2022 NFL All-Paid Team: Aaron Rodgers, Tyreek Hill and Aaron Donald headline richest lineup

EDITOR'S NOTE: This file was updated after news broke May 16 that the Packers and cornerback Jaire Alexander have agreed on an extension that moves Alexander into the top spot among cornerbacks. Marlon Humphrey, who fell from third to fourth at the position, was removed.

The 2022 NFL All-Paid Team is a collection of the highest-paid players in the league at each position. It's essentially an All-Pro team, but the pocketbook supersedes pedigree and production for the day.

Average per year (APY) is the most accepted measure of comparison for player contracts, so it's what will be used for our purposes. Also, players who received the franchise tag are ineligible, due to the fixed nature of their salaries.

If you need help understanding any of the terms in this article, please refer to our Free Agency and Contract Glossary.

Here's a quick rundown of the 2022 All-Paid Team's contractual totals:

  • Total NFL seasons under contract: 97
  • Total combined value: $2.1 billion
  • Average per year: $21.5 million
  • Total combined APY: $487.2 million
  • Total combined 2022 cap hit: $290.8 million
  • Total combined 2022 cash: $428 million

Now, let's get to the individual honorees.

All contract information is from Over The Cap and/or Spotrac.

*Denotes player was a member of a last year's All-Paid Team of Tomorrow.

OFFENSE

QB
Aaron Rodgers
Green Bay Packers · 38 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $50.3 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member


Rodgers' accolades span the length of his career, and he is still one of the handful of elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers has the highest touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history and already ranks fifth in career passing touchdowns with 449. He's won 13 games in each of his three seasons under head coach Matt LaFleur -- the last two of which earned the quarterback league MVP awards. Over those two seasons, Rodgers led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8) and passer rating (116.7) among QBs with 20-plus starts in that span. With another MVP award in 2022, Rodgers would tie Brett Favre for the most consecutive honors (three) and Peyton Manning for the most in a career (five). A similar season sans All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams would give Rodgers plenty of momentum toward another MVP nod in 2022. There are some discrepancies on the details of Rodgers' new contract, but both Spotrac and Over The Cap have him with a $50.3 million average per year. This makes Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history, based on average annual value. The new money on his contract is actually $123.8 million over two seasons (which would put Rodgers closer to $62 million per year in new money).

RB
Christian McCaffrey
Carolina Panthers · 25 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $16 million


When McCaffrey's healthy, it's hard to argue there's a more productive running back in the NFL today. However, health has been a key concern for the soon-to-be 26-year-old. He's played just 10 games over the last two seasons after playing all 48 in his first three campaigns. Calling McCaffrey a dual-threat is almost an understatement. The former No. 8 overall pick averages the fifth-most scrimmage yards per game (113.8) in NFL history, a list of which he trails just three Hall of Famers (Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis) and Billy Sims, whose career was cut short after five seasons. Through the air, McCaffrey has averaged 6.2 receptions per game over the course of his career, the fourth-most of all time, behind just Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown and Keenan Allen. If he's on the field, he's worth the money. One has to wonder if another running back will see McCaffrey money in the near future. He's one of three RBs to have signed contracts worth an average of $15 million per season. The Cowboys have seen Ezekiel Elliott's performance wane substantially, and the Saints have had Alvin Kamara both miss games and find himself in a legal situation. Jonathan Taylor is the position's next shot at a top-of-the-market deal, but more and more teams may shy away from extending running backs to lucrative second deals.

WR
Tyreek Hill
Miami Dolphins · 28 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $30 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

WR
Davante Adams
Las Vegas Raiders · 29 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $28 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

WR
DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals · 29 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $27.3 million


