NFL's 25 highest-paid players for the 2014 season

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The rising salaries being shelled out to NFL players has resulted in 20 players receiving a base salary of at least $10 million to play in the league this season and nine of the top 25 paid players in the NFL this season are quarterbacks, which may not be a surprise.

However, what may be a surprise is which quarterbacks are cashing checks bigger than their Super Bowl-winning contemporaries, including two signal-callers who have combined to make zero Pro Bowl teams since 2009.

After quarterback, wide receiver was the position with the most players on the list with four, linebacker and defensive tackle had three, defensive end and offensive tackle had two and running back and center each had one.

After reading through the list, please leave your thoughts and opinions on the list in the comments section below. Who do you think should be the highest-paid player in the league?

Let us know who you think is overpaid, underpaid which teams got it just right with the dollars they're shelling out to their players.

Without further ado, here are the 25 highest-paid players based on their base salary in the NFL for the 2014 season.

All salary figures are courtesy of

Top paid NFL players
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NFL's 25 highest-paid players for the 2014 season

25. Haloti Ngata, DL, Baltimore Ravens – $8.5 million

Ngata makes $8.5 million in base salary this season in the third year of a four-year deal worth $48.52 million.

Long considered one of the top defensive lineman in the NFL, the former first round pick has been a perennial Pro Bowl player since the Ravens drafted him out of Oregon in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Ngata has been selected to the Pro Bowl five consecutive years and was named an All-Pro each year from 2008-2012 where his versatility to play defensive end, defensive tackle and nose tackle made the 6-4, 340-pound lineman one of the toughest matchups in the trenches in all the NFL.

Through two games this season, Ngata has two combined tackles and one athletic interception for the 1-1 Ravens.

Do you think he’s worth the money?

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

24. Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks – $8.76 million

Okung makes $8.76 million this season to protect the blindside of quarterback Russell Wilson and open holes for running back Marshawn Lynch for the defending Super Bowl champions.

The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft is in the fifth year of his six-year contract worth $48.50 million and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

Okung fought through injury problems in his first two seasons in the league when he missed six games as a rookie with high ankle sprains in both ankles and suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the 12th game of the year in his second season.

But Okung overcame his injury woes in his third year in 2012 when he started 15 regular season games and both playoff games for the Seahawks en route to being named to his first Pro Bowl team.

Is his level of performance worthy of the money he is making this season?

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

23. Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals – $9 million

Palmer is making $9 million this season in the first year of a two-year, $16 million deal to stay with the Cardinals after leading them to a 10-win season in 2013.

The former No. 1 overall pick had a career renaissance under head coach Bruce Arians as he completed 63.3 percent of his passes, the highest mark he’s had since the 2007 season, threw for a career-high 4,274 yards and his 24 touchdowns were the most he has had since his last year with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2010.

Palmer was off to a fine start in 2014 with 304 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals’ regular season opener before getting injured in the opener and missing Week 2, and perhaps more, with nerve damage in his throwing arm.

Provided Palmer is healthy, do you think he’s worth the money?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

22. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons – $9.5 million

Ryan is making $9.5 million this season for the Falcons after he signed a five-year deal worth $103.75 million in July of 2013 as Atlanta locked up their franchise quarterback through the prime of his career.

The former No. 3 overall pick out of Boston College struggled along with the rest of the team in 2013 when he was severely affected by the injuries to Pro Bowl receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. Ryan threw a career-high 17 interceptions last year and his 26 touchdowns were the lowest since his second year in 2009.

Ryan, however, did complete 67.4 percent of his passes and 4,515 yards, both marks were the second-best of his career. With White and Jones back in the lineup this season, Ryan began the season with a career-high 448 yards and led the league with 679 yards through two games.

After a three-interception game in Week 2′s loss to the Bengals, Ryan rebounded nicely on Thursday night against the Buccaneers with 284 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-24 passing in the 56-14 win.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

21. Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers – $9.75 million

Worilds is playing on a one-year franchise tender worth $9,754,000 and is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of this season.

