The Safety position; home to some of the biggest hitters in the NFL, and also some of the most athletic players on the entire defense. Whilst often regarded as weaker in coverage than other positions such as cornerback, a Safety has to be the backbone of any defense. Here’s our top 10 highest-paid safeties list, and how their performance has compared to the amount they’re set to earn if they meet all the terms of their contract.
- Jarius Byrd, New Orleans, Free Safety: $54,000,000
After 4 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, signing the franchise-tag in 2013, Byrd made the decision to not re-sign with the Bills. The Saints swept in with a bold move in free-agency to sign the Free Safety to a 6-year, $54,000,000 contract with $26.3 Million guaranteed in 2014. His contract runs all the way to 2020. Since signing with the Saints, he has played in 17 games due to injuries combining for 75 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, one sack and a lone interception. A hefty price tag for a significant lack of production from the former First-Round pick.
- Devin McCourty, New England, Free Safety: $47,500,000
A long-time defender for the New England Patriots, McCourty signed a 5-year, $47.5 million dollar contract in 2015 with $28.5 million in guarantees. McCourty has only played one year on this contract so far and has accrued 64 combined tackles, one sack, no forced fumbles and one interception. This was actually a drop in performance from previous seasons where he had an average of 78 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions* *Stats rounded up/down if over/under .5
- Dashon Goldson, Washington, Free Safety: $41,250,000
Goldson’s moved around a fair bit since entering the NFL in 2007 as a 4th Round selection by the 49ers. Between 2007-13 when he signed his contract with the Buccaneers, he recorded an average of 57 Tackles, 6 Passes defended and 2 interceptions a season. He also recorded one of his two TD’s with the 49ers in 2010. Gaining a reputation for being one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league, Harper was signed in 2013 by the Buccaneers, and started 27 games over his 2 seasons with the Buccaneers, combining for a total of 153 tackles, and 9 passes defended before being traded to the Washington Redskins alongside a 7th round pick for a 6th round pick in this year’s draft. He’s since been named the team’s defensive captain and has totalled 110 tackles on the season with 3 passes defended and a 35 yard pick-six for the Redskins.
- Earl Thomas, Seattle, Free Safety: $40,000,000
Longtime member of the Legion of Boom; Earl Thomas, was signed to a 4-year, $40 Million dollar contract in 2014, with $25.735 Million Guaranteed. Prior to signing this contract, Thomas never missed a game as a Seahawk since being drafted in 2010; totalling 253 tackles, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 15 interceptions, and 32 passes defended. An average of 63 Tackles, 1 forced fumble, 3 interceptions and 8 passes defended per season. Since signing this contract he has averaged 81 tackles, 7 passes defended, and 3 interceptions per season, showing improved play against the run, and consistent play against the pass.
- Eric Weddle, San Diego, Free Safety: $40,000,000
The 2nd Round pick out of Utah has played for the Chargers for his entire 10-year career. In 2011, the Chargers signed Weddle to a 5-year, $40 million dollar contract, with $19 million guaranteed. He has been playing at a consistently high level since 2007 starting 137 games, with an average of 94 tackles, 8 passes defended and 2 interceptions per season.
- Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia, Free Safety: $35,000,000
The Eagles’ defender has just received a pay-rise for his outstanding play since 2014, inking a $35 million dollar contract, with $21 million guaranteed. More information here
- Reshad Jones, Miami, Strong Safety: $28,012,000
The first of our Strong Safeties who are being paid for the work they’re putting in on the field. Jones signed a 4-year, $28 million dollar contract, with $15 million guaranteed in 2013. He has rewarded the Dolphins with a 3-year campaign totalling 323 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 21 passes defended, and 9 interceptions, of which 3 were returned for Touchdowns.
- Kam Chancellor, Seattle, Strong Safety: $28,002,008
The Seahawks signed Kam to a 4 year, $28 million dollar contract with $7.825 million guaranteed in 2013, however he’s not been happy on this deal. Kam famously held out at the start of the 2015 season in the hope of signing a new deal with the Seahawks, however was never rewarded for his play during his time with the Seahawks. I’m sure Chancellor’s Agent will be trying to meet with the Seahawks front office this off-season to try and work out a long-term deal that benefits both parties.
- Donte Whitner, Cleveland, Strong Safety: $28,000,000
Donte Whitner applied his trade for the majority of his career as the hard-hitting, trash-talking safety for both the Bills and 49ers. In 2014, the Browns wanted to upgrade their secondary, and add some big-hitters to the back end to deal with the talented receivers that the AFC North have to run at them. His deal is a 4-year £28 million contract with $13 million guaranteed.
- Aaron Williams, Buffalo, Strong Safety: $26,007,844
The final safety on this list is the often-injured Aaron Williams of the Buffalo Bills. Totalling 52 starts over 5 seasons, Williams hasn’t been that productive when he’s healthy. He’s totalled 237 tackles, 31 passes defended and 7 interceptions since being drafted in 2011 in the second round.