With the NFL draft recently completed, it’s clear that even the newest players in the league will generate significant income.
- The National Football League (NFL) kicked off its annual draft on April 27, with teams beginning to select up-and-coming players to join this year’s season, which starts Thursday, September 7—and the salary numbers are pretty juicy.
- The new round of 259 draftees is estimated to be signed to $38 million or less in multi-year contracts, with the bottom 49 of the draftees being signed to $3.97 million four-year contracts.
- The minimum salary in 2023 is $750,000 per year, as per the league’s March 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- Baltimore Ravens’ Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the highest-paid player in the NFL, earning $52 million per year.
- Former Washington Football Team’s Tyrone Swoopes earned the title of lowest-paid football player in the league in 2021, having worked as an undrafted free agent below the minimum NFL salary cap.
Why It’s Important
Football is a very taxing sport. Players are paid millions of dollars to compete in a highly competitive and physical sport, and the latest numbers released from this year’s draft show that even the newest players to the league will earn roughly $1 million per year.
The average annual salary for an NFL player is $2.7 million, but different positions earn differently, with quarterbacks earning the highest salaries. The top 14 highest-paid players in the NFL are all quarterbacks. The median incomes for fullbacks ($616,000), tight ends ($630,000), and long snappers ($634,000) are much less.
“Playing professional football in the NFL can be an exciting and financially rewarding career. A few positions do pay multimillion-dollar salaries, but even the lower-paying positions are paid more than a half-million dollars per year,” says Houston Chronicle reporter Jim Woodruff.
Many NFL players are overpaid, while others are relatively underpaid. While that pay is often pegged to productivity, skill, and value to the team, some players prove to be unworthy of their multimillion-dollar contracts and underperform relative to what they were expected to deliver.
“On an absolute basis, NFL players appear overpaid—but that’s not how you should view them. On a comparative basis, in many ways, they are underpaid. They are a highly skilled workforce putting out a product that many people pay top dollar to see. From a small base of nearly 1,700 on-the-field employees, they are able to drive nearly $9 billion in revenue. Keeping less than half seems reasonable,” says financial analyst Jamal Carnette.
The average football career in most positions is less than three years due to the physically demanding nature of the sport. Quarterbacks often work 4.44 years and punters 4.87 years, Statista reports. There are only 1,696 positions available in the entire sport, and roughly 250 players retire per year.
One University of Connecticut statistical study found that wage discrimination was tied mostly to performance, noting that “productivity seems to be the largest salary factor.” This is reflected in the statistics of individual players, with highly paid players like Lamar Jackson having a percentage guarantee above 50% while players signed to smaller contracts have a 0% guarantee.