The 25 highest-paid players in NFL history

In the NFL, lots of players sign big contracts. But unlike other sports, NFL deals are rarely guaranteed and few players see all of the money in those large deals.

But a select few have gone on to make big money in their careers as there are now 26 players who have made at least $100 million.

The list of the 25 players with the most career earnings includes 17 active players, 17 quarterbacks, 1 Tom Brady, and 2 Mannings.

Using contract data obtained by Spotrac.com, here are the 25 highest-paid players in NFL history.

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The highest-paid NFL players of all time (as of 2017-18)
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The highest-paid NFL players of all time (as of 2017-18)

25. Champ Bailey, CB — $102.8 million

Seasons: 15

Highest single-season earnings: $16.5 million (2010; included $3 million roster bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 12

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Bailey's largest contract came after the 2003 season, when he signed a seven-year, $63 million deal.

(Photo via REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

24. Alex Smith, QB — $106.5 million

Seasons: 12

Highest single-season earnings: $19.0 million (2014; included $18 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 2

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Often referred to by the pejorative "game manager," Smith is on pace to lead his team to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last seven years.

(Photo by Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

23. Calvin Johnson, WR — $113.8 million

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2013; includes $20 million option bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Johnson retired after the 2015 season because he was "in pain." He walked away from the final four years and $67.7 million on his contract.

(Photo by Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

22. Sam Bradford, QB — $114.1 million

Seasons: 7

Highest single-season earnings: $26.8 million (2011; included $18 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 0

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to knowBradford has already eclipsed the $100 million mark due in large part to luck and timing. He was the first pick in the 2010 draft, the last draft class before the NFL put restrictions on how much rookies could be paid. 

(Photo by Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

21. Joe Thomas, LT — $119.9 million

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $19.1 million (2011; includes $6 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 10

First-team All-Pro: 6

One thing to know: Thomas has not only never missed a game in his career, he has never missed a single snap, a streak that recently eclipsed 10,000 straight plays.

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

20. Mario Williams, DE — $120.4 million

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2012; includes $19 million signing bonus)

Championships:0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Mario Williams was another No. 1 overall draft pick back when No. 1 overall draft picks received gigantic rookie contracts. Williams' first deal with the Texans was for six years and $54 million.

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

19. Jay Cutler, QB — $122.2 million

Seasons: 11

Highest single-season earnings: $20.5 million (2015; includes $5 million restructure bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Cutler retired after the 2016 season, but later stepped away from an upcoming TV job to sign a 1-year, $10 million contract to replace the Miami Dolphins' injured quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

18. Darrelle Revis, CB — $124.2 million

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $25 million (2011; includes $18 million option bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 7

First-team All-Pro: 4

One thing to know: In a league where most players are forced to take safe contracts, Revis continually bet on himself and won, often forgoing long-term deals and instead taking repeated chances in free agency.

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

17. Ndamukong Suh, DT — $124.2 million

Seasons: 8

Highest single-season earnings: $26.5 million (2015; included $25.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: If Suh stays with the Dolphins until the end of his 6-year, $114.4 million contract his career earnings will rise to $178.6 million.

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

16. Michael Vick, QB — $124.8 million

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $27.5 million (2005)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Vick missed two seasons in the prime of his career following his dog-fighting conviction.

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images)

15. Tony Romo, QB — $127.4 million

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $26.5 million (2013; includes $25 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Romo chose retirement following the 2016 season over playing for another team. He is now earning a lot of praise for his work in the TV booth.

(Photo by Rich Kane/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

14. Joe Flacco, QB — $135.8 million 

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $30.0 million (2013; included $29.0 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 0

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Joe Flacco has elite career earnings.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

13. Aaron Rodgers, QB — $137.5 million 

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $38.3 million (2013; includes $33.3 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 2

One thing to know: The Packers have Rodgers under contract through the 2019 season which would push his career earnings to $179.5 million.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

12. Brett Favre, QB — $137.8 million

Seasons: 20 (retired in 2010)

Highest single-season earnings: $16 million (2010; includes $4.4 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 11

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: Favre only made more than $12 million once while with the Packers, but made more than that in each of his three seasons with the Jets and Vikings.

