Nearly a Third of Starting NFL Quarterbacks Are Making Less Money Than Their Backups in 2022

There’s no denying that the NFL quarterback position is one of the most coveted jobs in sports. As the most-discussed position in football, it naturally comes with fame, prestige, and all of that jazz. But it also comes with the opportunity to make a lot of money.

NFL salaries are higher than ever, and quarterbacks are making obscene amounts of money these days, at least those who’ve established themselves. Of the 32 regular starters in 2022, exactly half are making at least $20 million or more.

Newly-crowned Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford, who signed a new deal in the offseason that included a hefty signing bonus, leads the way at $63 million. And Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is in that No. 16 slot at an even $20 million.

But that’s where the list gets interesting. Just below Dak on the list at No. 17 is Sam Darnold, who’s collecting $18.858 million from the Carolina Panthers to be Baker Mayfield’s backup. But Darnold certainly isn’t the only QB2 to make more than the guy ahead of him on the depth chart.

In fact, there are 10 — yes, 10 — starting NFL quarterbacks who’ll pocket less money than their respective backups this season. Sure, they’re the young guys who haven’t even gotten the chance to get that big contract yet. Nevertheless, that’s nearly a third of the league. And it can’t be fun to know the guy holding the clipboard on the sidelines is getting a bigger check than you while you’re out there competing.

So, in alphabetical order, here’s a quick look at those 10 starters making less than their backup.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Seen as the savior quarterback for the Chicago Bears, Justin Fields is in the second year of his rookie deal and will pocket $1,517,816 in 2022, good for 54th on the overall list. Bears backup Trevor Siemian signed a two-year deal with Chicago this past offseason and will earn $2.485 million this year.

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

Second-to-last among regular starting quarterback earnings in 2022 is Jalen Hurts, who’s in the third year of his rookie deal with the Eagles. Hurts will make $1,157,744 this season, while backup Gardner Minshew will make $2.54 million.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

As the New York Giants chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones’ rookie deal, the fourth-year starter is in the final season of his $25.6 million rookie contract and will collect $4,194,644 in total cash in 2022.

While that’s one of the higher totals on this list, it’s still not as much as the 2022 earnings for Giants backup Tyrod Taylor, who’ll pocket $5.5 million.

Mac Jones, New England Patriots

At No. 56 on the overall list is Patriots sophomore star Mac Jones, who’ll earn $1,368,471 in 2022. At No. 57 is third-stringer Bailey Zappe, who isn’t making much less at $1,352,072. But leading the way for New England in quarterback salary is 14-year veteran Brian Hoyer, who’s using that veteran status to his advantage to pocket $2 million.

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance during the NFL preseason
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Easily the most-discussed starter-backup quarterback situation ahead of the 2022 season was with the San Francisco 49ers. After the Niners couldn’t find a suitable trade partner for Jimmy Garoppolo, they signed him to a restructured deal that will pay him $6.5 million in base salary and $12.65 million in total cash.

Jimmy G’s replacement under center in San Francisco, Trey Lance, will collect $2,210,240.

Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers

As mentioned in the intro, Sam Darnold is collecting $18.858 million to ride the pine for the Carolina Panthers. And playing on the final year of the rookie deal he signed with the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield is pocketing $4.858 million.

Davis Mills, Houston Texans

In dead last among starting quarterbacks for the 2022 season is Davis Mills, who’ll earn $897,160 in his second season with the Houston Texans. Backup Kyle Allen, who signed a one-year contract with Houston during the offseason, will collect $2.5 million.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

In what could be a make-or-break season for Tua Tagovailoa in South Beach, the third-year quarterback will pocket $3,362,313 from the Miami Dolphins in 2022. But his backup, veteran Teddy Bridgewater, will make nearly double that at $6.5 million.

Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers

Outside of Darnold and Jimmy G, Mitchell Trubisky is making the most cash of the starting quarterbacks on this list, pocketing $6.285 million from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022. But he’s still earning less than rookie Kenny Pickett thanks to the first-round pick’s big signing bonus. While Pickett makes far less in base salary at $705,000, he collected a signing bonus of $7,411,204, bringing his overall total for the year to $8,116,204.

Zach Wilson, New York Jets

And then there’s New York Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, who’ll earn more than several of his fellow young quarterbacks on this list at $2,257,758. But that’s only good for third-best on his own team. Interim starter Joe Flacco tops the Jets’ QB earnings list for the 2022 campaign at $3.5 million, while third-stringer Mike White just edges out Wilson at $2.54 million.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference; Contract info courtesy of Spotrac

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