The former second round pick in the 2010 draft out of Virginia Tech cashed in after a breakout season that saw him start 11 games and record career-highs in sacks with eight and tackles with 43.

Pittsburgh invested in Worilds this offseason and let LaMarr Woodley go and he rewarded their faith in him by recording a sack in the regular season opener in the Steelers’ win against the Browns.

His future with the Steelers will hinge on his production this season and whether he and the team can agree to a cap-friendly deal but also on the development of former first round pick Jarvis Jones who has gotten off to a slow start to his career.

If Jones breaks out this season, the Steelers could potentially afford to let Worilds get his big payday elsewhere, but if Jones struggles again, they may have no choice but to lock up the pass-rusher to a long-term deal.

Is Worilds worth the investment?

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

20. Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns – $10 million

Mack is making $10 million this year after he signed a five-year, $42 million offer sheet from the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason that was quickly matched by the Browns to keep one of the game’s best centers in Cleveland.

Just how long he remains in Cleveland remains to be seen as Mack can opt out of the deal after two years.

The Browns placed the transition tag on Mack after he made his second Pro Bowl team and was named a second-team All-Pro. In addition to being considered one of the top pivots in the league, Mack is also one of the most dependable and reliable players at any position as he has started all 82 games in his NFL career.

Mack was 21st overall pick in the 2009 draft out of California, but do you think Mack is worth this money considering the position he plays?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

19. James Laurinaitis, MLB, St. Louis Rams – $10 million

Laurinaitis is making $10 million this year as the centerpiece of the Rams defense after signing a five-year contract extension at the beginning of the 2012 season worth up to $41.5 million.

The former second round pick (35th overall) out of Ohio State in the 2009 draft has been a tackling machine at the beginning of his career with 512 tackles in his first five seasons while also showing all-around skills with 12.5 sacks and nine interceptions.

Middle linebackers have been devalued in the draft and don’t get much fanfare compared to the past when guys like Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Junior Seau were household names, but Laurinaitis is easily one of the more underrated players in the game today.

Like Mack who also makes $10 million this year, Laurinaitis has started all 82 games of his career, but the former Buckeyes linebacker is still in search of his first Pro Bowl selection, so is he worth that much money?

(AP Photo/David Richard)

18. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – $10 million

Jackson is in the third year of the five-year, $55.56 million deal he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after beginning his career with the San Diego Chargers and makes $10 million this year.

His first two seasons in Tampa have resulted in career-highs for the former second round pick out of Northern Colorado with 72 receptions for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns with a NFL best 19.2 yards-per-catch average and in 2013 recorded a career-high 78 receptions for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns.

Perhaps most impressive about his stats are he did so with a mess at quarterback with Josh Freeman and Mike Glennon his primary signal-callers before Josh McCown took over this year.

Jackson is off to a slow start with McCown under center with only 10 receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown through three games.

The three-time Pro Bowler would seem to be worth every cent he’s paid based on his level of production the first two years there, so do you think he will shake off the slow start and finish with numbers similar to his last two seasons?

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

17. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans – $10 million

Johnson is the fourth member straight player on this list to make $10 million this season as the future Hall of Famer is in the fifth year of his seven-year deal worth up to $67.8 million and is scheduled to be a free agent in 2017.

The former No. 3 overall pick out of Miami, Johnson managed to have 109 receptions for 1,407 yards and five touchdowns last year despite an ugly quarterback situation in Houston.

His yards-per-catch average dropped to 12.9, the lowest mark since 2006, so is the seven-time Pro Bowl selection being paid for past performance or is he still one of the game’s elite receivers?

Johnson has never had a double-digit touchdown season and has just nine touchdowns in his last 39 games.

Based on his performance for this season, and not his career production, would you say Johnson is worth the money he’s being paid?

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

16. Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams – $10.2 million

Long is making $10.2 million this season and the second Rams defender to make at least $10 million this season, joining the aforementioned Laurinaitis.

