The 19 Wealthiest NFL Players of All Time

Across the board, NFL players get the short end of the stick when it comes to being paid for their unreal athletic ability and performances. Their contracts are largely unguaranteed, their career windows are short — probably because playing in a football game, even at levels below the National Football League, is comparable to a car accident — and their endorsement opportunities are generally slim.

In fact, aside from the handful of guys who reporters corral after the game and those who are just flat-out massive human beings, most NFL players can take off their pads, helmet, and jersey and slip out into the night without anyone noticing.

But some of them are able to bankroll their fame and (relative) fortune into more fortune, and sometimes even more fame. From licensing deals to owning franchises to eventually owning an NFL team, à la the late Al Davis, the money’s out there if the player is savvy enough to seek it. Here are 19 of the wealthiest NFL players, both past and present — the guys who have been able to take their athletic acumen and turn it into continued financial success.

17. (tie) Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco gives the thumbs up.

Joe Flacco makes elite money. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Net worth: $55 million

Is Joe Flacco an elite quarterback? That question is still up for debate. Is he worth a lot of money? That question, on the other hand, is not. Over the course of his career, the Super Bowl winner has pulled in almost $115 million in total cash earnings and is reportedly worth $55 million. Yeah, if we were him, we’d be giving the thumbs up, too.

17. (tie) Jerry Rice 

Jerry-Rice-Scott-Cunningham-Getty-Images-e1434719507736.jpg

Jerry Rice is so cool. | Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Net worth: $55 million

When you’re arguably the greatest player in the history of the NFL, you can expect to be worth a boatload of money. That’s just the way it is. Jerry Rice’s coin comes from a few different sources, but we choose to look at him as the guy who stands as the league’s all-time leader in receiving yards (22,895), receptions (1,549), and receiving touchdowns (197).

17. (tie) Drew Brees 

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Drew Brees takes the field. | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Net worth: $55 million

Despite being 38 years old, Drew Brees continues to sling the football like a guy half his age. And while the future Hall of Famer, and current New Orleans Saints quarterback, has made quite the living using that right arm of his, we know he’ll continue to bring in the big bucks when his playing days are over — the proof is in the commercials; so long as he doesn’t sing, that is.

14. (tie) Sam Bradford

Sam Bradford throws a pass.

Sam Bradford played good football for the Vikes. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Net worth: $60 million

Sam Bradford is proof that you don’t need to be successful on the field to make a boatload of money off it. The 29-year-old quarterback, who’s best known for his extensive injury history, has never led his team to the playoffs, yet has managed to earn nearly $100 million over the course of his career. If you think this sounds unfair, trust us, you’re not alone.

14. (tie) Fran Tarkenton

Net worth: $60 million

Considered by many to be the original “scrambling quarterback,” Fran Tarkenton was all about doing what he had to do to make the team better. In 18 seasons, The Scrambler made nine Pro Bowls, earned one All-Pro honor, was named the MVP in 1975, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Thanks to his success as a TV personality and software executive, Tarkenton is worth an impressive $60 million.

14. (tie) Carson Palmer

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Carson Palmer looks to throw. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Net worth: $60 million

If you’re surprised to see Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer so high on the list, you’re not alone. We know he’s a quality passer, but we had no idea that his net worth was $60 million. Then again, if you take into consideration that he’s pulled in $156,648,722 in career earnings, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

13. Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan is an entertainer.

Michael Strahan looks sharp. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

 Net worth: $65 million

We don’t care that former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan is 45 years old; we honestly believe he could put on the pads and suit up today. The man is in that good of shape. Of course, when you think about his success off the field, you can’t help but ask yourself one simple question: Why would he even want to?

Strahan crushes it on Fox NFL Sunday and Good Morning America, and he’s always showing up as a presenter of sorts. We’ve seen the smile of a man worth $65 million — and it comes with a a gap in the teeth.

11. (tie) Tony Romo

Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates throwing the game-winning touchdown pass.

Tony Romo had a nice run. | Elsa/Getty Images

Net worth: $70 million

Tony Romo may no longer be the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, but the four-time Pro Bowler certainly didn’t walk away from the game empty handed. Over the course of his career, the 37-year-old gunslinger took home $127,422,458 in total cash earnings and now finds himself worth a cool $70 million. If Romo succeeds in his new position as an NFL broadcast analyst for CBS, he’ll surely have ample opportunities to pad his bank account ever further.

