According to Sports Illustrated both Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson were among the top-paid US athletes in 2012. Nicks received $24,285,000, which makes him 21st, while Vincent Jackson received $25,160,000, ranking him 15th among all US athletes. They're the two best-paid non-quarterback NFL players on that list. That's pretty impressive, but those numbers suggest that those two players received much bigger paydays than they really did.
Jackson and Nicks certainly received that much pay last season, but those numbers are not indicative of their actual contracts. Jackson received a $11 million per year contract, while Nicks got a $9 million per year deal. The two are only on that list because the Buccaneers gave them slightly larger first-year salaries, and then converted a large part of their 2013 salaries into signing bonus for the 2012 season. The Bucs only did so after watching both of them perform and work for a season, ensuring that they would not stop working after their large paydays.
That effectively moved the cash payments of those salaries to 2012, while moving much of the cap hits to 2014 and beyond. That created the salary cap room necessary to sign Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis, while still keeping future salary cap space under control.
Yes, the Buccaneers gave both Nicks and Jackson that much money last season. But both of them are earning less than $1 million this year. Sure, they were some of the top-paid athletes last season -- but only because of how their contracts are accounted for, not because they're receiving that much money year after year.