Two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning of the New York Giants is seeking to become the NFL’s highest-paid player with his next contract. That title now belongs to Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, whose contract averages $22 million annually.
Several quarterbacks have agreed to new deals this offseason, but none has surpassed Rodgers. And according to our NFL Nation reporters, not one player in the league should make more money annually than the two-time MVP.
Here’s how our Nation reporters cast their votes:
Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Rodgers. Leverage goes a long way in negotiations and Eli Manning has it, but there’s no chance he should be the highest-paid player in the NFL. That doesn’t mean he won’t be, but the highest-paid player should be Rodgers. He is the best quarterback in a quarterback-driven league, and he is at an age (31) where it is much easier to justify that kind of payday.
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers. For a change, NFL dollars actually match reality. Rodgers should be the NFL’s highest-paid player, and he is. The remarkable thing is that the five-year, $110 million contract extension he signed on April 26, 2013, which made him the league’s top-paid player has stood up as such for more than two years. Since he signed the deal, he won a second NFL MVP award and led the Packers to the NFC Championship Game last season. The best part for the Packers is that Rodgers is just 31 years old and he’s under contract through the 2019 season.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears: Aaron Rodgers. In a quarterback-driven league, Rodgers is the ultimate equalizer. The numbers speak for themselves -- 38 touchdown passes and five interceptions in 2014. Rodgers simply doesn't turn the ball over. Green Bay should double his salary.
Mike DiRocco, Jacksonville Jaguars: Aaron Rodgers. I'll give Eli Manning credit for leading the game-winning drive in two Super Bowls, but he doesn't deserve to be the league's highest-paid player. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game right now, and with the weapons he has in Green Bay, he's practically unstoppable. Since he became the starter in 2008, he has thrown for at least 28 TDs and had a passer rating of more than 100 in all but one season.
Tania Ganguli, Houston Texans: Aaron Rodgers. He isn’t the best player in the NFL -- that’s J.J. Watt -- but he is the league’s best quarterback. Keeping him healthy and happy is critical to the Packers’ fortunes, and he deserves to be the highest-paid player in the league, as he is right now.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Rodgers. If we think he’s the best quarterback in the league -- and many do -- shouldn’t he be the highest-paid player? Rodgers’ contract is nearly 2½ years old, and his level of play is unsurpassed. He has two MVPs, his worst single-season passer rating is 93.8 (which came in his first year as a starter) and he hasn’t thrown more than eight interceptions in a season since 2010 -- the year he was Super Bowl MVP.
Coley Harvey, Cincinnati Bengals: Aaron Rodgers. As the most scrutinized position in football, the highest-paid player should be a quarterback. Eli Manning certainly got that right. But the highest-paid player should be a veteran quarterback who has a strong postseason pedigree and the potential for much more success. Rodgers -- who already holds the league’s seventh-highest cap charge in the league this year -- has the best combination of those factors. Ask this question in three years and maybe Russell Wilson would be a better answer.
Brady Henderson, Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Rodgers. That distinction should belong to Rodgers, who's the best player at the position that commands the highest premium. A case could be made for a few other quarterbacks, but for my money, it's Rodgers.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens: Aaron Rodgers. There's no question that he's the NFL's best player at the game's most important position. In reality, the highest-paid player will be whatever top-10 quarterback is up for a new deal that year. Quarterbacks have all the leverage because demand outweighs the supply.
John Keim, Washington Redskins: Aaron Rodgers. This is an easy one. Now, if J.J. Watt made that proclamation ... it might be a different story. But Rodgers has the NFL’s best passer rating the past three years combined (108.9), he throws touchdowns and doesn’t turn the ball over (19 interceptions since 2012). That’s the man I’m paying.
Paul Kuharsky, Tennessee Titans: Aaron Rodgers. I don’t know who could possibly be a better answer to this question. It’s a quarterback-driven league and he’s the best quarterback -- by a good margin. J.J. Watt is the only other reasonable answer. But the natural order says the best QB should be at the top, then the best non-QB.
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons: Aaron Rodgers. By far, he should be the highest-paid player in the league. He is a true difference-maker and makes the Packers a yearly Super Bowl contender with his dynamic playmaking ability. Eli Manning is more like a decent backup compared to Rodgers, so he probably needs to keep quiet.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers: Aaron Rodgers. This is a no-brainer. Rodgers should be the highest-paid player in the NFL. He’s the best player at the most important position on the roster.
Mike Rodak, Buffalo Bills: Aaron Rodgers. To me, this comes down to either Rodgers or J.J. Watt. Both have a long future ahead of them in the NFL, so if you’re paying for future results, these are your guys. This is a quarterback-driven league, so I’ll give the edge to Rodgers.
