Aidan Hutchinson hasn’t played a single NFL snap but already sits ahead of several elite defensive linemen and behind only one defensive lineman in one critical area: cash.
Eleven days after he was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Aidan Hutchinson agreed to a four-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $35.7 million, approximately two-thirds of which is due in his first season, making him one of the highest-paid NFL players before playing a game.
By total cash, here are the highest-paid NFL defensive linemen for 2022:
Highest-Paid NFL Defensive Linemen: Salary Rankings, 2022
|1||Aaron Donald||Rams||$31.5 million|
|2||Aidan Hutchinson||Lions||$23.9 million|
|3||Chris Jones||Chiefs||$22.4 million|
|4||Kayvon Thibodeaux||Giants||$20.7 million|
|5||Danielle Hunter||Vikings||$19.7 million|
|6(t)||Leonard Williams||Giants||$19 million|
|6(t)||Myles Garrett||Browns||$19 million|
|8||Grady Jarrett||Falcons||$18 million|
|9||Emmanuel Ogbah||Dolphins||$17.4 million|
|10||Maxx Crosby||Raiders||$16.9 million|
1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald could’ve walked away with a Super Bowl ring and more than $97 million in career earnings. Instead, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year signed a new three-year, $95-million contract, all of which is guaranteed.
Donald is one of three Rams’ players atop their respective positions for highest-paid players; Cooper Kupp is the highest-paid wide receiver, and Matthew Stafford is the highest-paid quarterback.
Aaron Donald career earnings: $97,114,238
2. Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions
Hutchinson’s $23.2-million signing bonus is evenly spread against the Detroit Lions’ cap over the four years – $5.8 million each year – but the entirety is due in 2022.
That amount accounts for nearly his entire cash number. The remainder is $705,000 in base salary.
Aidan Hutchinson career earnings: $0
3. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
For four years after entering the NFL as a second-round pick, Chris Jones was offensively underpaid; he earned a total of $6.2 million from 2016-19. Even with $37.7 million in cash earnings the last two seasons since signing a four-year, $80-million deal, he might still be underpaid.
Chris Jones career earnings: $43,882,291
4. Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants
All of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s four-year, $31.3-million rookie contract is guaranteed. After earning $20.7 million in 2022 – only $705,000 of which is base salary – the No. 5 overall pick will drop to $2.1 million in 2023, $3.5 million in 2024, and $5 million in 2025.
Despite Thibodeaux’s arrival, the Giants don’t sit alongside the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Super Bowl favorites in NFL betting.
Kayvon Thibodeaux career earnings: $0
5. Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings
Since signing a four-year, $72-million extension in June 2018 after registering 25.5 sacks over his first three NFL seasons, Hunter has had two sensational years (2018-19), one lost year (2020) and one-half sensational year (2021).
In the penultimate year of the contract that included $40 million in guarantees, the former third-round pick has a dead cap of nearly $30 million. That plummets to $5.4 million in 2023.
Danielle Hunter career earnings: $54,864,477
6(t). Leonard Williams, New York Giants
Leonard Williams made $26 million in total cash in 2021 as the second-highest-paid defensive lineman. One year later, he’s still doing okay; he’s scheduled to earn $19 million in the second year of a three-year, $63-million contract that includes massive cap hits in 2022 ($27.3 million) and 2023 ($26.3 million).
Leonard Williams career earnings: $75,008,445
6(t). Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
For the first time since 2019 – and just the third time in his six-years career – Myles Garrett has a cash number below $20 million.
Garrett is in the first year of a five-year, $125-million contract signed before the 2020 season. Exactly $100 million of his deal is guaranteed.
Myles Garrett career earnings: $68,274,426
8. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons
Grady Jarrett averaged $956,000 in total cash over his first four seasons after a fifth-round selection in the 2015 draft.
Over the last four seasons (including 2022), Jarrett is averaging $17.4 million in total cash.
Grady Jarrett career earnings: $55,389,675
9. Emmanuel Ogbah, Miami Dolphins
Emmanuel Ogbah’s contract might be $65 million over four years, but it could easily become just $32.7 million over two years.
His dead cap is $32 million in 2022 and $21 million in 2023 before falling off a cliff to $4 million in 2024.
Emmanuel Ogbah career earnings: $21,686,030
10. Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby is still one year away from playing under a four-year, $94-million contract, but the former fourth-round pick is making big money now.
After earning just $850,000 last year, Crosby is due nearly $17 million in 2022.
Maxx Crosby career earnings: $3,267,315
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