11. (tie) Ben Roethlisberger 

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger watches the action from the sidelines. | Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Net worth: $70 million

As another one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger has put together quite a career for himself, winning two Super Bowls and earning four trips to the Pro Bowl. For his fine work with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has been paid quite handsomely, pulling in $158,286,864 in career earnings and compiling a net worth of $70 million. Just another reason why they call him  “Big Ben.”

10. Joe Montana 

Joe Montana (L) walks onto the field.

Joe Montana is “Joe Cool.” | George Rose/Getty Images

Net worth: $80 million

As the coolest man in the Bay Area, Joe Montana was always at his best when the lights were the brightest. Four trips to the Super Bowl, four world championships, and a quarterbacking legacy that’s nearly impossible to rival. And yet, despite being worth $80 million dollars, Montana still insists on getting his pizza for free. Classic stuff, Joe.

8. (tie) Eli Manning

Elsa/Getty Images

Eli Manning celebrating like only Eli Manning can. | Elsa/Getty Images

Net worth: $100 million

You can make fun of Eli Manning’s face all you want, it doesn’t matter, it still helps pay the bills. As a two-time Super Bowl champion and starting quarterback of the New York Giants, Peyton’s little brother has made quite a name for himself on the field — with $205,780,004 in total earnings — and off, with endorsement deals (worth a total of $8-10 million a year) with brands like Toyota, DirecTV, Kraft, Reebok, Citizen, and Samsung. Who’s laughing now?

8. (tie) Brett Favre

Quarterback Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers during the first round playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on January 9, 2004. The Vikings beat the Packers 31-17 to advance to the second round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Brett Favre during his time with the Packers. | Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Net worth: $100 Millon

“Hi, I’m Brett Favre, former NFL Quarterback. You’ve probably seen me in advertisements endorsing Wrangler Jeans, Nike everything, and Sears, to name most of the things I endorse. Perhaps you may have seen me with the Green Bay Packers, or perhaps you saw my numerous flirtations with retirement before finally signing off from the game in 2011.”

Favre, the first player in the NFL to sign a $100 million dollar contract — rather, it was a “lifetime” contract extension signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2001 — was the only player to win the NFL regular season MVP award three times in a row. At the time of his retirement, he held league records for passing touchdowns, passing yards, attempts, interceptions, and all time wins. (However, Peyton Manning has since passed him in passing touchdowns and passing yards, and tied him in all time wins.)

Following his 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre ultimately went on to play for the New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings, and almost the St. Louis Rams, according to both parties, in 2013. At least Favre seems at ease with his retirement now, and can even joke about it when his still-sponsor Nike needs to film a new commercial.

7. John Elway

Elsa/Getty Images

John Elways enjoying the moment. | Elsa/Getty Images

Net worth: $145 million

John Elway — former quarterback (there’s a trend here) for the Denver Broncos and current General Manager for the same franchise — has diversified himself well beyond his Hall of Fame career as a football player. Elway, who led his teams to five Super Bowls appearances and two Super Bowl titles over the course of his 15 years as the Broncos’ starting quarterback, has diversified his business well beyond the sport that has opened so many doors for him.

Currently, Elway is the owner of a quartet of restaurants — steakhouses named, Elway’s — and a handful of car dealerships (he actually sold his original group of auto dealerships in 1997 for $82.5 million). Elway also owned an Arena Football League team, the Colorado Crush, back when arena football was still a thing (the team folded in 2008).

One could easily make a case for Elway being both the best quarterback to ever play the game and the best executive in the history of the game. And he would likely rank even higher on this list had he not fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme a few years back.

6. Tom Brady

focus on Tom Brady's face at a game

Tom Brady during a game against the Texans. | Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Net worth: $180 million

There used to be a massive poster of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady modeling UGG boots on Brookline Ave. near Kenmore Square, overlooking Fenway Park and I-90. It was probably 200 feet tall and featured Brady standing contrapposto inside a pair of rather unattractive boots. And Brady probably got paid very well for that ad campaign, one of his many dalliances with sponsorships and extracurricular fiscal opportunities that make up his career.

The quarterback, who has won five Super Bowls with the Patriots, his career-long team, also has endorsement arrangements with Under Armour, and has previously been engaged with SmartWater, Visa, and Movado. His performance on the gridiron has led him to a pretty lucrative income from the NFL, too.

Over the course of his 17-year NFL career, Brady’s contracts have grossed the four-time Super Bowl MVP $196,166,804 in cash earnings before agent fees and taxes. That number will rise substantially over the next few years, as Brady isn’t planning on hanging up his cleats any time soon. What’s even crazier is the fact that Brady is out-earned by his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen.