Michael Rothstein, Detroit Lions: Aaron Rodgers. I was tempted to go with a cornerback such as Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis, but quarterbacks play too integral of a role to not be the highest paid. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game right now. He wins. He consistently keeps his teams in games and he doesn’t make many mistakes. He is the epitome of a franchise quarterback and is still in his prime, so he’s exactly the type of guy who should be the highest-paid player in the game.
Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints: Aaron Rodgers. Easy choice. The best player in the league at the most important position with plenty of prime years left. He'd still be my No. 1 draft pick today, too, even ahead of younger guys such as Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.
Pat Yasinskas, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aaron Rodgers. He deserves to be the highest-paid player in the league. He's the best quarterback in the league. He’s also in his prime.
Mike Wells, Indianapolis Colts: Aaron Rodgers. Sorry, but Eli’s time has passed. He should have tried to be the highest-paid player years ago. Rodgers is already the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’ll continue to get better. Put Rodgers on any team in the league and that team will automatically pick up at least a few more victories, no matter who else is on the roster.
Bill Williamson, Oakland Raiders: Aaron Rodgers. He is clearly the game’s best player, and at the age of 31, he has the chance to remain the best player in the NFL for the next five years.
Rich Cimini, New York Jets: Tom Brady. Yes, he lost to Eli Manning in two Super Bowls, but Brady is superior in every other measure of a quarterback. Deflategate notwithstanding, Brady is a generational player for a big-market franchise that has more than enough resources to pay him the most. The Pats are lucky he accepts below-market contracts.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers: Tom Brady. Winning four Super Bowls, including the last one with marginal receiver talent surrounding him, puts him in a pay stratosphere worth more than Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. Getting paid is about timing, and Brady's age (38) and now-obsolete contract puts him below what Eli Manning will get. Based on production, that balance is flawed.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns: Tom Brady. The best player in the league should be the one who has sustained excellence for a period of time while also winning Super Bowls. That narrows the list and leads to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Setting aside Roger Goodell's Brady-hunt, Brady has done more -- and for longer -- than anyone in the league.
Mike Reiss, New England Patriots: Tom Brady. It’s a toss-up between him and Aaron Rodgers, and I’m obviously more in tune with Brady’s value to the Patriots because that’s the team I cover. What interests me most about the context of this question is that being the highest paid has never been a high priority for Brady, which only amplifies his value to the team in my view.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs: Tom Brady. He plays the game’s premium position and has all other active quarterbacks beat when it comes to number of championship rings. That in a perfect world would put him at the top of the NFL’s pay scale.
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos: Andrew Luck. No matter who wants to be the league's highest-paid player, he will have to hand the crown to Luck when he gets his new deal. Luck is the face of a franchise and the "next" player at the game's most coveted position.
Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: Andrew Luck. He is only 25 and already one of the two best quarterbacks in the league. He's been to three Pro Bowls and holds the record for most passing yards by a quarterback in his first three seasons (12,688). He doesn't yet have the Super Bowl rings of Manning or Aaron Rodgers, but his relative youth is enough to make him the best long-term investment in the NFL.
James Walker, Miami Dolphins: Andrew Luck. This question is a no-brainer: Luck should be the NFL's highest-paid player. He's already a top-three quarterback and may turn out to be the league's best quarterback by the end of this season. Luck single-handedly stabilizes the entire Colts franchise. Whatever Indianapolis pays Luck under the salary cap probably won't be a true indication of his value.
Eric D. Williams, San Diego Chargers: Andrew Luck. The Stanford product has led the Colts to three postseason berths in his first three years in the NFL. At 25 years old, he's the best young quarterback in the league.
Phil Sheridan, Philadelphia Eagles: Russell Wilson. If Eli Manning believes his two rings translate to the richest contract, Wilson trumps that. He has played in the past two Super Bowls, winning one, and he's almost a decade younger than Eli.
Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: Peyton Manning. Sure, a Manning should be the highest-paid player, but not Eli. I know, he has twice as many Super Bowl rings as his big bro and plays in the media capital of the world, but when it comes to QBs, you pay them on the total body of work, not a pair of defense-led titles. And while you cannot spell "elite" without "Eli," you can spell "highest paid" without him.
Dan Graziano, New York Giants: Eli Manning. There are better QBs, but more goes into it than that. The market dictates what these guys are worth, and Manning is next in line for a whopper QB deal that reflects his status as a two-time Super Bowl champion who never misses a game. He won't be the highest paid for long, but he's right to think he belongs there now.
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: J.J. Watt. Eli Manning may have two rings. Aaron Rodgers is great. Tom Brady is a legend. But J.J. Watt should be the highest-paid player in the NFL, hands down. He’s had 51.5 sacks over the past three seasons -- posting 20.5 in both 2012 and 2014 -- and has single-handedly made the Texans' defense a force. Defense wins championships, and Watt should get paid.