The former No. 2 overall pick out of Virginia, Long started his career out a bit slow as far as sacks are concerned but over the last four years has been as good as anyone at bringing down the quarterback with 41.5 sacks. His presence on one side has allowed Robert Quinn to take advantage of some one-on-one blocks as the duo has developed into arguably the league’s premier set of bookends.

Having said that, Long is out until at least mid-November after undergoing ankle surgery and was placed on short-term injured reserve.

Injuries are a part of the game, and the Rams know that as well as any other franchise in the NFL, but provided he was healthy, would you say he is paid appropriately?

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

15. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints – $10.75 million

Brees is making $10.75 million this season in the third year of  A $100 million contract with the Saints that will keep him in New Orleans through at least the 2016 season when he is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of that year.

The Super Bowl champ has thrown for at least 5,000 yards three straight seasons and has four seasons with that many yards, which is highly impressive considering no other quarterback has more than one 5,000-yard season.

Brees has led the NFL in touchdown passes in two of the last three seasons and finished second to Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdowns last year with 39.

I won’t ask if Brees is worth the money, because it is a no-brainer that he is worth every cent, but do you think Brees is actually underpaid considering his value to the Saints?

(Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

14. Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns – $ 10.9 million

Thomas is the second offensive lineman from the Browns on the list as the perennial Pro Bowler is making $10.9 million this season as he is in the middle of the seven-year, $80.5 million extension that will likely make sure he is in Cleveland for his entire career.

The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Thomas is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro who has started all 114 games since entering the league out of Wisconsin.

With Mack at center and Thomas at left tackle, the Browns have two cornerstones on the offensive line for when Johnny Manziel takes over at quarterback, but in the interim has provided a nice pocket for Brian Hoyer who has played well so far in the 2014 season.

Offensive linemen don’t get much notoriety but Thomas has quietly put together a Hall of Fame career.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

13. Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks – $ 11 million

Harvin signed a six-year, $64,25 million dollar deal after the Seahawks acquired the former first round pick out of Florida in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings before the 2013 season and makes $11 million this year.

The first season in Seattle did not go according to plan for Harvin who only appeared in one regular season game, but did make his impact felt in the Super Bowl with a kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half and effectively put that game to bed.

Harvin is a unique player who can beat you as a receiver, rusher and a return man and through two games in the 2014 season he has done just that with 64 receiving yards, 86 rushing yards and a touchdown and 128 yards on six kick returns for the defending Super Bowl champions.

He is still looking for his first 1,000-yard receiving season and has never had more than eight combined offensive touchdowns in a season while missing an average of five games per season in his first five years, so is Harvin worth that much money?

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

12. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington – $11.46 million

Orakpo is playing on the franchise tag this season so he will make $11.46 on the one-year tender offer and will be a free agent at the end of the year.

The former first round pick out of Texas, Orakpo has been a consistent pass-rush threat as an outside linebacker in Washington’s defensive scheme with 40.5 career sacks in 66 games.

Orakpo had 28.5 sacks in his first three seasons before injury knocked him out after the second game in 2012, but he rebounded nicely with his second double-digit sack season with 10 last year and matched a career-high with 60 combined tackles, including a career-high 43 solo stops when he was selected to his third Pro Bowl team.

Coupled with Ryan Kerrigan, Washington has the makings of one of the better pass-rushing duos in the NFL and after their Week 2 win over Jacksonville when Kerrigan had four sacks and Washington had 10 sacks as a team, including one from Orakpo, it is easy to see that Orakpo makes his teammates better.

He will have a number of teams willing to give him a long-term extension if Washington lets him explore free agency, how much do you think he will command on the open market?

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

11. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings – $11.75 million

Peterson is making $11.75 million this season as he is in the middle of his six-year, $86.28 million contract with the Vikings that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2017 season.

The six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro has led the NFL in rushing twice, most recently in 2012 when he had 2,097 and nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. He has 10,190 yards and 82 rushing touchdowns into his eighth season in the NFL.

However, when he will add to those Hall of Fame caliber numbers remains to be seen after he was placed on the exempt list after he was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child before the Vikings Week 2 game when he was deactivated. His court date is Oct. 8 where his legal situation and less importantly his playing status could find some clarity, but in the meantime he is being paid to not play.

