Who is the Highest-Paid Defensive Player in the NFL in 2021?

The offensive side of the ball is where the most familiar, most popular, and most well-paid NFL players reside. Glamor positions like wide reliever and quarterback are the players we pick for our fantasy football teams. They’re also generally the ones with the big guaranteed contracts. There are defensive players getting the bag, too, though. So, who is the highest-paid defensive player in 2021?

Frank Clark is the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL in 2021

Defensive end Frank Clark of the Kansas City Chiefs, the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL in 2021, during the NFL game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 35-31.
Frank Clark | Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Pro football contracts are complicated. The cap hit number vs. the annual average value vs. the guaranteed money can be confusing and give you different answers as to which defensive player is the highest-paid in the NFL in 2021.

The cap hit number, which is the base salary plus bonuses, is probably the truest form of determining the highest-paid player on a yearly basis. In 2021, the defender with the highest cap number is Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark.

Clark, a seventh-year former Michigan Wolverine, will make an $18.5 million base salary with a $5.2 million signing bonus payout, a $500,000 workout bonus, and $1.6 million for restructuring his contract after 2019. Clark’s paychecks will come out to a grand total of $25.8 million in 2021.

Behind Clark are several other defensive linemen and pass-rushing linebackers. Rounding out the top five highest-paid defensive players in 2021 are Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence ($25M), Philadelphia DT Fletcher Cox ($23.8M), Denver OLB Von Miller ($22.2M), and Arizona OLB Chandler Jones ($20.8M).

Which defensive player has the biggest overall contract? 

The players above will be the ones cashing the biggest checks in 2021, but which players stand to make the most money in the coming years?

Los Angeles Chargers DE Joey Bosa is the defensive player who will be getting paid more than any other player on that side of the ball in the coming years. The former No. 3 overall pick is tied for the biggest total defensive contract ($135M, tied with Aaron Donald), has the most guaranteed money for a defensive player ($78 million), and is the defender with the highest annual average value ($27M).

Right behind Bosa, with the biggest guarantees at signing, are Chicago’s Khalil Mack ($60M) and Los Angeles Rams DT Donald ($50M). Average annual value-wise, Cleveland’s Myles Garrett ($25M) and Mack ($23.5) are in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.

Highest-paid defensive players of all time 

It’s no secret that offensive players, specifically quarterbacks, are the NFL players that truly make the big bucks. Of the all-time career money earners, the top seven are all QBs and 14 of the top 20 come from the offensive side of the ball.

There are six defenders, though, that crack that top 20 list. There are two defensive ends, two defensive tackles, a 3-4 outside linebacker, and a cornerback.

The highest-paid defensive player of all time is Ndamukong Suh. Over the course of his 11-year career with Detroit, Miami, LA (Rams), and Tampa Bay, the former Nebraska Cornhusker has made a staggering $164.9 million.

The players joining Suh on the top 20 list of highest-paid players of all-time are OLB Von Miller ($144.5M, No. 10), DE Calais Campbell ($126.0M, No. 15), DT Gerald McCoy ($122.4M, No. 16), CB Joe Haden ($121.4M, No. 17), and DE J.J. Watt ($115.2, No. 19).

All contract figures courtesy of spotrac

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