3. (tie) Steve Young

Steve Young announces his retirement from football.

Steve Young is money on and off the field. | Monica M. Davey/Getty Images

Net worth: $200 million

We knew Steve Young was an all-time great quarterback, but we had no idea he was worth so much coin. The man who went from being Montana’s backup to a Hall of Fame QB with seven Pro Bowl appearances, two MVP awards, three All-Pro selections, and three Super Bowl rings, used his investing chops to become a serious player in the world of private equity. Should you ever feel the need to lash out — in jealousy — at Young over his success, you can catch him on ESPN, where he also makes bank as an NFL analyst.

3. (tie) Peyton Manning

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Net worth: $200 million

Peyton Manning, apparently, loves being in advertisements. He’ll sell you Papa John’s. He will sell you Buicks. He’ll sell you Gatorade and he will even sell you DirectTV. After making over $90 million with the Indianapolis Colts, Manning took a year off to rehab himself from a serious neck surgery. Then, the club waived him.

So, he promptly signed a five-year deal for an additional $96M with the Denver Broncos, and he’s the best regular-season quarterback in the history of the NFL, so it’s not a bad investment. In total, Manning earned $248,732,000 in cash earnings (excluding all endorsement earnings) as an NFL player before agent fees and taxes.

But back to his endorsements for a quick second. Based on the sheer number of classic commercials he appears in, Manning has to be considered the best endorser in NFL history. Here’s a look at a few of our favorites:

3. (tie) John Madden

Hall of Fame Coach John Madden during opening cermonies as the Oakland Raiders defeated the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 22 to 9 at McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, California, October 22, 2006.

John Madden speaks during the opening ceremonies. | Robert B. Stanton/Getty Images

Net worth: $200 million

Did you know John Madden was an NFL coach? It’s true! Did you know John Madden was an NFL commentator? Also true! Did you know that somewhere there are vast swaths of football fans who don’t think of either of those things when you say the word “Madden”? To legions of fans that were too young to see Madden do, well, anything in the world of real football, his surname evokes hours upon hours of digital football.

Madden signed on to endorse Electronic Arts’ NFL video game all the way back in 1988. It was John Madden Football. The series became Madden NFL in 1994. Feel old yet? Back then, there was no way the sportscaster could’ve foreseen the behemoth that the franchise would become.

The latest iteration, Madden NFL 25, had down sales compared to Madden ’13 and still sold 1 million copies in its first week. As of 2010, the franchise had sold over 99 million copies, according to ESPN. It is a cash cow. Check out how Madden’s most famous contribution to the NFL has changed throughout the years:

2. Roger Staubach

Former NFL great Roger Staubach.

Roger Staubach addresses the media. | Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Net worth: $600 million

What is a Roger Staubach, and why is it worth so much money? A Roger Staubach is a former NFL quarterback (to the shock of absolutely no one) who was good at football, leading the Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl victories, winning an MVP, and being a six-time Pro Bowler.

Staubach worked as a real estate broker during the offseasons, because “I was 27 and we had three children,” the mogul told Forbes. “If I got hurt, I knew I had a family to provide for, and it was not crazy money in the NFL then.” Shortly after his 1979 retirement, Staubach began expanding his real estate company. It grew so large and so successful that Staubach was able to sell the company to Jones Lang Lasalle in 2008 for $640 million dollars.

According to Forbes, Staubach had only owned 12% of the company when he sold it, having given out equity to his employees as the company grew. So, in addition to being the richest NFL athlete ever, he’s also a pretty nice dude.

1. Jerry Richardson

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson watches the action. | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Net worth: $1.1 billion

That’s right, billion with a “B.” Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, was a Carolina native who played for the Colts (the Baltimore Colts, mind you) in the early days of the NFL, hooking up with no other than legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas for a touchdown in the 1959 NFL championship game.

As you may have guessed by his place on the list and the time in which he played, endorsements didn’t help Richardson earn his money; he got rich in the fast food industry, franchising his first Hardee’s in 1961 and expanding from there.

While Richardson has a mixed reputation among NFL fans — he allegedly called out Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during the NFL lockout, for example — he’s made at least one Panthers fan’s day, when he responded to a 12-year-old’s inquiry to fandom with a handwritten letter and some signed memorabilia.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and Spotrac.

Net Worth information collected from Celebrity Net Worth.

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