10 of the richest NFL players

Defensive players laid a big hit on owners' pocketbooks last year, but this year, it's players on offense who are receiving the rewards from the latest wave of eye-popping NFL contracts.

Of the top 10 NFL players on Forbes' highest-paid athletes list in June, six are quarterbacks, and all are paid to put points on the board rather than take them off. Here they are in ascending order.

Vincent Jackson

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Position: Wide receiver
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $23.4 million

Three-time Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson was the big beneficiary of a spending spree by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, but unlike many free-agent acquisitions, he actually provided pretty good bang for the Bucs, catching eight touchdowns and gaining more than 1,300 yards over the 2012 season.

Dwayne Bowe

Team: Kansas City Chiefs
Position: Wide receiver
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $24.9 million

A former first-round pick blessed with an impressive combination of size and speed, receiver Dwayne Bowe was offered big bucks by the Chiefs in March, who desperately wanted to avoid losing him to a higher bidder. That deal came despite Bowe's 2012 season ending early with a trip to the injured reserve from multiple broken ribs.

Ray Rice

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Position: Running back
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $25.8 million

Star players expect a payday when they win a Super Bowl, but Ray Rice already had one baked into the $40 million contract he signed before the 2012 season. The Ravens probably consider it money well-spent considering Rice scored 11 touchdowns in the regular and post-season and ran for 1,143 yards in the regular season alone.

Calvin Johnson

Team: Detroit Lions
Position: Wide receiver
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $26.3 million

Nicknamed "Megatron" for his resemblance to a giant robot from "Transformers" who can transform into a jet, Calvin Johnson may be the best receiver in the NFL right now, and he's being paid accordingly. He signed an eight-year deal with the Detroit Lions in 2012 that will pay him up to $132 million, with $60 million guaranteed.

Tony Romo

Team: Dallas Cowboys
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $28.8 million

Tony Romo may not be universally regarded as one of the league's top quarterbacks, but he's certainly being paid like one. The former undrafted free agent threw 28 TDs against 19 interceptions in 2012, and that was enough for the Cowboys to offer him a $108 million contract extension this offseason that makes him the highest-paid player in the team's history.

Peyton Manning

Team: Denver Broncos
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $30 million

In the final years of a Hall of Fame career, Peyton Manning now makes nearly as much on endorsements as he does playing football. Manning earned $18 million from the Broncos in his first year there, taking the team to the playoffs, and $12 million endorsing everything from Papa John's pizza to DirecTV. In fact, Manning tops the NFL in earnings for endorsements.

Joe Flacco

Team: Baltimore Ravens
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $36.8 million

Winning a Super Bowl in a contract year proved to be extremely lucrative for Joe Flacco, who threw for three TDs and a Super Bowl MVP nod in the Ravens' 34-31 victory over the 49ers. Ahead of the 2013 season, the team signed him to a $120.6 million, six-year contract that made him the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time it was signed.

Tom Brady

Team: New England Patriots
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $38.3 million

A three-time Super Bowl winner, Tom Brady managed to wring $31.3 million out of the famously frugal Patriots in a season where he threw for 34 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. Brady picked up the rest in endorsements, where he's third in the league behind Drew Brees.

Aaron Rodgers

Team: Green Bay Packers
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $49 million

After a season where he threw 39 touchdowns and led his team to a playoff berth and picked up some lucrative endorsements from Nike and State Farm, it's easy to understand why Aaron Rodgers occupies the second spot on this list. Although Aaron Rodgers and the Packers haven't reached the Super Bowl since they beat the Pittsburgh Stealers to conclude the 2010 season, the team understands his role in making them a perennial contender, signing him to a five-year, $110 million contract in April.

Drew Brees

Team: New Orleans Saints
Position: Quarterback
Earnings (June 2012-June 2013): $51 million

Although Drew Brees was signed as a free agent in 2006, his name is so closely identified with the Saints that you'd think he was born a member of the Who Dat Nation. It's understandable, then, that the Saints ownership has been willing to open their wallets to keep Brees in the city. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that Brees has thrown for more than 40 touchdowns each of the last two seasons and is basically a one-man offense. Brees is also second to only Peyton Manning in endorsement earnings, with $11 million.


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