The NFL’s Top 10 Career Earners



Drew Brees made National Football League history when he signed a five-year, $100 million contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, making him the highest paid NFL player ever. But Brees’s bucks haven’t all been earned yet. Spotrac tracks the salaries and earnings of professional athletes, including NFL players. The following are the 10 top career earners in the NFL.

10. Richard Seymour

Career earnings: $99,621,000

Position: Defensive tackle

Teams: New England Patriots (2001-2008), Oakland Raiders (2009-2012)

Currently a free agent, Seymour has 324 total tackles and 172 assisted tackles. Seymour is a three-time Super Bowl champion, earning rings at Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX, all with the New England Patriots. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s and to seven Pro Bowls.

Champ Bailey


9. Champ Bailey

Career earnings: $103,332,535

Position: Cornerback

Teams: Washington Redskins (1999-2003), Denver Broncos (2004-present)

Bailey has been selected for the Pro Bowl 12 times, the most of any defensive back in NFL history. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s. He has made 693 total tackles and 86 assisted tackles during his career. As a cornerback, he leads the league in interceptions with 52, 18 of which came in his 2005-2006 season with the Broncos.

Carson Palmer


8. Carson Palmer

Career earnings: $106,095,000

Position: Quarterback

Teams: Cincinnati Bengals (2003-2010), Oakland Raiders (2011-2012), Arizona Cardinals (2013-present)

During his career, Palmer has completed 2,568 of 4,110 pass attempts, totaling 29,465 yards, and thrown for 189 touchdowns. He has had six seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes and has been named to the Pro Bowl twice. In 2005, Palmer had a completion percentage of 67.8, the best in the league.

Donovan McNabb


7. Donovan McNabb

Career earnings: $106,774,067

Position: Quarterback

Teams: Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2009), Washington Redskins (2010), Minnesota Vikings (2011)

In 1999, McNabb was a first-round draft pick chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles. During his time with the team, he played in five NFC Championship Games and Super Bowl XXXIX. McNabb was named to the Pro Bowl six times and has completed the most passes for any Philadelphia Eagle with 2,801. With the Eagles, he passed for 32,873 yards and had 216 touchdown passes.

Ray Lewis


6. Ray Lewis

Career earnings: $107,796,998

Position: Linebacker

Team: Baltimore Ravens (1996-2012)

Baltimore’s second pick of the 1996 draft was Lewis. He has been invited to 13 Pro Bowls and was twice chosen as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003). He has two Super Bowl rings, from Super Bowls XXXV and XLVII. Lewis was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. He made 972 total tackles and 364 assisted tackles in his career.

Drew Brees


5. Drew Brees

Career earnings: $111,258,366

Position: Quarterback

Teams: San Diego Chargers (2001-2005), New Orleans Saints (2006-present)

Brees’s lucrative contract ensures he will continue to work his way to the top of this list, but until then, let’s take a look at some of Brees’s recent accomplishments. He is the second player in NFL history to pass for more than 4,000 yards in seven straight campaigns and has a completion percentage of 71.2 with the Saints. His 33,571 passing yards, 4,340 attempts, 2,910 completions, and 244 touchdowns passes have enabled him to lead the league since 2006. He has been named to seven Pro Bowls and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.

Julius Peppers


4. Julius Peppers

Career earnings: $113,218,000

Position: Defensive end

Teams: Carolina Panthers (2002-2009), Chicago Bears (2010-present)

Peppers started his NFL career as the second overall pick of the 2002 draft and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Peppers is second in the NFL for number of sacks. He ranks fourth for forced fumbles, and in eight of 11 seasons, has recorded double-digit sack statistics. Peppers has also blocked 11 kicks in his career.

Tom Brady


3. Tom Brady

Career earnings: $134,126,000

Position: Quarterback

Team: New England Patriots (2000-present)

Brady languished in the draft until the sixth round in 2000. But since then, Brady has earned three Super Bowl rings at the XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX contests. In 2007 and 2010, he was the league MVP. Brady’s career completion percentage is 63.5, and he has 351 passing touchdowns and 47,702 yards.

Credit: MN National Guard

Source: MN National Guard

2. Brett Favre

Career earnings: $139,654,000

Position: Quarterback

Teams: Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992-2007), New York Jets (2008), Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010)

An 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXI champion, Favre was the 33rd overall pick in the 1991 draft. He was named the AP most valuable player three times in his career and set numerous records, including most touchdowns (508), most passing yards (71,838) and most pass completions (6,300). Favre also has the most career wins at 186.



1. Peyton Manning

Career earnings: $207,020,668

Position: Quarterback

Teams: Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011), Denver Broncos (2012-present)

In 2012, Manning set record after record with the Broncos. He is second in all-time in passing touchdowns (470), yards (63,059) and completions (5,368). His 8,202 attempts rank him third in that category. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s and to 12 Pro Bowls. He earned his Super Bowl ring and the title of Super Bowl MVP at Super Bowl XLI. In 2012, AP named him the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.

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