The 2023 NFL All-Paid Team is a collection of the highest-earning players in the league at each position. It's essentially an All-Pro team, but the pocketbook supersedes pedigree and production for the day.
Average per year (APY) is the most accepted measure of comparison for player contracts, so it's what will be used for our purposes. Also, players who received the franchise tag are ineligible, due to the fixed nature of their salaries.
If you need help understanding any of the terms in this article, please refer to our free agency and contract glossary.
Here's a quick rundown of the 2023 All-Paid Team's contractual totals:
- Total NFL seasons under contract: 88
- Total combined value: $2.1 billion
- Average per year: $24.0 million
- Total combined APY: $518.3 million
- Total combined 2023 cap hit: $323.7 million
- Total combined 2023 cash: $503.3 million
- Total combined fully guaranteed money: $999.4 million
Alright, let's dig into the team, starting on the offensive side of the ball.
Here's a quick rundown of the offensive totals:
- Total NFL seasons under contract: 40
- Total combined value: $1.04 billion
- Average per year: $26.1 million
- Total combined APY: $270.3 million
- Total combined 2023 cap hit: $165.7 million
- Total combined 2023 cash: $281.7 million
- Total combined fully guaranteed money: $485.9 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $52 million
Without hiring an agent, Jackson negotiated a five-year, $260 million contract that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history at $52 million per season. The 2019 unanimous NFL MVP bet on himself last season -- playing out his fifth-year option and forcing the Ravens to franchise tag him this offseason -- and won.
Despite having logged just 70 NFL games thus far, Jackson ranks fifth on the all-time quarterback rushing list with 4,437 career yards. Each of the players ahead of him has played more than twice as many games: Michael Vick (143 games), Cam Newton (148), Russell Wilson (173) and Randall Cunningham (161). As far as throwing the football, last year was supposedly a down season for Jackson, but he still led all qualified QBs with a 124.7 passer rating on intermediate tosses (10-19 air yards, per Next Gen Stats).
At the end of the day, this game is about wins and losses; since 1970, only Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Roger Staubach have won a higher percentage of their career games (minimum 25 starts) than Jackson, who boasts a .738 mark (45-16).
How good does the Chiefs' 10-year, $450 million contract with Mahomes look now? It's a bargain. The lesson here: If you have a quarterback you believe in, lock him up early -- as in the earliest. The Bengals and Chargers would have been wise to get their deals done with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, respectively, before Jalen Hurts' and Jackson's deals came through.
2022 ALL-PAID QB: Aaron Rodgers
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $16 million
The Panthers signed McCaffrey to this $16 million-per-year deal, but now the 49ers are reaping the benefits. Shortly after acquiring McCaffrey prior to the 2022 trade deadline, the 49ers inserted the running back into the starting lineup and proceeded to rip off 12 straight wins before falling to the Eagles in the NFC title game. From Week 8 (CMC's first start for San Francisco) through the end of the regular season, McCaffrey was the only player in football with 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns.
Prior to his clean bill of health in 2022, McCaffrey had missed 23 games over his previous two seasons in Carolina, but he looked spry as ever in Kyle Shanahan's offense. McCaffrey is still the most versatile running back threat in the NFL. After all, he's the only player in league history with a career average of at least 50 yards per game rushing and receiving. His career average of 5.9 catches per game trails just six receivers (min. 50 games played) and he ranks top five all time in scrimmage yards per game (113.1).
A healthy McCaffrey may be one of the few running backs in today's game worth this exorbitant price tag. With Saquon Barkley receiving the franchise tag, he is the running back position's next hope to move the market forward, but given how things seem to be going on that front, CMC may hold this spot until the end of his current deal.
2022 ALL-PAID RB: McCaffrey
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $30 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $28 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $27.3 million
Imagine walking onto the field and lining up across from this trio of wide receivers. For the second year in a row, Hill, Adams and Hopkins top of the WR market.
Arguably the most feared weapon in the NFL, Hill promptly answered any questions about how he'd perform away from Mahomes and Andy Reid. In Year 1 with the Dolphins, the electric wideout racked up 119 receptions for 1,710 yards, with both figures trailing only future All-Paid member Justin Jefferson. That yardage total was not only the most by a player in his first season with a team (rookie or veteran) in NFL history, but it also shattered the Dolphins' franchise record. Per Next Gen Stats, Hill led the NFL in yards per route run last season at 3.3, half a yard more than the next-closest wideout (A.J. Brown, 2.8).
The last 14 months have been quite the roller coaster for Adams, from leaving Green Bay to join his close friend in Las Vegas to seeing the Raiders release Derek Carr and sign Jimmy Garoppolo. However, two things have remained consistent for the star receiver: his play and his paycheck. Adams accounted for the second-highest portion (36.3 percent) of his team's total receiving yards, behind only Jefferson.
