The following article references sexual assault allegations.
Say what you want about other major league sports, but the NFL is a ratings and revenue juggernaut. During the 2020 season, the league’s 32 teams split a record $9.5 billion in revenue from their lucrative television deals (per Sportico). Even in a down year in attendance due to COVID-19, the Sports Business Journal reported the NFL raked in a whopping $12 billion. We wouldn’t turn up a nose at that.
However, while the NFL and team owners are making money hand over fist, the guys who play on the field are hampered by a hard salary cap. Designed to encourage parity in the league, teams have a set amount they can spend each year on their 53-man rosters and they aren’t allowed to go over that. In 2021, that number was $182.5 million. And since player’s contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, players can become a "cap casualty" when a team decides their production no longer matches what they’re being paid.
While in the middle of negotiations with then-quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck, team general manager Jim Irsay told WISH-TV in 2016 that Luck’s new contract would be a "shocking number" (via NFL). When the deal was signed, Luck became the NFL’s highest paid player in history with a six-year, $140 million extension that included $47 million in guaranteed money and a $23.3 million annual salary. Flash forward a mere five years to 2021 and those numbers seem quaint. Here are the highest paid athletes in the NFL in 2021.
Joey Bosa is the currently the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL
A star defensive end out of Ohio State, Joey Bosa was the first defensive player taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. During his first four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, Bosa more than lived up to the hype recording 40 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 201 combined tackles. In short, Bosa was a monster on the field. For his efforts, the Chargers signed their star defensive lineman to a massive five-year, $135 million extension with yearly average of $27 million, making him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bosa received "$78M fully guaranteed at signing and $102M guaranteed – a new NFL defensive record" (via Twitter). In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bosa joked that there was "a lot of screaming" after he inked the deal, but the young defensive stalwart wasn’t going to settle. "They know that I know what I bring to the team," he said. "I know my own value…I certainly didn’t want to go anywhere else."
However, a string of injuries (including two concussions), took a toll on Bosa’s mental health. As part of the NFL’s Mental Awareness Month video series, Bosa opened up about his battle with depression. "I was in a negative place," he said. "I was snapping too quick on people." He shared that he now sees a therapist once a week and meditates twice a day. "It helps you be a better person," he explained.
Matt Stafford took his record-breaking deal to Hollywood
In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions made quarterback Matthew Stafford the #1 overall pick with the expectation that he would bring glory to the historically downtrodden franchise. Despite putting up mind-blowing statistics (including his 5,038 yards/41 touchdown season in 2011), the Lions made the playoffs once during Stafford’s tenure. However, you can’t pick franchise quarterbacks off trees, so in 2017 the team gave him a then-record five-year contract extension worth $135 million with $27 million hitting his bank account annually.
Over the next four seasons, the Lions went 9-7, 6-10, 3-12, and 5-11. Yikes. The trade rumors started after that abysmal stretch and were exacerbated when Stafford put his $6.5 million mansion up for sale, according to Detroit Free Press. It turns out the rumors were true. Prior to the 2021 season Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams "in exchange for the Rams’ first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick in 2021, and quarterback Jared Goff," CBS Sports reported.
Stafford didn’t waste any time making himself feel at home in the Golden State by dropping a whopping $19.6 million for a spec mansion in the celeb-populated and gated Hidden Hills, California. According to The Dirt, the mansion is still under construction but renderings show Stafford’s new home on a two-acre lots is "approximately 15,000 square feet" and includes "two temperature-controlled wine cellars." His neighbors? Several members of the Kardashian family. The Georgia boy has gone Hollywood.