Barring a late-summer extension for one of the NFL’s better tight ends, there won’t be a $20-million tight end in 2022, as there was in 2020 (George Kittle) and 2021 (Kyle Pitts). Tight ends, however, are still getting paid and aren’t far behind some of the highest-paid NFL players.
Three tight ends earned at least $10 million in 2020. That jumped to seven in 2021, and, two months before Week 1 of the 2022 season, nine tight ends are scheduled to earn at least $10 million this season.
By total cash, here are the highest-paid NFL tight ends for 2022:
Highest-Paid NFL Tight Ends: Salary Rankings, 2022
|1||Mark Andrews||Ravens||$19 million|
|2||David Njoku||Browns||$12.5 million|
|3||George Kittle||49ers||$12 million|
|4(t)||Dalton Schultz||Cowboys||$10.9 million|
|4(t)||Mike Gesicki||Dolphins||$10.9 million|
|6||Will Dissly||Seahawks||$10.8 million|
|7||Zach Ertz||Cardinals||$10.8 million|
|8||Taysom Hill||Saints||$10.1 million|
|9||Hunter Henry||Patriots||$10 million|
|10||Jonnu Smith||Patriots||$9.9 million|
1. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
Mark Andrews’ four-year, $56-million deal – signed in September 2021 – doesn’t officially begin until this season, but the fifth-year former third-round pick began cashing in last year.
After averaging barely $1 million in cash through his first three seasons, Andrews earned $11.3 million in 2021.
Mark Andrews career earnings: $14,415,474
2. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
In the first year of a four-year, $54.8-million deal signed before the 2022 season, David Njoku has a small base salary ($1 million), signing bonus ($2.3 million), and cap hit ($3.3 million) as he earns $12.5 million in cash.
He’s the only tight end in the top 10 who plays with one of the 10 highest-paid NFL quarterbacks.
David Njoku career earnings: $15,635,968
3. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle’s five-year, $75-million contract didn’t officially begin until 2021, but the former fifth-round pick received $20.1 million in cash in 2020 after signing the deal.
Kittle’s base salary skyrockets from $1 million in 2022 to $11.7 million in 2023, the first of three years with base salaries and cap hits of $11.7 and $17.5 million, respectively, each year.
George Kittle career earnings: $25,778,635
4(t). Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
If Dalton Schultz doesn’t sign a long-term deal by mid-July, he’ll play his fifth NFL season under the franchise tag projected to be twice as much as his total career earnings entering 2022.
Schultz’s teammate Ezekiel Elliott is the highest-paid NFL running back.
Dalton Schultz career earnings: $4,924,529
4(t). Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Like Schultz, Mike Gesicki is also facing a mid-July deadline to sign a new deal before playing under the franchise tag. If he plays under the projected $10.9-million tag, his career earnings will surpass $17 million
Mike Gesicki career earnings: $6,835,886
6. Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks
Despite only 96 receptions for 900 yards and nine touchdowns over four seasons, Will Dissly got paid in free agency, signing a three-year, $24-million deal with nearly $16 million guaranteed.
Will Dissly career earnings: $3,280,786
7. Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals
Instead of hitting free agency for the first time in his career, Zach Ertz signed a three-year, $31.7-million deal that should keep him in Arizona through the 2023 season at minimum.
Ertz’s dead salary cap hit doesn’t drop below $10 million until the final year.
Zach Ertz career earnings: $51,421,405
8. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
Taysom Hill is paid a lot of money to … do something.
Taysom Hill career earnings: $22,670,000
9. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots
Hunter Henry’s three-year, $37.5-million contract from 2021 free agency included $25 million in guarantees, all of which will be paid in the first two seasons through his 2021 and 2022 base salaries ($1 million and $9 million, respectively), and signing bonus ($15 million).
Hunter Henry career earnings: $34,036,548
10. Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots
Jonnu Smith was a $16.9-million man in 2021. Now he’s a $9.9-million man in the second year of the four-year, $50-million contract signed during free agency in 2021.
Jonnu Smith career earnings: $21,493,456