Despite trade rumors swirling, Hopkins remained a Cardinal through the 2023 NFL Draft. With Kyler Murray (torn ACL) expected to miss at least the start of the 2023 season, Hopkins' presence will be a plus for Colt McCoy or whoever is taking snaps for the Cardinals in September. Not only does Hopkins rank top four all time with a career average of 77.9 receiving yards per game (minimum 100 games), but he also averaged 89.1 yards per game last season in the eight games that either Murray or McCoy started. However, with two years and no fully guaranteed money remaining in his contract, it's still feasible to see Hopkins on the move at some point.
2022 ALL-PAID WR: Hill, Adams, Hopkins
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $17 million
It's wild to consider that Las Vegas made Waller the NFL's highest-paid tight end and then traded him away less than a year later, but the Raiders organization (particularly the offense) has seen major turnover this offseason. The team structured the contract with a way out, as the Raiders will carry just $660,000 in dead money on their 2023 cap after sending Waller to New York.
Only Travis Kelce (79.8) and George Kittle (65.9) have averaged more receiving yards per game than Waller (65.3) since the former sixth-round pick became a full-time starter in 2019. Waller is an instant upgrade to a Daniel Jones and a Giants' passing game, which sorely lacked a clear No. 1 pass catcher in 2022.
2022 ALL-PAID TE: George Kittle
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $25 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $14.3 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20.5 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20.2 million
Why is so much draft capital and money invested in the O-line? Well, it's the basic foundation of an offense -- and, to a large extent, a team.
In March, the Texans gave Tunsil a three-year, $75 million extension that made him, once again, the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Tunsil was PFF's top-graded pass blocker in 2022. Locking him in was the appropriate move for a team that knew it would be adding a young quarterback in the draft. (The Texans selected C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall.)
Since Nelson stepped onto an NFL field, he's been dominant. He's yet to miss a Pro Bowl selection in five seasons, starting every game in four campaigns. His consistency will be a steadying presence for likely starting QB and fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson.
Kelce decided to return for his 13th NFL season in March. He's been named the first-team All-Pro center in five of the last six seasons and hasn't missed a game since 2014. Even at 35 years old, Kelce's unequaled at his position. He played 714 pass-blocking snaps during the regular season and playoffs, per PFF, and did not allow a single sack or hit on his quarterback.
Lindstrom is scheduled to earn $35.7 million in cash this year, the most among all offensive linemen and fifth-most in the entire NFL behind four quarterbacks (Deshaun Watson, Daniel Jones, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray). The price tag seems more than lavish at first blush, but with Arthur Smith establishing a run-first identity in Atlanta, Lindstrom fits the bill perfectly. He was comfortably PFF's highest-graded offensive lineman last season.
The second Philadelphia player on the front line of this squad, Johnson played through a torn abductor in his groin for the duration of the playoffs and Super Bowl, an effort that even had division rival Micah Parsons calling him a hero. He was still playing at an elite level despite his need for the surgery he ended up getting in February. Johnson has something else in common with Kelce besides jerseys and paychecks: He did not allow a sack or hit all season, including the playoffs (614 pass-block snaps, per PFF).
Here's a quick rundown of the defensive totals:
- Total NFL seasons under contract: 48
- Total combined value: $1.07 billion
- Average per year: $22.2 million
- Total combined APY: $248.0 million
- Total combined 2023 cap hit: $158.0 million
- Total combined 2023 cash: $221.6 million
- Total combined fully guaranteed money: $513.5 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $31.7 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $23.5 million
Typically, it's the edge rushers who put up the flashy numbers and sign the market-setting deals. However, Aaron Donald is, and always has been, an anomaly. He is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL by far -- and that distinction fits him, as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With the trade of Jalen Ramsey and release of Bobby Wagner, the Rams seem to be turning over the roster on defense. However, the team still has the most foundational defensive building block in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2014, Donald ranks first in sacks (103), quarterback hits (237) and tackles for loss (160), earning seven first-team All-Pro selections and nine Pro Bowl bids in the process. He suffered his first significant injury last season (an ankle issue which cost him six games), but was still one of the most dominant presences in the NFL.
The Titans did the one thing they had to do this offseason: lock up Big Jeffery Simmons, the cornerstone of Tennessee's defense. After earning back-to-back Pro Bowl selections, Simmons signed his four-year, $94 million extension last month. He is the only interior defensive linemen with at least 100 quarterback pressures and 50 hurries over the past two years, per Next Gen Stats. Outside of Simmons, the only NFL players with at least 30 quarterback hits, 20 tackles for loss and 10 passes defensed since 2021 are T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Maxx Crosby.