As a player, Peterson is undoubtedly worth the money, but considering his ugly legal situation and the sensitive nature of the charges he was indicted for makes his future with the Vikings and his future in the NFL uncertain at best.

(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)

10. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers – $12.1 million

Roethlisberger is making $12.1 million this year as he is in the second-to-last year of the six-year, $87.99 million contract he signed with Pittsburgh.

The two-time Super Bowl champion is coming off one of his most productive seasons as a passer with 4,261 yards and 28 touchdowns, both marks were the second-highest in his career.

But over the last two years, Roethlisberger is only 15-14 as the Steelers have missed the postseason each of the last two seasons for a franchise accustomed to getting in the playoffs and then winning in the playoffs.

It is hard to envision Roethlisberger in anything but a Steelers jersey, but with him scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, his base salary could be much lower that he has been used to on his next deal.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

9. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions – $12.55 million

Suh is making $12.55 million this year as the face of the Lions defense and the three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro is in a contract year as he is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Lions have said they will not discuss his contract during the season after negotiations between the two sides did not advance to a contract extension before the start of the season and is in line for a monster payday.

Detroit can always slap him with the franchise tag if they can’t work out a long-term extension and they’d be foolish not to do so and let him walk, but how much money do you think he could command on the open market?

I think a $100 million contract could be in the future of the 27-year-old defensive tackle with 27.5 career sacks through four seasons since he was the No. 2 pick out of Nebraska in 2010.

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

8. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – $12.73 million

McCoy was taken one pick after the Lions selected Suh, but McCoy is making a bit more than his draft classmate with $12,732,253 this season for the Buccaneers and like Suh is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of this season.

The former Oklahoma standout was selected to his first All-Pro team, joining Suh on that team, last season after he made his first Pro Bowl team the year before in 2012. McCoy had a career-high 9.5 sacks and 50 combined tackles as he started all 16 games for the second straight season in 2013, but that streak is in jeopardy after he broke his hand in the team’s Week 2 loss.

McCoy is likely out for the Week 3 game for Tampa and his status moving forward is undetermined after he said he has to be smart when playing with the injury after he was asked when he could return. He is the engine in the defense in Tampa Bay and was expected to contend for Defensive Player of the Year this season under the guidance of new head coach Lovie Smith.

(Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images)

7. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers – $13.1 million

Hardy was slapped with the franchise tag this offseason and will make $13.116 million this season and is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season.

The former sixth round pick out of Ole Miss in the 2010 draft has proven to be a hidden gem for the Panthers with 15 sacks in 2013 after his breakout season in 2012 with 11 sacks.

Hardy has 27 sacks in his last 27 games, but his future in Carolina and in the NFL is unclear after he was placed on the same exempt list as Adrian Peterson after he was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend and communicating threats this summer.

He will take a paid leave of absence and is out until at least November and perhaps the rest of the regular season with a court date scheduled for Nov. 17, but could be pushed back later. Fair to say that Hardy is one of the most overpaid players in the league now as a result of his ugly legal situation.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

6. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers – $13.8 million

Rivers is making $13.8 million this year in the second-to-last year of his six-year, $91.8 million dollar extension. The former No. 4 overall pick had a rebound season in 2013 when he led the NFL with a 69.5 completion percentage.

He also threw for 4,478 yards, threw 32 touchdowns — the second highest mark in his career — and his 11 interceptions were the fewest he has thrown since he tossed nine in the 2009 season.

Rivers led the Chargers to the playoffs and a win against the Bengals in the first round and led San Diego to an impressive home win over the Seahawks when he tossed three touchdowns to tight end Antonio Gates.

After he was arguably overpaid from 2011-2012, Rivers has bounced back nicely and reasserted himself as one of the game’s better signal-callers.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

5. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams – $14 million

Bradford is making $14.015 million this season for the Rams but won’t play in a single game after tearing his ACL in the preseason and is out for the year.

