Some of the guys on this list will be making millions more than their already huge contract while others will be seeing drastic increases over their early-career contracts that often are greatly underpriced. But that’s sort of the nature of the NFL. Unproven professional athletes often get snubbed and are forced to play under a contract that great depreciates the value they bring to the field. It’s tough, but a chunk of the players on this list will plow through their early years with great success and undoubtedly receive on of the NFL’s largest contracts.
As the years go on, the NFL rakes in billions upon billions more dollars than the league has in the past. There’s no reason to think that trend is going to change any time soon, especially since the NFL continues to grow its fanbase worldwide. More and more games are being played and broadcast around the world, and that’s bringing more attention to what used to be just America’s sport. This means that player contracts will continue to rise and the stars of the league will further separate themselves from the rest of the pack. It sucks for the guys who will be at the bottom, but the guys on top will benefit more than the NFL has ever seen out of its top talent. But who will be the guys on top in five years? This list will identify each of the top 15 highest paid players in the NFL five years from now.
15 AMARI COOPER
Here we meet the first of three players on the Raiders who will be among the NFL’s top 15 highest paid athletes five years from now. Because of this, it’s not likely (or even possible) that the Raiders will be able to hold onto each one of these athletes in five years, but we’ll get to that a bit later. In the case of Amari Cooper, he’s already proved to be one of the best receiving talents in the league. And as the guys currently at the top begin to break down, Cooper will be getting ready for his giant payday. He won’t be the highest paid wide receiver, but he’ll be in the top-three.
With just two seasons in the NFL, it already looks like Cooper is a seasoned veteran. He has played in every game and has recorded more than 1,000 receiving yards each season. The big question here is if Cooper has been successful because of Derek Carr, or vice versa. We’re thinking it’s safe to bet that either of these guys would succeed without the other. They’re both just extremely talented and a fun combination to watch when playing together.
14 EZEKIEL ELLIOTT
Dallas will see the benefits from Ezekiel Elliott for years to come, especially as his skill will lead him to the MVP award in a couple seasons. For those reasons, Zeke will be the highest paid running back in the league five years from now. This year, Elliott will truly prove his talent as he will continue to succeed even as Dak Prescott begins to falter from time to time. Prescott had an equally good rookie season, but defenses will pressure him more and more.
That will provide some nice space for Elliott, who will attack as both a rusher and receiver. Elliot will not only prove to be the NFL’s best athlete in the next few years, he’ll be leading the Cowboys to multiple Super Bowl appearances. Regardless of whether or not Elliott remains with the Cowboys, he’ll be getting paid as he should since he’ll be one of the top performers in the NFL.
13 JACK CONKLIN
Although picking an offensive lineman isn’t an extremely popular pick early in the first round, the Titans lucked out in 2016. The Titans have a young quarterback with an absolute star at the running back position. You need to protect those assets. This was the best possible decision for Tennessee and it will be part of the reason the team sees multiple postseason runs over the course of the next five seasons. All of those reasons are why Jack Conklin (#78) will be a staple of the Titans offensive attack five years from now.
Conklin was a first-team All-Pro selection last season. After he racks up five more of those he’ll be bringing in the type of money that offensive linemen don’t normally see. Sure, awards are often overlooked. But his All-Pro selection is something that rookies rarely see and you need to be really good to be considered. Conklin won’t be known by most fans, but he’ll be one of the best and most consistent players in the near future.
12 ODELL BECKHAM JR.
Odell Beckham Jr. has the celebrity persona, and he has the skill that crushes most of the receivers in the league. Five years from now, there will be just one other wide receiver who is bringing in more cash than this high-octane receiver (and that’s because the other guy will be playing in a bigger market with a likely one-year contract). The crazy thing is that it seems like Beckham is already playing in his prime, but he’s just 24. In five years, he will be playing at his truly optimal form.
The only tough part is that Beckham is seemingly turning into a divisive player who will make some questionable decisions in the eyes of the public. It won’t be anything too crazy, but it will likely be the issues that we see from guys who play at his elite level. He’ll continue to miss non mandatory team practices or be out on boats when he should be resting for a playoff game. That will keep him from the top, top notch dollars.
11 DAVID JOHNSON
Here we have an athlete that is within the top 3 players at his position, and because of this he’ll make sure that he’s among the NFL’s top paid running backs in five years. Currently, David Johnson is making way less than he should be. Johnson is entering his third year of a four-year rookie contract and he’s making a dismal $615,000. That’s just awful for a guy who produced more than any other running back last season. Arizona should be ashamed.