2022 ALL-PAID IDL: Donald, DeForest Buckner
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $28 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $27 million
Watt's absence actually might have underscored his value more than his presence for the Steelers in 2022. The six-year veteran has missed 11 games in his NFL career; the Steelers are 1-10 in those games. And just look at the impact having Watt on the field had on the defense last season:
- Without Watt (Weeks 2-8): 1-6 W-L, 25.3 points allowed, 389.9 yards allowed.
- With Watt (Weeks 1, 10-18): 8-2 W-L, 16.9 points allowed, 288.8 yards allowed.
The Steelers were a top-four scoring and total defense with Watt ... and a bottom-four defense in both metrics without him. On the field, he's been undeniable. Watt led the NFL in sacks in 2020, then tied Michael Strahan's single-season record for sacks (22.5) in his 2021 Defensive Player of the Year campaign. Only one player has recorded at least 75 sacks and five interceptions in his first six NFL seasons; he wears No. 90 in the Black and Gold.
Bosa became the NFL's highest-paid defensive player in July 2020, and he's held a spot on the All-Paid Team ever since. Last season was marred by a groin injury that forced him to miss 12 games (Weeks 4-16). He returned for the Chargers' final two regular-season games (and their wild-card loss to the Jaguars), but played under 50 percent of the snaps over that span. When healthy, Bosa is a disruptive force. The Bolts are just hoping to see their duo of Bosa and Khalil Mack, the NFL's two highest-paid edge rushers in terms of total contract value, have a healthy 2023. Although Joey is the second-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL, he's soon to be the second-highest paid edge rusher in his family, whenever his brother, Nick, signs an extension with the 49ers.
2022 ALL-PAID EDGE: Watt, J. Bosa
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19.7 million
It took requesting (and ultimately being granted) a trade to get a new contract, but Roquan Smith found the Brinks truck in the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore made Smith the first traditional linebacker in NFL history to sign a contract worth $20 million per year or $100 million in total value. The Ravens very well might've seen flashes of an iconic Raven in Smith. He's one of two players since 1995 to record at least 100 tackles, multiple sacks and an interception in each of his first five seasons. The other is Pro Football Hall of Famer and Ravens legend Ray Lewis.
Shaquille, formerly Darius, Leonard reset the linebacker market with his five-year, $98.5 million extension in August 2021. After earning three first-team All-Pro selections and three Pro Bowl nods in his first four seasons, Leonard played just three games for the Colts in 2022 due to injuries. Despite this, linebackers are still catching up to his production. He is the only player with at least 10 interceptions and 10 sacks or forced fumbles since he entered the league in 2018.
2022 ALL-PAID LB: Leonard, Fred Warner
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $21 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $20.1 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19.5 million
Alexander's four-year, $84 million pact with the Packers last offseason still reigns as the position's high-water mark for contracts. And as far as cash compensation goes, no cornerback made more last season than Alexander's $31.1 million. His career-high five interceptions tied for second in the NFL in 2022, leading to Alexander's second career Pro Bowl selection. He's been PFF's highest-graded coverage cornerback over the last three seasons, edging out of one of this generation's best players at the position, Jalen Ramsey.
Ward is the only player in the NFL with multiple interceptions and at least 10 passes defensed over each of the last five seasons (the entirety of his NFL career). While Alexander was the cash king last season, Ward is set to make $23 million in cash in 2023, the most at the position.
Lattimore edged out Marlon Humphrey for the final spot on this roster by just over $20,000 per year. Lattimore is an "I want to line up against your best receiver" type of corner. His 19.2 percent forced incompletion rate is the third-highest in the NFL since 2021 (PFF, min. 100 targets).
2022 ALL-PAID CB: Alexander, Ward, Jalen Ramsey
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $19.1 million
AVERAGE PER YEAR: $18.4 million
James can do anything you ask of him on a football field: cover, play the run, blitz, whatever you need. This is why he almost became the first $20 million-per-year safety in NFL history. He's the only player with multiple sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles in each of the last two seasons. In coverage, James allowed the fewest yards (188) and the lowest passer rating (67.2) among all safeties to see more than 40 targets in 2022 (PFF).
The Steelers made Fitzpatrick the NFL's highest-paid safety in June 2022, which set the floor for James' deal a few months later. Minkah is, arguably, the best coverage safety in the NFL. The football seems to magnetize toward him at times, with his six interceptions tying for the league lead in 2022. Since Pittsburgh traded a first-round pick in a package to acquire him in September 2019, Fitzpatrick has racked up 22 total takeaways, tied with Justin Simmons for the most among all safeties during that span.