Even with a hard salary cap, there’s still room for NFL players to earn massive sums each season.
Unlike the NBA, there is no cap on individual player salaries, meaning the stars of NFL odds can command tens of millions of dollars during their prime years.
The record for the biggest contract in NFL history has been broken multiple times in recent years.
Biggest Salaries In 2023 NFL By Cap Hit:
Patrick Mahomes- $39,693,381
Ryan Tannehill - $36,600,000
Leonard Williams - $32,260,000
Jared Goff- $30,975,000
Chris Jones- $30,208,334
T.J. Watt - $29,368,694
Jake Matthews - $28,358,823
Dak Prescott - $26,832,647
Laremy Tunsil - $26,610,834
Aaron Donald - $26,000,000
Naturally, quarterbacks dominate the list of the highest NFL salaries in 2023, but other positions also feature.
The pass-heavy nature of the modern NFL means pass rushers and wide receivers have landed some massive deals over the last few offseasons.
Here are the 10 largest NFL salaries by cap hit in 2023…
10) Aaron Donald
A nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald signed a three-year, $95 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Rams in the 2022 offseason.
Donald is one of the greatest defensive players in league history, and was integral as Los Angeles won the Super Bowl in 2022.
The Rams look to be entering a rebuild, however, and it’s unclear what the future holds. Could Donald find himself on the trade block if Los Angeles falls out of contention?
9) Laremy Tunsil
After penning a three-year extension with the Houston Texans in the past offseason, Laremy Tunsil’s financial situation is complex.
His cap hit covers a sizeable signing bonus and a restructure with only $2,000,000 in base salary.
Traded to Houston from Miami in a blockbuster trade back in 2019, Tunsil has been named to three Pro Bowls. He was ranked as the league’s third-best tackle by Pro Football Focus ahead of the 2023 season.
8) Dak Prescott
NFL expert picks experts can never agree on Dak Prescott. Does his play put a firm ceiling on the Dallas Cowboys? Or has he got the potential to lead America’s Team to Super Bowl glory with the right pieces around him?
The 2023 season feels like it will go a long way to defining Prescott’s legacy. Dallas has a strong all-round roster, and there are very few legitimate contenders in the NFC outside of the Niners and Eagles.
Prescott’s salary is around the going rate for an average or better NFL quarterback.
7) Jake Matthews
Jake Matthews might have only been a Pro Bowler on one occasion, but that didn’t stop the Atlanta Falcons handing him a sizeable three-year contract extension during the 2022 offseason.
Matthews was a first-round pick in 2014, and has been an ironman for the Falcons. His deal was part of a trend of teams paying big bucks for their offensive linemen.
It might not be the flashiest position on the field, but they have a huge responsibility when it comes to keeping the quarterback upright.
6) T.J. Watt
After leading the league in sacks in 2020, T.J. Watt was rewarded with a monster contract extension and he backed up that production in 2021, again leading the league in sacks.
Injury might have limited him to only 10 appearances in 2022, but the Steelers still have one of the league’s premier quarterback chasers on their hands.
Entering his age-29 season, Watt already has three All-Pro selections to his name. If healthy, he’s bound to add a few more to that tally before he hangs up his cleats.
5) Chris Jones
Chris Jones’ contract holdout didn’t last beyond the first week of the new season.
Jones and the Chiefs agreed a one-year deal to get him back on the field, and Kansas City still holds the right to franchise tag their star defensive tackle if the two parties can’t agree an extension next summer.
Named to First Team All-Pro and his fourth successive Pro Bowl last season, Jones has been integral to the Chiefs’ dominance over the last few years.
He’s the third most-important player behind Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and will have a big role to play if Kansas City is to defend its title.
4) Jared Goff
While Jared Goff has his fair share of critics, he has been solid over his two years in Detroit.
It’s fair to wonder if he’s ever going to be more than a mid-tier quarterback, but Goff has been effective as a game manager in both California and Michigan.
This deal was signed prior to the trade, of course, and he’s due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Could the Lions consider an extension with Goff if they are competitive in 2023?
3) Leonard Williams
Leonard Williams signed a big-money extension with the Giants in March 2021.
After smaller cap hits in each of the two previous seasons, New York faces a $32,260,000 cap hit from Williams for the 2023 campaign, which is his last before becoming a free agent.
Solid throughout his career, Williams is effective against both the run and the pass. He’s never blossomed into the elite player the Giants will have hoped he’d become when they traded for him in 2019, however.
2) Ryan Tannehill
This one might surprise a few people. Ryan Tannehill is not an elite quarterback, which is reflected in most preseason predictions for the Tennessee Titans.
While his individual statistics have not matched up with the league’s best at his position, Tannehill has still had success with the Titans, leading them to the Playoffs in three straight seasons before going 7-10 in 2022-23.
Set to be a free agent at season’s end, Tennessee is at something of a crossroads and will likely look to move on from the Texas native.
1) Patrick Mahomes
Winner of his second Super Bowl in 2023, Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs are also betting favourites to win the Big Game in 2024. Mahomes holds the largest cap hit in 2023, and deservedly so for the sport’s best player.
His contract has a total value of $450 million, which remains the largest handed out in the history of US sports (a record Shohei Ohtani will inevitably break).
Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and several others have since penned deals with bigger annual values, but none have come close to the total dollars on Mahomes’ deal.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*