The worst part is that Johnson is playing in one of football’s most injury-prone positions and he’s got to do it for two more seasons before he can renegotiate terms. That’s an awfully long time to keep production at these levels while avoiding injury. Plus, with the season that Johnson just posted it won’t be surprising if Arizona begins to work him more and more. It’s completely awful that the Cardinals are benefiting off of Johnson’s prime years for literally just thousands of dollars. Again, Arizona … shame on you for allowing a rising star to be paid so little.
10 AARON DONALD
Again, here we have another guy still playing under his rookie contract, which has turned out to be way less than he’s worth. But that’s how it goes in the NFL. A lot of teams will greatly overvalue a young star and are left regretting offering up all that money, while other times the player lives up to his potential and is making millions (a lot of time tens of millions) of dollars less than they should be receiving.
Aaron Donald, the 13th pick out of the 2014 draft, is a huge discount deal for the type of production the Rams are receiving out of the young defensive end. And they better repay him with one of the NFL’s largest contracts when the time comes. Donald has been selected to the Pro Bowl each season and was the defensive rookie of the year in 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Donald was a first-team All-Pro selection. There’s no for sure way in telling if Donald can keep up this production for two more years before he signs a new contract, but he’s on pace to vastly increase his earnings in 2019.
9 AARON RODGERS
In five years, we’ll be watching Aaron Rodgers get ready for (possibly) his last season in the NFL. That will get him quite a big contract, but it won’t be as big as some of the younger quarterbacks in the league. Rodgers joined the NFL back in 2005, and he’s going into the 2017 season at just 33 years old. That gives him at least a few more “good” years, while he’ll likely be able to string out his career for another couple years after that. C’mon, Green Bay is used to quarterbacks outstaying their welcome.
But Rodgers deserves to stay in the league as long as he wants. He’s brought the team a Super Bowl championship, he’s been a two-time MVP while in the Packers uniform and he’s been a six-time Pro Bowl selection. That’s not bad for someone who has a good chance to add quite a bit to an already stacked resume, and no one will complain when Green Bay decides to shell out more money than the aging Rodgers will be worth five years from now.
8 DEZ BRYANT
Here we look at the highest paid wide receiver five years from now. This may shock some, but it’s the most reasonable choice. Dez Bryant is already a league-leading receiver and he’s doing it on one of the NFL’s most profitable teams. That means he’s getting bigger contracts. And as Bryant’s career evolves with Dallas, it will become increasingly tougher for Jerry Jones to think it’s possible to let Bryant move on to another team. That’s a perfect combination for a huge contract … especially in five years.
In five years Bryan will be a few years into his thirties. By that time, we’re guessing this high profile athlete will be wanting maximum cash flow. Meaning he’ll likely gamble year-to-year on those risky one-year contracts that come with absolutely monstrous amounts of cash. It will be interesting to see how much Dallas will be willing to pay.
7 SAM BRADFORD
Although the road has been shaky for Sam Bradford up to this point, he’ll be steadying out in the next few years. What’s also likely is that Bradford will suddenly evolve into an elite quarterback in the next few years, which will put him in place for a contract that places him in the top-four highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL. The guys above him just mean more to their franchise since Bradford has been tossed around through three different teams in his first seven seasons in the league.
But Bradford has been sneakily good in the past couple of seasons despite playing on teams with subpar records. While playing with Minnesota last year, Bradford led the league in terms of completion percentage. That’s not a hugely great stat, but it does show progress in the game of this quarterback. In five years, Bradford will be doing the same. He’ll be consistent, and still moving from team to team. But that’s in his financial interest. Going to a team that needs a veteran quarterback will get him the most money each year and pad his bank account for retirement.
6 JOEY BOSA
This defensive end filled a hole for the Chargers defensive front, but the team still suffered from major problems that caused a rough season last year. Regardless, Joey Bosa (#99) will prove to be worth the huge contract he signed initially, and he’ll prove to be worth a much bigger contract in the near future. In fact, five years from now he’ll be among the highest paid players on the defensive side of the ball. He’s a freak athlete. More so, Bosa started in just 11 games (because of a hamstring injury) but was still named the Defensive Rookie of the Year after he recorded 10 ½ sacks.
Now that the Chargers are in Los Angeles, Bosa is primed for a career that will be followed more than most players get to see. Since he’s now in a huge sports network, he’ll be in the perfect location to get paid what he’s going to deserve. As long as he avoids missing major chunks of time, which he should be able to do, he’ll be regarded as one of the NFL’s best defensive players in no time.
