The landscape of the highest-paid inside linebackers in the NFL has developed slowly over the past few years. Who is the highest-paid LB in the NFL, and which other inside linebackers round out the top 10 at the position?
Who Is the Highest-Paid Linebacker in the NFL?
After being traded from the Chicago Bears to the Baltimore Ravens in 2022, Roquan Smith agreed to a five-year, $100 million extension that made him the highest-paid linebacker in the league. Smith received $45 million fully guaranteed at signing, including a $22.5 million signing bonus.
Smith’s 2023 base salary ($4.5 million), 2024 base salary ($6 million), and 2024 option bonus ($12 million) are also fully guaranteed. His $15 million salary for the 2025 season is currently guaranteed for injury only but will become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2024 league year. Smith can also earn $4 million roster bonuses in 2026 and 2027 that will likely force Baltimore to make a decision on his status.
Highest-Paid Linebackers 2-10
2) Shaquille Leonard, Indianapolis Colts | AAV: $19.7 million
Shaquille Leonard’s five-year contract extension fell just short of the $100 million mark over five years, but it did place him near the top of the list of highest-paid linebackers. His deal contained a $20 million signing bonus, $33 million in full guarantees, and $52.5 million in total guarantees during the life of the deal.
Leonard will count $19.79 million against the Indianapolis Colts’ salary cap in 2023, $20.124 million in 2024, and $23.55 million in 2025. The first real out in the contract comes after the 2023 campaign. However, if Leonard gets hurt in 2023, $6.5 million of his 2024 salary is guaranteed for injury.
3) Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers | AAV: $19.05 million
Fred Warner was briefly at the top of the highest-paid linebackers list in 2021, when he signed a five-year contract worth just over $95 million. The deal included a $12.32 million signing bonus that was part of $27.5 million in full guarantees at signing. The 2023 season will see Warner’s cap number jump to $18.525 million after sitting at $8.1 million in 2022.
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The contract is somewhat complex. The San Francisco 49ers have the option to buy out the final two years of the contract for $3.6 million. If that happens, Warner could be a free agent in the 2025 offseason. If the 49ers choose not to buy out the contract, he would be a free agent in 2027.
4) C.J. Mosley, New York Jets | AAV: $17 million
C.J. Mosley reset the linebacker market by signing a five-year, $85 million contract with the New York Jets in 2019. He’s still on that deal and is due to count $21.476 million against the salary cap in each of the next two years. Mosely’s contract contains two void years, so there’s room for New York to shift money to the future if needed.
The Jets fielded trade calls on Mosley in 2021 but ultimately hung onto him. They could theoretically cut him this offseason, but they’d take on nearly $15 million in dead money. A post-June 1 release would leave $4.5 million in dead money on New York’s 2023 cap.
5) Foyesade Oluokun, Jacksonville Jaguars | AAV: $15 million
Foyesade Oluokun joined the list of the NFL’s highest-paid linebackers when he signed a three-year, $45 million pact with the Jacksonville Jaguars last offseason. The former sixth-round selection out of Yale cashed in, garnering $28 million in guarantees and a $12.5 million signing bonus.
Jacksonville reworked Oluokun’s contract in March 2023. Thus, his cap charge is set to be only $8.83 million this season before jumping to $21.75 million in 2024. Oluokon can collect a $1 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2024 league year.
6) Jerome Baker, Miami Dolphins | AAV: $12.5 million
Jerome Baker signed a three-year contract extension worth $37.5 million. The structure of his deal is intriguing. Baker originally received a $5.5 million bonus, with a further $7 million bonus being paid in the 2022 offseason. Accordingly, he carries $3.125 million in prorated money in each of the next three years.
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Miami restructured Baker’s deal in November, so his cap charges over the next two seasons are now $12.77 million and $14.87 million, respectively. He has void years in 2025 and 2026 that helped Miami spread out his restructured money. Baker’s entire salary for 2023 will become guaranteed on March 17.
7) Matt Milano, Buffalo Bills | AAV: $10.375 million
Matt Milano has two years remaining on the four-year extension he signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2021. That deal was worth $41.5 million in total and came with $20 million guaranteed at signing. Milano’s cap charges stayed below $8 million over the first two years of the contract but will hit $13 million in each of the next two seasons.
Cap charges typically increase throughout a contract, but Buffalo also restructured Milano’s pact in 2022. A portion of his 2023 salary is already guaranteed for injury but will become fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. Milano has two void years tacked on at the end of his contract.
8) De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers | AAV: $10 million
De’Vondre Campbell converted his excellent 2021 season into a five-year, $50 million extension with the Green Bay Packers, but that deal included just $15 million in full guarantees. Green Bay doesn’t typically guarantee base salaries, so Campbell’s only guaranteed money was his signing bonus.
Instead, Campbell can pick up $3 million roster bonuses in both 2023 and 2024. He can also earn more than $1 million through workout and per-game roster bonuses, while his salary will increase by $250,000 in 2024 if he makes the Pro Bowl this upcoming season.
9) Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints | AAV: $9.33 million
The oldest linebacker in the top 10 at age 34, Demario Davis is already on his sixth NFL contract and his third deal with the New Orleans Saints. His current pact — a three-year, $27 million accord — will tie him to New Orleans through 2024.
As is the case with nearly every veteran Saints contract, Davis’ deal has been restructured and contains void years. Thus, he’ll carry a cap charge of just $7.608 million in 2023 before that figure balloons to $18.193 million next season. If Davis plays out his contract and doesn’t re-sign with the Saints, they’ll be left with $7.073 million in dead money in 2025.
10) Dre Greenlaw, San Francisco 49ers | AAV: $8.2 million
The 49ers haven’t shied away from paying linebackers, as both Warner and Dre Greenlaw slot into the top 10 highest-paid at the position. Although Greenlaw is only 25 years old, he signed a short two-year extension that will allow him to hit the market again in 2025.
San Francisco gave Greenlaw $16.4 million over that two-year term, including just over $7 million in guarantees. His cap charges will be $5.5 million and $9.6 million over the next two seasons before he reaches free agency.
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