One of the best players in the NFL is also one of the highest-paid professional athletes in the world. It took just three years for Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins to establish himself as not only the best defensive tackle in the NFL, but also one of league's best defensive players.
For his efforts, the Bengals rewarded him handsomely last year with a five-year, $53 million contract extension. Though his season ended prematurely in October, that didn't stop Atkins from being Forbes' 53rd highest-paid athlete of 2013.
Total Earnings: $22.4 million
Salary/winnings: $22.3 million
The Bengals locked up one of the best defensive tackles in football in 2013 when they gave Atkins a five-year, $53 million contract extension. Atkins made the Pro Bowl two of his first three seasons after being drafted in 2010. The new deal included a $15 million signing bonus. Atkins tore his ACL a month after signing the pact and missed the rest of the 2013 season.
Prior to going down with a torn ACL last year, Atkins had registered six sacks, giving him 29 in his 4-year career. His 26 sacks since the 2011 season started is the most by a defensive tackle over that span.
Atkins is scheduled to make $9 million this year with the Bengals. Depending on how much he brings in from other endorsements, he could find himself on this list again next year.
As long as Atkins can come back to 100% and play at that level for the next four years, his next deal could be the richest deal a defensive lineman ever signs. He'll be 30 in the final year of this current contract, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that could happen.
If it did, he'll be ranked a lot higher in future Forbes lists.