Here are the biggest free-agent contracts in NFL history


Get ready for the NFL’s version of March Madness.

Free agency gets underway with the legal tampering period on March 14 at 12 p.m. ET. Then, on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, the new league year will begin and free agents will be permitted to sign with teams.

With a free-agent class headlined by J.C. Jackson, Chandler Jones and Von Miller, we could see some massive deals go down next week.

But before the madness begins, let’s take a look at the biggest free-agent contracts in NFL history.

What’s the biggest free-agent contract in NFL history?

In terms of average annual value (AAV), Kirk Cousins inked the largest free-agent contract in NFL history.

After spending his first six seasons with Washington, Cousins joined the Minnesota Vikings in the 2018 offseason on a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal. The contract was a record-setting one for a free agent with an average annual value of $28 million.

Cousins’ pact with the Vikings topped Peyton Manning’s five-year deal with the Broncos in 2012 that had a $19.2 million average annual value. And Manning has been passed by several other players besides Cousins since.

Tom Brady and Philip Rivers each signed deals with an AAV of $25 million in the 2020 offseason. Brady left the New England Patriots after 20 seasons for a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Rivers ended a 16-year tenure with the Chargers by joining the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year deal.

Trent Williams comes in behind Cousins, Brady and Rivers with the largest free-agent deal by a non-quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers acquired the star left tackle from Washington in 2020 and rewarded him one year later with a six-year, $138.06M contract. Williams’ deal was the largest in free agency history in terms of total money, besting Ndamukong Suh’s $114.38 contract with the Miami Dolphins in 2012.

Rounding out the top five biggest free-agent deals is another quarterback: Nick Foles. Foles cashed in on his Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles when he landed a four-year, $88 million deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019. But the signing was a big swing and a miss for the Jags. The Super Bowl 52 MVP lost all four of his starts before being benched and then traded to the Chicago Bears the following offseason.

Quarterbacks make up eight of the 16 biggest free-agent deals of all time. However, only Brady and Manning were unquestionably worth the investment, as both went on to win Super Bowls with their new teams. Meanwhile, the signings of Foles, Teddy Bridgewater (three years, $61M), Sam Bradford (one year, $20 million), Brock Osweiler (four years, $72M) and Case Keenum (two years, $36 million) were huge flops.

Here’s a full look at the biggest free-agent contracts in NFL history ranked by average annual value (h/t Spotrac):

1. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings, 2018: Three years, $84M ($28M AAV)

T-2. Tom Brady Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020: Two years, $50M ($25M AAV)

T-2. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts, 2020: One year, $25M 

4. Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers, 2021: Six years, $138.06M ($23.01M AAV)

5. Nick Foles, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2019: Four years, $88M ($22M AAV)

6. Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers, 2020: Three years, $63M ($21M AAV)

T-7. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys: 2020: Five years, $100M ($20M AAV)

T-7. Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals, 2018: One year, $20M

9. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2012: Five years, $96M ($19.2M AAV)

10. Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins, 2015: Six years, $114.38M ($19.06M AAV)

T-11. Trey Flowers, Detroit Lions, 2019: Five years, $90M ($18M AAV)

T-11. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans, 2016: Four years, $72M ($18M AAV)

T-11. Kenny Golladay, New York Giants, 2021: Four years, $72M ($18M AAV)

T-11. Case Keenum, Denver Broncos, 2018: Two years, $36M ($18M AAV)

T-15. Olivier Vernon, New York Giants, 2016: Five years, $85M ($17M AAV)

T-15. C.J. Mosley, New York Jets, 2019: Five years, $85M ($17M AAV)

*Players who were franchise-tagged and then signed a new contract in the same offseason were not included

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