The Christian Kirk effect! After Kirk signed his four-year, $72 million contract with the Jaguars in March, the dominos began to fall with elite receivers either requesting paydays and/or trades. Hill, Adams and A.J. Brown each got traded then signed massive contract extensions with the new team. Hill and Adams were both chasing the title of NFL's highest-paid wide receiver. Both deals have inflated base salaries in the final year(s) that artificially drive up their average annual salaries. Hill is the NFL's most dangerous deep threat. Since entering the NFL in 2016, he paces all players in catches, yards and touchdowns on passes of 20-plus air yards (according to Next Gen Stats). The question remains how the transition from Patrick Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa, two very different quarterbacks in both style and career accomplishments, will affect Hill's output. While Hill will be catching passes from a new quarterback this offseason, Adams will team up with a much more familiar cohort in Derek Carr. Carr and Adams both led the FBS in yards and touchdowns, in their respective metrics, over their 2012 and '13 seasons at Fresno State. Adams' shiftiness at the line of scrimmage and divine-level route running have allowed him to lead the NFL in receptions (581), receiving yards (7,192) and receiving touchdowns (69) since 2016. Hopkins will start his 2022 season with a six-game suspension after missing seven games last season due to hamstring and knee injuries. However, the three-time first-team All-Pro led the NFL with 430 receptions and 5,522 receiving yards from 2017 through 2020.

TE
George Kittle
San Francisco 49ers · 28 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $15 million


The tight end position has experienced tremendous growth over the last few seasons, especially considering that Jimmy Graham was the NFL's highest-paid tight end for six straight seasons from 2014 through '19 despite diminishing production. That was until Kittle and Travis Kelce both signed contracts north of $14 million on the same day in August 2020. This allowed four other tight ends to fall right underneath them at $12-plus million annually. Kittle has been historically successful as a pass catcher. Graham and Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr. are the only tight ends in NFL history with more receiving yards in their first five seasons than Kittle, while Kelce is the only player at the position to average more receiving yards per game. This goes without mentioning his ability as a run blocker, which can be just as valuable in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

LT
Trent Williams
San Francisco 49ers · 33 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $23 million

LG
Joe Thuney
Kansas City Chiefs · 29 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $16 million

C
Frank Ragnow
Detroit Lions · 25 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $13.5 million

RG
Brandon Scherff
Jacksonville Jaguars · 30 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $16.5 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

RT
Ryan Ramczyk
New Orleans Saints · 28 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19.2 million


Williams is a bully among men -- as seen here, here and here. Williams earned a 97.8 Pro Football Focus grade last season, by far the highest mark in the NFL. When Williams re-signed in March 2021, he surpassed Packers All-Pro David Bakhtiari by just $10,000 per season for this distinction. The Chiefs made Thuney the NFL's highest-paid right guard with a five-year, $80 million contract in 2021, and he returned plenty on that investment in Year 1, earning the best PFF pass-protection grade at the position last season. Cleveland's Joel Bitonio also makes $16 million per season, but on a shorter three-year deal. PFF also favored Ragnow, who graded out quite well last season despite only managing to play in four games due to a toe injury. After playing on back-to-back franchise tags in Washington, Scherff finally got a long-term pact with the Jaguars this offseason, pushing him past Thuney as the NFL's highest-paid interior offensive lineman. The Saints solidified their right bookend in 2021, when they signed Ramczyk to the largest right tackle contract ever. Ramczyk missed seven games in 2021 and will be needed even more after three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead signed with the Dolphins in free agency.

DEFENSE

IDL
Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams · 30 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $22.5 million

IDL
DeForest Buckner
Indianapolis Colts · 28 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $21 million


Fresh off of a Super Bowl championship and amid an offseason with some sudden retirement speculation, Donald and the Rams are said to be working on another extension. Donald is still the NFL's highest-paid interior defensive lineman on a deal he signed in 2018. The addition of a Super Bowl ring makes Donald easily the greatest defensive player of his generation -- and one of the very best in league history. Despite getting this kind of attention on a regular basis, Donald still leads the NFL with 98 sacks, 226 quarterback hits and 150 tackles for loss since entering the NFL in 2014. Since 2018, Buckner's 36 sacks trail just Donald and Chris Jones among interior defensive linemen. Giants DL Leonard Williams is tied with Buckner at $21 million per season, but on a shorter deal.

