The SEC is known for putting its players in the National Football League.
Talent translates to wealth in the NFL, and there’s plenty of both to go around for these former conference members. Here are the SEC’s highest-paid NFL athletes.
The Tide have managed to put more than their fair share of players in the league, but none are currently making more than former defensive tackle Marcel Dareus. He recently signed a six-year extension with the Buffalo Bills for just shy of $100 million, including a staggering $60 million in guaranteed money. Pulling in roughly $16 million per year, Dareus’ extension also came with a signing bonus of $25 million.
Left tackle Jason Peters went undrafted after spending his college career at Arkansas before catching on with Buffalo and making a name for himself in the league. Peters stands to make just shy of $10 million for the 2016 season and is under contract through 2018. At that time, Peters will be 36 years old.
The Tigers take the top spot thanks to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s massive contract. The highest-earning NFL player in 2016 according to Forbes, money isn’t likely to become an issue anytime soon for Newton. He has a base salary of more than $13.1 million in 2017, $5 million in roster and workout bonuses, a $2 million option bonus, and accounts for just more than 17 percent of the total cap space for the Panthers next season.
Joe Haden is taking the biggest chomp out of the financial pie for the Florida Gators in the NFL and is set to make more than $13 million with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Beginning this upcoming season, Haden will pull in more than $10 million per year in base salary alone. He also benefits from an additional $3.2 million per year as part of his $16 million signing bonus. Haden is set to hit the open market once again in 2020, when he will be 31 years old.
Matt Stafford has made a solid life for himself since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Detroit Lions in 2009. He recently lost top receiving target Calvin Johnson due to early retirement, but he’s still firing on all cylinders in the financial department. The former Bulldogs quarterback will make $17 million in base salary, plus an additional $5.5 million as part of his nearly $28 million dollar signing bonus. Stafford becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
The 64th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, Randall Cobb holds it down for the Wildcats as the highest paid alumni currently in the NFL. Cobb will bring in just $1.5 million in base salary for 2016, but also is owed a $3,250,000 signing bonus and a $4 million signing bonus which will put him just south of $10 million for the year. In 2017 and 2018, Cobb’s base salary will jump all the way up to $8.6 million. After bonuses, he will be hauling in roughly $13 million a year.
The No. 5 overall pick out of the 2011 draft, Patrick Peterson has done quite well for himself since being selected by the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson signed a five-year, $70 million deal to continue patrolling the Arizona secondary. After making just $888,000 in base salary in 2014, the cornerback is expected to make more than $13 million in 2016.
Jeremy Maclin is about to get paid. After pulling in about $3.5 million in 2015, the wide receiver will see his salary jump to $12.4 million per season in the next two years, followed by a million dollar raise in the two seasons after. In total, his five-year, $55 million dollar deal is good for making him the top paid Tiger to come from Missouri.
Agent Todd France has done a great job of representing his client Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle from Mississippi State. Cox recently signed a six-year deal that keeps him in Philadelphia with the Eagles through the 2022 season. He will make about $9.4 million in 2017, but that number jumps to just shy of $18 million for the 2018 season. Cox will get $5 million per year thanks to his signing bonus and has an additional million coming his way every year from 2020-2022 that he remains on the Eagles’ roster.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, is in the midst of a healthy contract extension, and is also the top-earning active NFL player after the retirement of his brother Peyton pushing $200 million in career earnings. Manning will make $45 million in 2016 according to Forbes after factoring in his contract, endorsements and other financial factors.
The Chicago Bears tagged Alshon Jeffery this offseason, guaranteeing the former Gamecocks wide receiver just shy of $14.6 million for 2016. He has avoided voluntary camps and offseason workouts with the Bears this season, resulting in fines that ate away at his grand total. That said, another strong season on the field should get the second round pick the long-term deal he is aiming for.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Malik Jackson played two years of college ball at USC before transferring to Tennessee in 2010. With Peyton Manning having rode off into the sunset, Jackson is now the highest-paid Volunteer in the business. He will make $8 million in 2016 before his base salary jumps up to $13+ million every season after until he becomes a free agent in 2022.
Like Missouri, Texas A&M can’t benefit from SEC players who have finished rookie deals and have had the chance to make serious dough. Borrowing two athletes from the tail end of the Big 12 run, Ryan Tannehill and Von Miller have stashed plenty of cash since their days at Texas A&M. Tannehill will make more than $20 million this season as the Miami Dolphins quarterback and highest-paid player. Miller is still in the midst of working out a long-term deal with the Denver Broncos and is expected to be one of the largest deals in NFL history for a defensive player.
The Chicago Bears still have the services of Jay Cutler locked in for another four seasons. His $10 million roster bonus begins kicking in this year, paying him an extra $2.5 million per year on top of his base salary. Cutler will make $12.5 million in 2017 before bonuses kick in, but that base number jumps to $13.5 in 2018, $17.5 in 2019, and $19.2 million in his walk-year of 2020.
All contract figures via spotrac.com unless otherwise noted.