Top 10 Highest-Paid NFL Running Backs: Salary Rankings

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Minnesota Vikings' Dalvin Cook, left, and Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott, right, swap jerseys after their NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Jul 11, 2022, 10:18 AM

Twenty-five NFL receivers will be paid more than the highest-paid NFL running back in 2022.

So will 22 linebackers, 20 offensive tackles, 18 quarterbacks, 14 cornerbacks, 13 defensive ends, nine defensive tackles, seven safeties, five guards, two centers, two tight ends, and the hot dog vendor at MetLife Stadium. Ezekiel Elliott, the highest-paid NFL running back for the 2022 season, is the 138th highest-paid NFL player.

No active NFL running back is in jeopardy of falling below the poverty line, but not one is the highest-paid player on their respective team, nor does one have a higher salary than any of the top 10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, all of whom haven’t played a single snap in the league.

By total cash, here are the highest-paid NFL running backs for 2022:

Highest-Paid NFL Running Backs: Salary Rankings, 2022

RankPlayerTeamTotal Cash
1Ezekiel ElliottCowboys$12.4 million
2Derrick HenryTitans$12 million
3Alvin KamaraSaints$11.5 million
4Dalvin CookVikings$8.8 million
5Joe MixonBengals$8.7 million
6Christian McCaffreyPanthers$8.6 million
7Kenyan DrakeRaiders$8.3 million
8James ConnerCardinals$8 million
9Saquon BarkleyGiants$7.2 million
10Leonard FournetteBucs$7 million

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Before Ezekiel Elliott’s six-year, $90-million deal – signed in 2019 – officially began in 2021, it was restructured to lower his base salary to $1 million (from $9.6 million) in 2021.

That won’t be the case in 2022 and, for now, beyond; Elliott has a base salary of at least $10 million in each of the next six years, including $12.4 million in 2022, which is equal to his total cash number.

Ezekiel Elliott career earnings: $58,268,561

2. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

The dead cap numbers for Derrick Henry’s four-year, $50-million deal, signed before the 2020 season, plummeted after last season; the Titans would eat just $6 million in 2022 and $3 million in 2023 if Henry is cut or traded.

Derrick Henry career earnings: $30,907,928

3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara signed a four-year, $3.85-million contract after his third-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft . He followed that with a five-year, $75-million contract – signed in September 2020 – that included $33.8 million in guarantees and runs through the 2025 season.

Alvin Kamara career earnings: $20,713,272

4. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

Five years into his NFL career, Dalvin Cook has appeared in only 56 of a possible 81 games and has never played in more than 14 games in a single season.

Cook’s frequent absences didn’t stop the Minnesota Vikings from signing the former second-round pick to a five-year, $63-million deal that runs through 2025. He’s due at least $11 million in cash each year from 2023-25 but has a dead cap of just $6.2 million in 2023 and $3.1 million in 2015.

Dalvin Cook career earnings: $23,317,150

5. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon’s four-year, $48-million deal, signed days before the 2020 season, included a $10-million signing bonus and $10 million guaranteed. Now in his second year of the deal, Mixon has the seventh-highest total cash number on the Cincinnati Bengals, just behind Tyler Boyd and just ahead of La’el Collins.

Joe Mixon career earnings: $24,079,453

6. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey has just 148 carries over 10 games the last two seasons, but the former top-10 pick isn’t going anywhere; his four-year, $64-million contract – signed in April 2020 – officially begins in 2022 and has a dead cap numbers of $26.9 million, $18.3 million, and $10.8 million from 2022-24, respectively.

Christian McCaffrey career earnings: $45,049,263

7. Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders

Kenyan Drake is in the second year of a fully guaranteed two-year, $11-million deal making him the seventh-highest-paid player on the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022.

After this year, the former third-round pick will have more than $24 million in career earnings.

Kenyan Drake career earnings: $16,166,051

8. James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

James Conner is finally getting paid five years after his third-round selection in the 2017 draft.

After averaging less than $1 million in total cash over his first five seasons, Conner is set to earn $16 million over the next two years.

James Conner career earnings: $4,978,523

9. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

Barring a preseason or in-season deal, Saquon Barkley will play the 2022 season on a fifth-year option, picked up by the New York Giants in April 2021.

More than two-thirds of his career earnings came in 2018; the No. 2 overall pick received $21.2 million in his rookie season.

Saquon Barkley career earnings: $31,384,750

10. Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Leonard Fournette’s new three-year, $21-million deal – signed one day after a free agency visit to the New England Patriots – has a small base salary for 2022 ($2 million) but total cash numbers of $7 million in each of the next three years.

Fournette is one of only two running backs on this list who play with one of the 10 highest-paid NFL quarterbacks; Dalvin Cook is the other.

Leonard Fournette career earnings: $28,733,454

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

Read More @DoughtyBetMGM

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.