(Photo by Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images)

11. Matt Ryan, QB — $149.5 million

Seasons: 10

Highest single-season earnings: $36.5 million (2014; included $15 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: Ryan's five-year, $103.8 million extension is up after the 2018 season and presumably he will be in line for a big raise. A signing bonus in the neighborhood of Matthew Stafford's recent $50 million bonus would push him near the top of this list.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

10. Larry Fitzgerald, WR — $151.3 million

Seasons: 13

Highest single-season earnings: $26.3 million (2012; includes $15 million option bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 10

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: There were reports that Fitzgerald would retire after the 2016 season. That did not happen, however, his contract is up after this season, which could be his last.

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

9. Julius Peppers, LB — $159.5 million

Seasons: 16

Highest single-season earnings: $20.2 million (2010; includes $6.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 9

First-team All-Pro: 3

One thing to know: After several seasons with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Peppers returned this season to his original club, signing a $3.5 million deal to play with the Carolina Panthers. At 37, he seemingly still has a lot of gas in the tank as he was recently named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

8. Matthew Stafford, QB — $161.8 million

Seasons: 9

Highest single-season earnings: $51.1 million (2017, includes $50.0 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 1

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Stafford agreed to a new five-year, $135 million contract this offseason, with a whopping $50 million signing bonus. The $27 million average annual salary is tops in the NFL

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

7. Ben Roethlisberger, QB — $170.3 million

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $35.3 million (2015; includes $31 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 5

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: At $87.4 million, the contract signed prior to the 2015 season by Big Ben didn't sound as sexy as the other deals signed by quarterbacks. But it was better than most, as he got more than $35 million in Year 1 and a whopping $53 million over the first two seasons.

(Photo by Mark Alberti/ Icon Sportswire)

6. Carson Palmer, QB — $174.1 million

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $19.0 million (2014; includes $10 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 3

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Palmer's $24.1 million cap hit this season is second only to Joe Flacco ($24.6 million).

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

5. Philip Rivers, QB — $187.9 million

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $32 million (2015; includes $17 million signing bonus)

Championships: 0

Pro Bowls: 6

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Rivers got one of the surprise monster contracts in recent memory, which will likely push his career earnings close to $220 million when all's said and done. Of that, he spent $200,000 on a luxury SUV that has a film room in back for his new commutes to Los Angeles.

(Photo by Kyle Emery/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

4. Drew Brees, QB — $194.7 million

Seasons: 17

Highest single-season earnings: $40 million (2012; includes $37 million signing bonus)

Championships: 1

Pro Bowls: 10

First-team All-Pro: 1

One thing to know: While much has been made of Tom Brady still playing well into his late 30s and early 40s, Brees is now 38 and doesn't seem ready to retire. However, his contract is up after the season and he may have to continue his career elsewhere in 2018.

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

3. Tom Brady, QB — $197.2 million

Seasons: 18

Highest single-season earnings: $28.8 million (2016; includes $28.0 million signing bonus)

Championships: 5

Pro Bowls: 12

First-team All-Pro: 2

One thing to know: Brady has consistently sacrificed money during his career for the sake of the team. However, he is starting to cash in now, signing a $41 million extension prior to the 2016 season that included a $28 million signing bonus.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Eli Manning, QB — $219.3 million

Seasons: 14

Highest single-season earnings: $37 million (2015; included $31 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 4

First-team All-Pro: 0

One thing to know: Manning made $37 million during the 2015 season alone as part of his new $84 million contract, which included a $31 million signing bonus. If he plays out the final two years of his current contract, his career earnings will grow to $252.3 million.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

1. Peyton Manning, QB — $248.7 million

Seasons: 18

Highest single-season earnings: $35 million (2004; includes $34.5 million signing bonus)

Championships: 2

Pro Bowls: 14

First-team All-Pro: 7

One thing to know: Manning's final paycheck in the NFL was a $4 million bonus for winning the Super Bowl in 2015. He had one year and $19 million remaining on his Broncos contract when he retired.

(Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
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