That’s the word from ESPN’s survey of worldwide sports salaries, which found that Rodgers, Stafford and Brady were three of only seven professional athletes in the world who made at least $31 million last year.
There are some caveats. The survey covered only athletes’ salaries and prize money, and not endorsements. And one year of income isn’t necessarily the best method to measure an athlete’s earning power. There are NBA and Major League Baseball players who average more money than Rodgers, Stafford and Brady over the length of their contracts, just none who made as much as those three quarterbacks last year. The ESPN methodology also may have counted players’ signing bonuses as having been received at the time a new contract was signed, even if in reality the contract is structured so that the player has to wait to receive some of his bonus money.
By ESPN’s methodology, the highest-paid athlete in the world was boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., at $73.5 million. Second and third were soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at $50.2 million and $50.1 million. Next was Rodgers, who made $40 million in 2013, the year he signed a new five-year, $110 million contract.
Next was Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović at $35 million, followed by Stafford at $31.5 million and Brady at $31 million. Five other NFL players made the list of the Top 20 highest-paid athletes in the world: Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco at $30 million, Tony Romo at $26.5 million, Calvin Johnson (the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback) at $25 million and Peyton Manning at $25 million. Of the 19 athletes in the world with incomes of $25 million or more, eight were in the NFL.