3) Mark Ingram- $18.9 million career earnings (compared to Jonathan Stewart’s $48 million)
Ingram was making just $2 million a year when he made his first Pro-Bowl in 2014. He rushed for 964 yards and 9 touchdowns that year, while sporting a solid 4.3 yards per attempt. Jonathan Stewart, a goal-line back who rushed for just 3 touchdowns in 2014, was making $7.3 million a year. Ingram, compared to Stewart, has significantly more production, but was payed much less for his efforts. The year after Ingram’s breakout 2014 campaign, he was signed to a four-year extension worth $16 million. This bumps the Saint’s star running back up to $4 million a year, still significantly less than what a back of his caliber should be making. Ingram is still signed to this contract even after two straight years of at least a thousand yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. He has rushed for 24 touchdowns since 2015, which is more than top running backs like LeSean McCoy, Leveon Bell, or David Johnson during that span. To give you an idea of some running backs who are still payed more than Ingram per year, Giovanni Bernard, a veteran who only has 6 rushing touchdowns since 2015, is being payed $5.1 million per year. Latavius Murray is also making the same amount of money as Ingram, though his production has been much less. Overall, Ingram deserves to be paid a lot more than he is making now. His production is much better than a lot of the players who are making more money than him.
2) Frank Gore- $59.6 million career earnings (compared to Adrian Peterson’s $98.6 million)
Gore was a third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. While only starting one game in his rookie season, Gore went on to rush for 608 yards. Ever since 2005, Gore has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark nine times. Only three players have rushed for more 1,000-yard seasons than Gore; Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, and Curtis Martin all had ten or more such seasons. All three are Hall of Famers. While Gore has always been considered a workhorse running back, he was never considered to be a top-paid superstar. He has attempted the fifth most rushes in NFL history, yet was paid like any average running back. In the 2006 season, Gore accomplished the rare feat of rushing for over 1,600 yards. Brian Westbrook, then playing in his fifth year for the Eagles, rushed for only 1,200 yards but was payed roughly the same salary as Gore. Similarly, backs such as Edgerrin James had the same salary as Gore, but never reached Gore’s longevity or consistency. Fellow superstar running backs such as Adrian Peterson were making almost triple Gore’s maximum salary, a measly $5.5 million compared to Peterson’s $14 million. Most veteran running backs continue to sign larger and larger contracts as the years go on, but after Gore’s extension in 2007, his salary only plummeted while his production increased. Gore’s newest contract is just a $1 million-dollar deal, which is unreasonably low for a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. While Gore’s incredibly consistent production was never rewarded with a max-deal contract, Gore will get the recognition he deserves once he wears a gold jacket in Canton.
3) Tom Brady- $192 million (compared to Drew Brees’ $212.4 million)
Brady currently makes the 16th most dollars per year out of all NFL quarterbacks. You heard that right. The man who is widely regarded as the best player to ever play the game of football isn’t even being paid as a top 15 quarterback. This is the highest paying contract that Brady has ever received, yet quarterbacks like Alex Smith or Jimmy Garoppolo are still making millions more per year than Brady. Part of this has to do with Brady’s cooperation with the Patriots organization. He doesn’t mind signing for less than he is worth because it clears up cap space for the team to sign other contributors. Another reason for this disparity is that many NFL teams are desperate at the quarterback position and will pay outrageous amounts for even an unproven QB prospect. If the five Super Bowl wins and four Super Bowl MVPs that Brady has brought to New England doesn’t convince you that he is worth more money, let his other accolades persuade you. He has led his team to more division titles than any quarterback in NFL history, with 15. He has gone to 13 Pro Bowls, been the NFL’s MVP three times, been the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year twice, been the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, and was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He also has won the most games by any player ever and holds nearly every playoff passing record possible. While Drew Brees is arguably a top-five quarterback in NFL history, he has had nowhere near the success that Brady has had in the playoffs. Brady has made the playoffs 15 years of his 17 years as a starter, while Brees has only made it 6 times. Still, Brees has made more than $20 million more than Brady in one less year playing football. The point is, the greatest player of all time has not been paid at the high level that he continues to play at.