EDGE
T.J. Watt
Pittsburgh Steelers · 27 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $28 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

EDGE
Joey Bosa
Los Angeles Chargers · 26 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $27 million


It's a real family affair in the edge portion of the proceedings. T.J. Watt became the second person in his family to become the NFL's highest-paid defensive player (his brother, J.J., did so in 2014). T.J. passed Joey Bosa for the most recent title, and Bosa's younger brother, Nick, will soon surpass all of them at the top of the pay scale. The younger Watt finally won the Defensive Player of the Year award, the fourth such award with his family name on it. It took tying Hall of Famer Michael Strahan's single-season sack record (22.5). Watt has been dominant since the Steelers selected him 30th overall in 2017, leading the NFL with 72.0 sacks, 150 quarterback hits and 22 forced fumbles in that time period. Watt led the league in sacks in each of the past two campaigns. He has 13-plus sacks in each of his last four seasons, joining Reggie White as the only players with such a streak since individual sacks were officially tracked in 1982. Drafted a year prior to Watt, Joey Bosa ranks in the top six in the NFL in sacks, QB hits and TFLs since being selected third overall in 2016. The Chargers made Bosa the NFL's highest-paid defensive player in July 2020, a title he held for over a year before Watt signed his contract in September 2021. The younger Bosa, Nick, could become the first $30 million-per-year defensive player in NFL history.

LB
Darius Leonard
Indianapolis Colts · 26 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19.7 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

LB
Fred Warner
San Francisco 49ers · 25 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member


C.J. Mosley blew the top off the off-ball linebacker market in 2019. Leonard and Warner are the beneficiaries. Leonard is the only player since 2018 with 10-plus interceptions and double-digit sacks or forced fumbles. Future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner is the only player with more tackles than Leonard over that span. To put Leonard's start into more of an historical perspective, only one defensive player has earned more first-team All-Pro selections in his first four seasons than Leonard's three. His name is Lawrence Taylor. Warner's biggest compliment may have been future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers telling him: "Ain't nobody better. ... You're the best and everybody knows it." Warner has also received PFF's highest coverage grade among linebackers (90.5) over the last two seasons.

CB
Jaire Alexander
Green Bay Packers · 25 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $21 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

CB
Denzel Ward
Cleveland Browns · 25 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20.1 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

CB
Jalen Ramsey
Los Angeles Rams · 27 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20 million


The Packers' defense ranked 10th against the pass and ninth overall last season even with Alexander, PFF's top-graded cornerback in 2020, limited to just four games (plus eight snaps in the playoffs) by a shoulder injury. Coordinator Joe Barry is surely thrilled to have Alexander locked up long-term after getting just a few chances to work with the former first-round pick in his first year on the job. The second of the Browns' two top-four selections in the 2018 NFL Draft (after Baker Mayfield went No. 1 overall), Ward was a Pro Bowl selection for the second time in his career last season. He's recorded multiple interceptions and double-digit passes defensed in each of his four NFL campaigns. Among corners to play 1,000-plus snaps since 2018, only Stephon Gilmore, Alexander and Ramsey have higher PFF coverage grades than Ward. Ramsey is the best player at his position. The Rams traded two first-round picks for him, then gave him a five-year, $100 million extension. Ramsey rewarded their investment by helping the Rams win a Lombardi Trophy this past February. Alexander is the only corner with a better PFF grade than Ramsey over the last two seasons. 

S
Jamal Adams
Seattle Seahawks · 26 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $17.5 million

*2021 All-Paid Team of Tomorrow member

S
Harrison Smith
Minnesota Vikings · 33 years old

AVERAGE PER YEAR: $16 million


The least-valued position on defense (in terms of player compensation) is headlined by a man who doesn't necessarily play it. Adams is much more productive around the line of scrimmage than he is moving backwards. The level of cost needed to acquire him (two first-round picks, a third-rounder and Bradley McDougald) has yet to be justified by his performance. Though he did lead the team with 9.5 sacks in 2020 (the most ever by a defensive back in a single season), Adams' struggles in coverage cannot be overlooked. The Seahawks still doubled down and made Adams the game's highest-paid back-end defender last offseason. Smith has consistently been among the NFL's best safeties, displayed by the two top-of-the-market extensions the Vikings have given him. Non-quarterbacks entering their age 32 season rarely get the kind of money Smith received last offseason ($64 million over four years), but he immediately answered the bell with a career-high 114 tackles and three sacks in 2021, earning his sixth Pro Bowl selection in the last seven seasons.

Follow Anthony Holzman-Escareno on Twitter @FrontOfficeNFL.

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