After 16 years with the New York Giants, quarterback Eli Manning is scheduled to announce his retirement from the NFL on Friday.
Not only is Manning a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl MVP, he’s also the highest-paid player in NFL history. Manning has been paid more money in salary than any other player ever — $252,280,004, according to the sports financial website spotrac.com. That doesn’t include postseason earnings — only money from the three contracts that he signed with the Giants.
The highest-paid player with Alabama football roots is closely associated with Manning.
When the San Diego Chargers selected Manning with the first pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Ole Miss QB already had made it clear to the team that he would not play for it. But the Chargers made a deal when the Giants came up at the No. 4 pick. New York selected North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers, and before the fifth pick was revealed, the announcement came that the Chargers and Giants had made a trade, with Manning and Rivers as the principal players involved.
A former Athens High School standout, Rivers has collected $218,917,656 in salary from the Chargers, the eighth-most in NFL history.
The players between Manning and Rivers are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan.
Like Eli Manning, Rivers doesn’t have a contract for the 2020 season. But unlike Manning, Rivers wants to keep playing.
In Mobile for the Reese’s Senior Bowl this week, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said bringing back Rivers involved “a lot of moving parts.”
“I said after the season that we didn’t have the best year, obviously,” Telesco said. “We had five wins, so that wasn’t good enough. Didn’t make the playoffs and had a rough year. But Philip still has good snaps in him. I think I can see that. I think everybody can see that. He still has some good snaps. He didn’t play his best in every game. But guess what? Our team didn’t play its best in every game either. We only had five wins. I think he still has plenty of good snaps in him, but like I said, he’s a free agent, so there’s a lot of moving parts that go with that.
“We have a lot of other guys that are free agents. We have to try to put together the best team we can for next year with a lot of different things. But the good thing is we have some time to get this worked out. After the season ended, we took a step away to kind of gather our thoughts, watch some more tape. We’re going to need some time with this to try to make it right, make sure it’s the right decision you’re making in the offseason because it’s going to affect you into the regular season.”
Rivers has been paid almost $100 million more in salary in the NFL than the next player with Alabama football roots on the all-time earnings list.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Auburn’s 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, has collected $121,392,164 since being the first player picked in the 2011 NFL Draft, which puts him at No. 23 on the all-time list.
Newton is facing uncertainty about the 2020 season even though he has a year remaining on his contract. He’s had back-to-back injury-affected seasons, and a foot injury limited him to two games in 2019.
The 25 highest-paid NFL players from Alabama high schools and colleges also include:
Wide receiver Julio Jones (Foley, Alabama) $103,109,579: The sixth player selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, Jones has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro who led the NFL in receptions in 2015 and receiving yards in 2015 and 2018.
Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (Auburn High, Troy) $89,993,750: The 11th player picked in the 2005 NFL Draft, Ware piled up 138.5 sacks in 12 seasons. A nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro, Ware played his first nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, then finished in Denver, where he helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (Huffman, Alabama) $87,134,946: The third player picked in the 2011 NFL Draft, Dareus was a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014 and a first-team All-Pro in 2014, which landed him a second contract with the Buffalo Bills that included more guaranteed money than any non-quarterback had ever received. Buffalo traded Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2017 season, and injuries limited him to six games in 2019.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens (Benjamin Russell) $79,628,334: During 15 seasons with five teams, Owens became one of the most productive receivers in NFL history with 1,078 receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns from 1996 through 2010. Owens entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) $68,170,867: A fifth-round choice in the 2003 NFL Draft, Mathis spent 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts. A five-time Pro Bowler, Mathis made first-team All-Pro in 2013, when he led the league with 19.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles on his way to career totals of 123 and 54, respectively.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby (Woodlawn, Auburn) $66,947,000: In 14 NFL seasons with four teams, Dansby never made first-team All-Pro or received a Pro Bowl invitation. But he had stats like an all-star, with 1,422 tackles, 43 sacks and 20 interceptions (with six returned for touchdowns) in 212 games from 2004 through 2017.
Offensive tackle Walter Jones (Aliceville) $65,446,112: After Seattle made Jones the sixth player picked in the 1997 NFL Draft, he started 180 games at left offensive tackle for the Seahawks, then went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, his first year of eligibility. Jones was a nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro.