5 MITCH TRUBISKY
This is going to take a few years until it starts looking like a possibility, but Mitch Trubisky will be leading a team in one of the league’s biggest markets. That bodes well for a huge payday. Especially when you’re the guy who came in at one of the franchise’s lowest points. Trubisky’s addition to Chicago shocked most spectators. That’s why Trubisky is in a terrible but great position at the same time. He's in a huge market playing for Chicago, and once he proves worthy, he'll be paid higher than most quarterbacks in the league. Trubisky is in a town that's been deprived of a franchise face. Once they get it, there's nothing the bears won't do to secure their guy.
But now Trubisky will play for a troubled team. Things will look better for Chicago next year with Trubisky leading the way, but there will be some bumps in the road for the quarterback who didn’t have much collegiate starting experience at North Carolina. But he will solidify his spot as a starter going into next season.
4 NDAMUKONG SUH
Ndamukong Suh will be 35 in five years, so it’s very likely he’ll be signing massive one-year contracts with any team he would like. He’s already one of the highest paid guys in the league, and if he can maintain some level of sustainability he’ll be able to bring in massive loads of cash for staying in the NFL. He’s one of those rare defensive talents that sells tickets, and he’s just going to get more influential the longer he can stay in the league.
Sure, there may not be many teams with the ability to toss out massive one-year contracts at any given time. But by the time 2022 roles around, Suh is likely to have been a 10-time Pro Bowler with experience that can lead any defensive front. That’ll be tough to pass up no matter how much money he’s asking for when that time comes. And if his current rate-of-play is any indication, many teams will be vying for the consistency that Suh brings to the field for just about every week since he’s been in the NFL.
3 JAMEIS WINSTON
Jameis Winston has been great from the start, and his stock is going to keep rising in the next five years. Winston was named the Rookie of the Year and was even selected to the Pro Bowl following his first season. Winston had some issues in college, which made him a bit of a risky pick. But Tampa Bay benefited greatly from this selection. He’s the youngest player to reach 4,000 passing yards and the youngest player to pass for 40 touchdowns. After two seasons, Winston has tossed 50 touchdowns against 33 interceptions. He’s tossed for 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, totaling 8,132 yards. And he’s rushed for seven touchdowns (six came in his rookie season). Although Winston led Tampa Bay to a 6-10 record that first year, he followed up with a 9-7 season and is on track to take his team to the playoffs this year.
Winston will be one among the select group of guys who will be the faces of the NFL. That’s going to bring in millions of extra dollars in the form of endorsement deals. But his play on the field will bring him one of the highest contracts in the league. There will be just one quarterback who’s paid more. And he’s coming up next.
2 KHALIL MACK
It’s going to be tough because the amount of talent currently on the Raiders is just too much to sustain in the long term. You’ve got at least three guys who will be under massive contracts in five years: Amari Cooper, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. This is tough because the Raiders obviously cannot survive without Carr, so it looks like there’s a chance Cooper or Mack or both could be gone from this team in five years.
Nonetheless, Mack will be one of the top paid guys in the league by 2022. Mack is currently just 26, he’s only been in the NFL since 2014 and he’s already secured a Defensive Player of the Year award. With all that Mack should already be one of the league’s highest paid players. But he’s still under his rookie contract. So, he’ll get his shot one day at a huge contract. And that’ll likely make him the highest paid defensive player in the league when that time comes. For the Raiders sake, let’s hope they can find a way to keep this defensive talent along with their leader on the offense.
1 DEREK CARR
With no surprise to many fans, Derek Carr will lead his team to the postseason again and again and again over the course of the next five season. He’ll also be posting near league leading numbers. Carr won’t just be the highest paid quarterback in five years, he’ll be the highest paid player in the NFL. Carr is one of the NFL’s young rising stars and he will be at the top of everyone’s list by the end of next season. Why’s that? Do you remember what Carr did last season and what Oakland looked like without Carr starting behind center.
It was obvious what Carr means to this team after he couldn’t play in the playoffs last season because of an injury. And in the next five years we’ll continue to see this team struggle any time Carr isn’t on the field. This past season Carr led the Raiders to a 12-3 record and proved they were a contender late in the season. But then Carr was sidelined and the Raiders fell apart in their final regular season game and then barely competed in their postseason performance. Luckily for the Raiders, Carr is young and he’ll have many more chances to make a postseason run.