Quarterback is the unquestioned big-money position in the NFL, and maybe in all of professional sports. No player faces as much pressure and has the kind of franchise expectations saddled on his throwing arm than the guy who puts his hands under center. But the payoffs can be worth it. Very worth it. Quarterbacks can make a ton of money playing this game, as long as they produce. Let’s take a look at the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, according to guaranteed money and whether they’re worth their money. (Numbers courtesy of spotrac.com) -- Sid Saraf
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10. Philip Rivers
Contract: Six years, $91.8 million with $38.15 million guaranteed. Analysis: Rivers has two years left on the deal he signed back in 2009. He’s had a roller-coaster ride in San Diego, reaching as far as the AFC Championship Game in 2007. He’s also a five-time Pro Bowler and led the league in passing yards back in 2010. He also had disastrous seasons in 2011 and 2012, when he combined for 47 turnovers. However, he came back to normal in 2013 when he threw 32 touchdown passes with 4,478 yards through the air. He also finished with an impressive 105.5 QB rating, which helped net him win NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award honors. He’s the franchise star in San Diego without a doubt.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
9. Tony Romo
Contract: Six years, $108 million with $40 million guaranteed. Analysis: Many people shook their heads in disgust when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bestowed this giant deal on Romo. After all, in eight years as the starting quarterback in Dallas, he has one playoff victory to show for it. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t even reached the postseason since the 2009 season. But, Romo has had four seasons with at least 4,000 yards passing and has a career passer rating of 95.8. Not shabby. Plus, what’s more, the Cowboys have had so many other problems, it’s hard to pin everything on Romo. This man can play and it’s time people stopped counting his pennies.
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8. Drew Brees
Contract: Five years, $100 million with $40 million guaranteed. Analysis: Brees signed his new contract back in 2012. Nobody will attempt to argue that Brees isn’t worth the money. He’s an eight time Pro Bowler, the winning quarterback and MVP of Super Bowl XLIV and has one first-team All-Pro selection. More importantly, he almost singlehandedly revived football in New Orleans and helped give a spark to a city reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He’s also quite the TV commercial pitchman. He’s earned it.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportDerick E. Hingle
7. Matthew Stafford
Contract: Three years, $53 million with $41.5 million guaranteed. Analysis: Stafford signed a contract extension before the 2013 season that will carry him through 2017. Now, it’s true that he’s yet to win a playoff game -- in fact, the Lions have only reached the postseason once in his tenure. However, he’s one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a season and his value is still sky high. He’s set numerous league records, including being tied with Drew Brees for most games with at least 350 yards passing and is the fastest player to reach 16,000 career passing yards. His ceiling is very high.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsBruce Kluckhohn
6. Matt Ryan
Contract: Five years, $103.75 million with $42 million guaranteed. Analysis: The seven-year veteran signed his new contract before the 2013 season. He’s led the Falcons to the playoffs in every season save one and is the franchise leader in passing yards. He also holds single-season team records in touchdowns (32 in 2012), passing yards (4,719 in 2012) and completions (422 in 2012). He hasn’t had the type of postseason success that has been expected of him and the talented teams he led, but his overall production can’t be denied.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
5. Sam Bradford
Contract: Six years, $78 million with $50 million guaranteed Analysis: Bradford lucked out and came into the NFL before the last collective bargaining agreement was struck. Therefore, he was able to reap quite a financial windfall as the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, scoring the largest rookie contract in history. The bad news for Bradford is that he hasn’t exactly lived up to the deal, having made it through a complete season just twice in his four-year career. He’s currently on the mend from an ACL injury and has two years left on his deal. If he doesn’t start making serious strides soon, he may find himself out of a job.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
4. Jay Cutler
Contract: Seven years, $126.7 million with $54 million guaranteed Analysis: The Bears brought Cutler in via trade back in 2009. Although his time in the Windy City has produced just one playoff appearance, the organization thought enough of him to reward him with a brand new contract in January. And what a contract it is. When Cutler stays healthy -- he hasn’t played a full season since 2009 -- he’s among the better quarterbacks in this league. Is he worth $54 million in guaranteed money? Well, that’s another story.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY SportsMike Dinovo
3. Aaron Rodgers
Contract: Five years, $110 million with $54 million guaranteed. Analysis: Rodgers put ink to paper on his deal before the 2013 season. That was with a Super Bowl victory already underneath his belt. Rodgers is a three-time Pro Bowler and was named the NFL MVP back in 2011. He also has the highest career regular-season passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 passing attempts. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Packers and is one of the league’s most bankable stars. Worth it.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
2. Peyton Manning
Contract: Five years, $96 million with $58 million guaranteed. Analysis: He’s reached three Super Bowls, with one win under his belt. He is the shining example of everything a quarterback can and should be. Sure, he might not have had the most playoff success, but he continues to shatter records at his advanced age, saved football in Indianapolis and revitalized the Broncos organization when he signed as a free agent in 2012. What’s more, when his playing days are over he’ll have an escort into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If there’s a guy who is worth every penny of his salary, it’s him.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
1. Colin Kaepernick
Contract: Six years, $126 million with $61 million guaranteed. Analysis: Well, the man has led the San Francisco 49ers to consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship Game and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. Since taking over for Alex Smith in the middle of the 2012 season, Kaepernick has amassed a 21-8 overall record (including playoff appearances). The 49ers brass are going all in with their young star and are counting on him continuing to develop his skills. Well, for their sake, we hope they’re right.