Who is the NFL's highest paid player? Star quarterbacks top the list

Quarterback is the most important position on the football field. It's also an extremely lucrative position, both on and off the field.

According to Overthecap.com, the top 10 earners in average salary for the 2021 NFL season are all quarterbacks -- led by Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs at $45 million. Behind him is Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills at $43 million.

Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys is in third place, thanks to a new contract he signed this offseason that will pay him an average of $40 million per year over the next four seasons.

Dak Prescott's new contract with the Dallas Cowboys paid him a jaw-dropping $66 million signing bonus.

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The other quarterbacks in the top 10 all earn at least $29.5 million per year. 

  • Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: $39 million
  • Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, $35 million
  • Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: $33.5 million
  • Jared Goff, Detroit Lions: $33.5 million
  • Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: $33 million
  • Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts: $32 million
  • Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: $30 million
When it comes to the NFL's highest-paid players in 2021, Bills quarterback Josh Allen ranks first -- and Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt ranks 11th.

The highest-ranked non-quarterback on the list is Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, who makes an average of just over $28 million. 

One player who surprisingly doesn't make the top 15 is seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. Though his one-year, $25 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn't chump change, Brady makes far more in off-field income. 

When endorsement deals are taken into consideration, Forbes' latest ranking of the highest-paid NFL players has Prescott and Brady far ahead of everyone else. 

Brady's massive $45 million in endorsements (Subway, Fanatics, FTX), in addition to other outside income, nets him a total of $72.5 million overall, according to Forbes.

That's second in total income to Prescott, who was No. 1 on Forbes' list, thanks in large part to an NFL-record $66 million signing bonus on his new contract. Adding Prescott's on-field earnings to his $12 million in endorsements (Jordan brand, NFT platform Ethernity, among others), Forbes calculates he'll make a total of $87 million this year.