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Biggest Rookie Contracts in NFL History

Biggest Rookie Contracts in NFL History

These rookies got a big payday early

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Typically when someone leaves college to start their career, they are trying to save money or they might even need help from their parents. But, in the case of professional athletes, they are known to make a lot of money when they first begin their careers, sometimes without even completing their bachelor’s degree

In the NFL, coveted rookies score huge contracts. Here are some of the biggest NFL rookie contracts of all time, based on the total worth of the contract rather than salary.

#20: Mario Williams

#20: Mario Williams

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It’s no surprise that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft is on this list. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of No. 1 overall picks on this list. What is surprising is that Mario Williams was not even the highest-paid player in his own draft. Either way, this defensive end from North Carolina State University signed a deal worth $54 million. He was drafted by the Houston Texans, who play in a state that has maintained a reputation for its weird, independent spirit.

#19: Tyson Jackson

#19: Tyson Jackson

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Defensive end Tyson Jackson, who came from Louisiana State University, was not the highest-paid defensive player in the 2009 NFL draft. That goes to another player on this list. But he was still paid handsomely. He agreed to a contract worth $57 million, some of which he hopefully stashed in the bank.

#18: Chris Long

#18: Chris Long

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University of Virginia star Chris Long was drafted second overall, behind the player next up on this list, in the 2008 NFL draft. Although he was the second player picked, their contracts did not differ in terms of the total worth. Long’s rookie contract was worth $57.75 million.

#17: Jake Long

#17: Jake Long

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Michigan left tackle Jake Long — no relation to Chris Long — was drafted first overall in the 2008 draft. Jake Long’s contract was worth the same as Chris Long’s contract at $57.75 million. Long was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, so he got to play in a city that makes for one of the best weekend getaways in America.

#16: Russell Okung

#16: Russell Okung

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Russell Okung is the first of six players on this list drafted in the 2010 NFL draft. The Oklahoma State offensive tackle was also the sixth player picked overall. Okung started out with a contract worth $58 million. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, a team known for its proud fan base

#15: Vince Young

#15: Vince Young

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University of Texas quarterback Vince Young was taken in the same draft as Mario Williams, the first player on this list. And despite being selected two picks after Williams, Young ended up signing for $58 million — $4 million more than Williams. Young is also among the many athletes that have gone bankrupt.

#14: Robert Gallery

#14: Robert Gallery

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Robert Gallery was the second overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft and is the first of many players on this list to have signed a contract worth at least $60 million. Gallery’s contract was worth exactly $60 million. Gallery attended the University of Iowa, which gets its mascot, the Hawkeye, from the nickname of its state.

#13: Larry Fitzgerald

#13: Larry Fitzgerald

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Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t one of the top two picks in the 2004 NFL draft, but he did end up signing one of the biggest contracts in league history. The wide receiver from the University of Pittsburgh inked a deal that was worth $60 million with the Arizona Cardinals. He is one of two wide receivers on this list. 

#12: Eric Berry

#12: Eric Berry

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Eric Berry, a safety from the University of Tennessee, not only became one of the highest-paid rookies ever but was immediately the highest-paid player at his position after signing a contract worth $60 million with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.  This is rare for any player, much less a rookie at the beginning of his career.

#11: Trent Williams

#11: Trent Williams

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The 2010 NFL Draft saw many of the biggest contracts for rookies in NFL history, including the deal for Trent Williams. The University of Oklahoma offensive lineman signed a deal with the Washington Redskins that was worth $60 million.

#10: Aaron Curry

#10: Aaron Curry

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Another player drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, Aaron Curry was the defensive player with the biggest contract after the 2009 NFL draft, although he was not the first defensive player picked in that draft (that honor belongs to Tyson Jackson). He ended up inking a deal worth $60 million. 

#9: Jamarcus Russell

#9: Jamarcus Russell

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Jamarcus Russell, a quarterback from LSU, was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007. He signed a $61 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. But even as a quarterback and the first pick, he did not have the biggest contract in this particular draft. The team he was drafted by, the Oakland Raiders recently relocated to Las Vegas, home to some of the best sports bars in the country.

#8: Jason Smith

#8: Jason Smith

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In the 2009 NFL draft, offensive lineman Jason Smith was not only the second overall pick, but received the second-largest contract in that year’s draft. The second offensive linemen on this list got paid big-time right out of college with a contract worth $61 million, the most in history for a rookie at his position. Before being drafted, he attended Baylor University, one of the most beautiful college campuses in the South.

#7: Reggie Bush

#7: Reggie Bush

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Running back Reggie Bush attended one of the most beautiful schools in the west, the University of Southern California. The only running back on this list, Bush was drafted second overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006. He signed a contract that was worth $62 million.

#6: Gerald McCoy

#6: Gerald McCoy

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Gerald McCoy, a defensive tackle from the University of Oklahoma, was drafted third overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010. The two players drafted before him appear higher on this list. The contract he signed was worth $63 million.

#5: Calvin Johnson

#5: Calvin Johnson

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Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver from Georgia Tech, was drafted second overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2007 NFL draft. He signed a deal worth $64 million, instantly making him one of the highest-paid skill players in the league at the time. Johnson was drafted to a team whose athletes have to contend with some of the most snowfall in America.

#4: Ndamukong Suh

#4: Ndamukong Suh

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The highest-paid defensive rookie player ever, and yet another player drafted by the Detroit Lions, is Ndamukong Suh. Suh was drafted second behind the top highest-paid rookie ever in the 2010 NFL draft and signed a $68 million deal.

#3: Matt Ryan

#3: Matt Ryan

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The first rookie to ever sign a contract worth at least $70 million was Matt Ryan. The quarterback from Boston College was taken third overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Although he was not the first player picked, he was the first quarterback taken in that draft, and his contract was worth $72 million.

#2: Matthew Stafford

#2: Matthew Stafford

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The third player on this list to be drafted by the Detroit Lions, Matthew Stafford was a quarterback from the University of Georgia. He is one of only three players to sign a contract upward of $70 million dollars with his $72 million contract after the 2009 NFL Draft. 

#1: Sam Bradford

#1: Sam Bradford

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Quarterback Sam Bradford signed the last rookie deal of its kind. He became the highest-paid rookie of all time after the 2010 NFL Draft. Then the rules changed the very next year, limiting how much a rookie can get paid. Bradford signed a rookie deal worth a whopping $78 million. Since then, no rookie has ever come close to matching this contract amount. In back-to-back years, the first player taken overall broke the record for the biggest rookie contract. Bradford attended the University of Oklahoma, which is among the most beautiful college campuses in America.

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