This is the third year Bradford has suffered a season-ending injury in his five years in the NFL for the former Heisman winner who battled the injury bug during his time at Oklahoma as well.

The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft has an 18-30-1 career record and zero seasons with 4,000 yards passing and only one season with more than 20 touchdowns when he had 21 in 2012.

Bradford has one more year remaining on his rookie contract when he signed a six-year,  $78.05 million deal including $50 million in guaranteed money and will make $12.985 million in base salary next year if the Rams roll the dice one more time on Bradford in the hopes he can stay healthy.

(AP Photo/David Richard)

4. Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins – $15 million

Wallace is making $15 million this year in his second season with the Dolphins after signing a five-year, $60 million deal that included $30 million in guaranteed money.

The first season in Miami for Wallace was a bit of a disappointment considering the lucrative contract he signed as he finished with 930 yards and a career-low five touchdowns. He did have a career-high 73 receptions but his 12.7 yards-per-reception average was the lowest of his career as he did not live up to the home run threat that he was in Pittsburgh.

Wallace already has two touchdowns through two games this season for Miami, but his yards-per-reception number is now at 11.4 with 12 receptions for 137 yards. With not much of a threat opposite him and Ryan Tannehill continuing to develop, Wallace has been more of a possession receiver than the game-breaking home run hitter the Dolphins thought they were getting.

No other receiver makes more money than Wallace and he’s not in the top-10 at the position, so would you classify him as a free agent bust?

(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

3. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos – $15 million

Are you surprised to see Manning at No. 3? Manning makes $15 million this season in the middle of the five-year, $96 million contract he signed with the Broncos after the Indianapolis Colts let one of the game’s best players of all-time walk amid concerns over his surgically repaired neck.

Manning led the Broncos to the Super Bowl last season when he had the best regular season any quarterback has ever had in league history when he led the league in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns with a league record 55 en route to his fifth MVP.

Needless to say Manning is worth every cent the Broncos are paying him and you can make the case that even at a $15 million base salary he is underpaid.

Considering Manning is the best player in the game and he’s not even the highest-paid player in his family, the Broncos have a bargain on their hands.

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

2. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants – $15.15 million

Eli holds bragging rights over older brother Peyton with more Super Bowl rings and with a higher base salary this season ad the Giants quarterback is making $15,150 this season.

That’s where the bragging rights end for Eli over Peyton as Eli struggled mightily last season with an NFL-high 27 interceptions, the most of his career, and already leads the league with four interceptions through two games this season for the 0-2 Giants.

Manning is 7-11 since 2013 and to make matters worse for New York, he is going to be paid even more next year with $17 million due his way in the last year of his contract.

It is nearly impossible to envision a scenario where Manning is not in a Giants uniform for the rest of his career, but if he can’t limit his interceptions and start winning games at the clip he did for the first eight years he was the full-time starter, maybe the Giants start thinking about a replacement than an extension for the two-time Super Bowl winner.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

1. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears – $17.5 million

Surprised, right?

Cutler is the highest-paid player in the NFL in 2014 with a $17.5 million base salary after signing a seven-year deal worth up to $126 million with $54 million in guaranteed money this offseason.

Now in his sixth season with the Bears, Cutler is still looking for his first 4,000-yard season and first season with more than 26 passing touchdowns. In fact, Cutler has yet to match the 3,666 yards and 26 touchdowns he had in his first season in Chicago since he was traded by the Broncos.

Cutler has missed 13 games over the last four years and has only played a 16-game schedule once with the Bears, but he got a lucrative contract to stay with the Bears in the hopes that second-year head coach Marc Trestman can bring out the best in Cutler and turn his potential into production, and win the NFC North in the process and get to a Super Bowl.

Maybe that faith shown in Cutler last winter is paying off after a four-touchdown performance against the San Francisco 49ers to complete a fourth quarter comeback against one of the better teams in the NFL. Through two games, Cutler does lead the NFL with six touchdowns and has arguably the best pair of receivers to work with in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

Jay Cutler as the highest-paid player in the NFL: overpaid or a worthwhile investment?

(Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images)

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