Wide receiver Roddy White (UAB) $65,037,529: White spent his entire NFL career with Atlanta after joining the Falcons as the 27th player picked in the 2005 NFL Draft. A four-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro, White led the NFL in receptions in 2010, when he had the fourth of his six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Defensive back Kareem Jackson (Alabama) $58,656,250: After nine seasons as a starting cornerback for the Houston Texans, Jackson cashed in in free agency in the 2019 offseason by signing with the Denver Broncos, who used the former first-round draft pick at strong safety.
Offensive tackle Chris Samuels (Shaw, Alabama) $56,400,000: Between his selection as the third player picked in the 2000 NFL Draft and the premature end of his career in 2009 because of a spinal condition, Samuels started 141 games at left offensive tackle for the Washington Redskins. He was invited to six Pro Bowls.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) $55,591,362: A second-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jenkins signed a five-year, $62.5 million with the New York Giants in free agency after four seasons with the St. Louis Rams. The Giants released Jenkins late in the 2019 season, but he quickly moved into the starting lineup for the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints.
Offensive tackle Andre Smith (Huffman, Alabama) $51,476,617: The sixth player picked in the 2009 NFL Draft, Smith has played 104 of his 116 games with the Cincinnati Bengals. But he finished the 2019 season on the playoff roster of the Baltimore Ravens and will be a free agent in 2020.
Defensive end Michael Johnson (Dallas County) $50,626,020: Johnson played in the NFL from 2009 through 2018, spending all but one season with the Cincinnati Bengals. That season came in 2014, when he left Cincinnati in free agency for a five-year, $43.75 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the next season, he was back with the Bengals for four more seasons in the starting lineup.
Inside linebacker Mark Barron (St. Paul’s Episcopal, Alabama) $49,279,749: The seventh player picked in the 2012 NFL Draft, Barron started his pro career as a safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being traded to the St. Louis Rams during the 2014 season, Barron moved to outside linebacker in 2015, then to inside linebacker in 2018, signing a five-year, $45 million contract along the way. The Rams terminated that deal by releasing Barron last offseason, and he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2019.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden City, Alabama) $48,695,621: The 17th player picked in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kirkpatrick didn’t become a full-time starter until his fourth season. The Bengals used their fifth-year option on his rookie contract to keep him in the lineup in 2016, then kept him out of free agency with a five-year, $52.5 million contract.
Center Rodney Hudson (B.C. Rain) $48,414,448: After Hudson spent his first four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders have twice made Hudson the highest-paid center in the NFL with contracts in 2015 and 2019. He’s been a Pro Bowler in three of the past four seasons.
Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans (Jess Lanier, Alabama) $48,083,435: Ryans is going to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 as an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, lending the expertise gained in 10 years as an NFL linebacker. A two-time Pro Bowler, Ryans was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after joining the Houston Texans in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (Auburn) $46,614,375: The 13th player picked in the 1998 NFL Draft, Spikes piled up 1,431 tackles for five teams over the next 15 seasons, the most by any Auburn alumnus. A two-time Pro Bowler, Spikes was a first-team All-Pro selection for the Buffalo Bills in 2004.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan (Samford) $46,351,757: The 215th player picked in the 2006 NFL Draft, Finnegan was a first-team All-Pro for the Tennessee Titans in 2008. In 10 NFL seasons with four teams, Finnegan had six contracts, including a five-year, $50 million deal with the St. Louis Rams.
Quarterback Jameis Winston (Hueytown) $46,180,894: The first player picked in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston was paid $20.9 million for the 2019 season after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie contract, and he became the first passer in NFL history with at least 30 TD tosses and 30 interceptions in the same season. Winston enters 2020 facing free agency.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (Auburn High, Troy) $45,510,110: A second-round choice in the 2003 NFL Draft, Umenyiora spent 12 years in the NFL, earned two Pro Bowl invitations, received first-team All-Pro recognition in 2005 and played on two Super Bowl winners with the New York Giants.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (Alabama) $44,030,980: A Pro Bowl selection for the second time in his career in 2019, Hightower has played on three Super Bowl winners in his eight seasons with the New England Patriots. He’s three seasons into a four-year, $35.5 million contract.
Defensive end Justin Tuck (Central-Coosa) $43,248,463: A third-round selection in 2005, Tuck played on two Super Bowl winners, received two Pro Bowl invitations and made first-team All-Pro in 2008 during his nine seasons with the New York Giants, then completed his career with two seasons for the Oakland Raiders.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.