The guys throwing the ball are the highest-paid players in the NFL. The guys catching the ball reel in some major paydays, too.
Wide receiver is one of the most valuable positions in the league. An elite receiver can change the complexion of an entire offense, and that allows them to demand a sizable salary.
The price for a No. 1 receiver has soared in recent years, surpassing $20 million annually. A handful of players have set the bar and lived up to that massive number, while others have cashed in without posting numbers on the field to back it up.
With a number of marquee names on the free agent market this offseason, here are the NFL’s 17 most expensive receivers based on their annual averages for the 2022 season.
1. Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins ($30 million)
Tyreek Hill is reportedly set to earn $30 million in 2022 as he enters the beginning of a four-year $120 million deal. He is guaranteed $72.2 million, according to reports. This would bump him to the top of the highest-paid wide receivers list, only one week after Davante Adams set the mark for first.
The Chiefs are trading the six-time Pro Bowler Hill to Miami for five draft picks: a 2022 1st-round pick (No. 29), a 2nd-round pick (No. 50) and a 4th-round pick, as well as 4th- and 6th-round picks in the 2023 draft.
Hill is certainly in the company with the best wideouts in the league when it comes to production with 1,239 receiving yards and 111 receptions during the 2021 season.
2. Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders ($28.25 million)
Davante Adams now has the top spot on this list after the Green Bay Packers traded him to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Green Bay used its franchise tag on Adams earlier this month, giving him a one-year deal worth roughly $20 million. Adams reportedly told the team he will not play under the franchise tag next season. Instead of striking a long-term deal with Adams, Green Bay dealt him to the AFC.
Adams and Las Vegas then agreed to a new five-year contract worth $141.25 million, making Adams the highest-paid receiver in football.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals ($27.25 million)
After holding the top spot for a while, DeAndre Hopkins has been bumped to second place.
The former Houston Texans wideout was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals two offseasons ago and later signed a two-year, $54.5 million extension. His talent backs up the money, too, as he was named an All-Pro four straight years before injuries hampered him in 2021.
4. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills ($26 million)
The Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs connection is here to stay.
The Bills wideout signed a four-year deal with Buffalo on April 7 worth a reported $104 million. Diggs earned that payday over his first two seasons with the Bills, hauling in 230 receptions for 2,760 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
5. A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles ($25 million)
The Philadelphia Eagles made one of the biggest moves of the 2022 NFL Draft and brought in a new weapon for Jalen Hurts.
The Birds acquired A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans in exchange for picks Nos. 18 and 101. Shortly after bringing in the Pro Bowl receiver, it was reported that he inked a four-year, $100 million deal in Philly, making him one of the top-five most expensive wideouts in football.
6. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers ($24.5 million)
After an offseason full of drama and uncertainty, Deebo is staying in the Bay. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Samuel is set to sign a three-year extension worth $73.5 million, with $58.1 million guaranteed.
Samuel had an absurd season with the 49ers last year as a dual-threat running back-receiver combo. He logged 77 receptions, 1,405 yards and six touchdowns as a wideout while rushing for 365 yards on 59 carries (6.2 yards per carry) and finding the end zone eight times. Now 2021 No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance has his No. 1 target tied down for the foreseeable future as he takes the mantle from Jimmy Garoppolo.
7. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks ($24 million)
The Seahawks have tied down star wideout DK Metcalf to a three-year extension. The 24-year-old was entering the final year of his rookie contract but now gets a three-year deal worth $72 million to become the sixth-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the contract also includes a $30 million signing bonus, the most ever for a wide receiver. Metcalf is coming off a 75-catch, 967-yard and 12-touchdown season in 2021, but won’t have Russell Wilson throwing to him anymore after the quarterback was dealt to the Denver Broncos. One of Geno Smith or Drew Lock will be throwing Metcalf the rock for now.
8. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams ($22 million)
The latest star wideout to sign an extension during the 2022 offseason, Cooper Kupp's raise was well-earned. He completed the triple crown in 2021, leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and capped the season by winning Super Bowl MVP.
Kupp’s three-year extension is worth up to $80 million, with $75 million guaranteed. In total, his five-year contract is worth $110 million through the 2026 season – giving him an AAV of $22 million. He is set to make $14.8 million in 2022 and $14.6 million in 2023 before jumping to $26.7 million from 2024 through 2026.
9. DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers ($20.628 million)
Moore has been one of the few bright spots on the Panthers’ offense in recent years, and he was rewarded for it with a three-year, $61.884 extension in March.
The 24-year-old pass catcher exceeded 118 targets and 1,150 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. While the Panthers’ long-term plan at quarterback remains uncertain, Moore will be around to assist whichever signal caller is there.
10. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers ($20.025 million)
One of the best route runners in football is also one of the highest-paid players at his position.
Keenan Allen inked a four-year, $80.1 million extension with the Los Angeles Chargers right before the start of the 2020 season. That four-year deal works out nicely for the Chargers, who are giving loads of money to Allen before they have to break the bank for Justin Herbert.
T-11. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers ($20 million)
If Allen’s deal wasn’t evidence enough, Mike Williams’ new extension shows just how badly the Chargers want to maximize Herbert’s rookie deal.
Coming off a career year, Williams signed a three-year, $60 million contract earlier this month, giving Herbert two $20 million receivers for the next three seasons.
T-11. Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns ($20 million)
The Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns evidently have different views on how much Amari Cooper is worth.
Dallas reportedly decided to trade Cooper and his $20 million annual salary to Cleveland in exchange for a couple of draft picks. After moving on from Odell Beckham Jr. during the season and releasing Jarvis Landry on March 14, the Browns are banking on Cooper to help elevate Baker Mayfield and the Browns’ offense.
Cooper has three years left on the five-year, $100 million contract he signed with Dallas in 2020.
T-11. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($20 million)
Godwin has now moved up this list after agreeing to a three-year, $60 million extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Godwin will receive $40 million in guaranteed money.
The Bucs had used the franchise tag on him ahead of the March 8 deadline and had until July 15 to extend him.
Though he tore his ACL in Week 15, getting him back at some point of the season will be a huge boost to the receiving depth chart now that Tom Brady has come out of retirement.
14. Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans ($19.8 million)
Brandin Cooks has played for four teams in his eight-year NFL career, but he’s finally settled down in Houston.
The veteran wideout signed a two-year, $39.6 million deal with the Texans in April. Cooks totaled 171 receptions, 2,187 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns across his first two years with the organization.
15. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($19.25 million)
The New Orleans Saints’ record-breaking, five-year deal with Michael Thomas in 2019 had an immediate payoff. Thomas made NFL history by reeling in 149 receptions and helping the Saints to a 13-3 record.
Since then, they’ve hardly seen the prolific receiver on the field. He played nine total games in 2020 and missed the entire 2021 season with an ankle injury.
Now, the Saints are looking to get a healthy Thomas back on the field to help a new quarterback under new head coach Dennis Allen. By restructuring his deal in February, Thomas seems intent on returning to the field in New Orleans.
16. Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders ($18.76 million)
Terry McLaurin was the latest star receiver to get paid during the 2022 offseason, securing a reported three-year, $71 million extension. That extension is added on to his 2022 salary of $3.04 million, locking him up through the 2025 season.
With his new contract, McLaurin reportedly will receive a $28 million signing bonus and 76.4% of the new money is guaranteed. After 2022, his average annual value will rise to $23.66 million. Schefter first reported the news and terms.
After playing with eight different starting quarterbacks in his first three seasons, McLaurin will be paired with another new signal-caller in 2022: Carson Wentz. Despite the frequent turnover at quarterback, McLaurin has proven to be one of the league’s top receivers – and now he will be paid as such.
17. Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers ($18.355 million)
The Steelers have a long history of drafting quality wide receivers, and they struck gold again with Diontae Johnson.
The former Toledo standout was another member of the loaded receiver class from 2019. His numbers have risen each season since he entered the NFL, accumulating 107 receptions, 1,161 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns.
Johnson was rewarded with a Pro Bowl selection and later a two-year, $36.71 million extension in August that will keep him with the team through 2024. While Pittsburgh’s QB situation is unclear in the early part of training camp, whoever is under center will have a loaded group of weapons that features Johnson, Chase Claypool and rookie George Pickens.
T-18. Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars ($18 million)
The Jacksonville Jaguars brought out the Brinks truck to get Trevor Lawrence another weapon.
The team reportedly agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal with former Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk. The contract reportedly has a maximum value of $84 million.
Kirk is coming off a career season, but there is still a difference in production between him and other players on this list. Kirk had 77 catches, 982 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but he only had one touchdown over his final 10 games as Hopkins dealt with a pair of injuries.
While Kirk’s production may not stack up with players like Hopkins, Adams and Hill, it will be a welcome addition for the Jaguars. His 2021 numbers are better than any Jaguar in all three receiving categories.
T-18. Kenny Golladay, New York Giants ($18 million)
Jacksonville is hoping Kirk doesn’t follow in Kenny Golladay’s footsteps after signing a four-year, $72 million free agent deal.
The New York Giants attempted to add a No. 1 receiver for Daniel Jones during 2021 free agency by signing Golladay to a massive deal. That contract has yet to translate into points, as Golladay finished the year without a touchdown and the Giants came away with the second-lowest-scoring offense in the NFL.