the next four years, but also gives the Steelers the ability to build a stronger roster around him. As a part of his new deal, he received a $31 million signing bonus and a $3.25 million roster bonus on the day that he inked his new contract, and will make a base salary of $1 million in 2015. Like most of the other NFL players we previously mentioned, 2015 will likely be Roethlisberger’s only year making this list with his current contract.

All contract data courtesy of Spotrac.