Former Wisconsin football star J.J. Watt just signed with the Arizona Cardinals on a reported two-year deal worth $31 million and $23 million of that being guaranteed. Many thought he would have signed with a real contender to chase a Super Bowl ring. Now, Arizona could certainly contend in the NFC next year, but they aren’t at the level of the Buccaneers or Packers in most fans’ eyes.
But maybe in Watt’s case, it’s a ‘have your cake and eat it too,’ kind of situation.
This whole thing got me thinking about other former Wisconsin football players who went on to have very successful careers in the NFL and how much they have made in the process. Watt has earned over $100 million in his career and now could potentially add on another $31 million in career earnings.
That’s a ton of money.
But when I looked into it, Watt isn’t even in competition for the top spot in current career earnings in the NFL. That wasn’t the only surprise I found while I did a little digging. Obviously more recent players have earned more money due to inflation, but I still found some former Badgers who made a good amount of money even though they haven’t played in the league for years.
The following are the ten highest-paid Wisconsin football players in the all-time in the NFL. I also added in where they stood all-time at that position in the NFL if they were in the top 100 players.
I found all the contract and career earnings information on Spotrac.
10. DeAndre Levy
Career earnings: $28,278,607
DeAndre Levy was a stud linebacker for the Wisconsin football team from 2005-2008. He played in 50 games where he racked up 210 total tackles with 14.0 sacks.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd round (76th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft.
He played his entire 8-year career in Detroit where he amassed 638 combined tackles in just 95 games. He also had 12 career interceptions, including six alone in 2013. After playing just 8 seasons, Levy has the 5th-most tackles in Detroit Lion history.
Through the 2020 season, DeAndre Levy has the 97th-highest career earnings in NFL history at the linebacker position and 49th at the outside linebacker position.
With inflation and pass rushers in such high demand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Levy fall off of the linebacker list completely within the next year or two.