How Much Do NFL Players Really Make?

How much do NFL players make? It’s a question that’s been asked a lot lately, and with good reason. The average salary for an NFL player is $2.7 million, but the top players can make much more than that. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how much NFL players really make, and how that compares to other professional athletes.

How Much Do NFL Players Really Make?


The average National Football League (NFL) player salary in 2017 was $2.7 million, according to Statista. This figure represents a significant increase from the average salary of $1.9 million in 2007. The NFL is the highest paying professional sports league in the United States, followed by Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL).

The minimum salary for NFL players in 2017 was $465,000, an increase from $310,000 in 2007. The minimum salary for rookie players was $435,000 in 2017. Rookie salaries are typically lower than veteran salaries because rookies have not yet proven themselves at the professional level. The NFL has a strict salary cap that limits the amount of money that teams can spend on player salaries. For the 2017 season, the salary cap was $167 million per team.

NFL players are paid based on their performance and their contract terms. Players can sign contracts with guaranteed money, meaning they will receive their full salary even if they are cut from the team or injured. Non-guaranteed contracts are also common in the NFL, which means that players can be cut from the team without receiving any of their signing bonus or future salary payments. Incentives and bonuses are often included in NFL contracts, which can increase a player’s earnings significantly. For example, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady earned a $5 million bonus for leading his team to victory in February 2017.

NFL players typically earn more money than players in other professional sports leagues, but they also have shorter careers and are more likely to suffer from injuries that could end their playing careers prematurely.

NFL Player Salaries

In the National Football League, the average career lasts less than four years and the average player’s salary is $2.7 million. However, the median salary is only $860,000. The top ten percent of earners make an average of $5 million per year while the bottom ten percent make an average of $385,000 per year.

Rookie Salaries

Rookie player salaries have changed a lot over the years. In the NFL’s early years, most players made very little money and had to find other jobs to support themselves and their families. Today, rookie salaries are much higher, but they are still not on par with the salaries of veteran players.

The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) sets a salary cap for each team, and each team must stay under this cap at all times. The CBA also sets minimum and maximum salaries for rookie players. In 2019, the minimum salary for rookies is $495,000, and the maximum salary is $1.148 million. However, most rookies will make somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

The exact amount that a rookie will make depends on where they were drafted and their playing time. First-round draft picks usually make the most money, while late-round picks typically make the least. Rookie contracts are also usually for four years, so players who play well may be able to renegotiate their contracts after their first four years and earn even more money.

Veteran Salaries

There are 1,696 NFL players divided into two groups: veterans and rookies. Veterans are players who have accrued at least four playing seasons in the NFL, while rookies are players who have yet to play four seasons. The average salary for a veteran player is $1.8 million per year, while the average salary for a rookie player is $465,000 per year.

However, these figures do not tell the whole story. The average salary for a veteran player is skewed by the fact that there are a few superstar players who command salaries in the tens of millions of dollars per year. If we remove these outlier players from the calculation, the average salary for a veteran player drops to $1.1 million per year.

Similarly, the average salary for a rookie player is also skewed by a few high-profile players who are drafted into the NFL each year and sign contracts worth millions of dollars. If we remove these outliers from the calculation, the average salary for a rookie player drops to $315,000 per year.

So while the average salaries for veteran and rookie players may seem far apart at first glance, once we remove the outliers from the calculations, we see that there is actually not that much difference between them.

Salary Cap

The NFL salary cap is the limit to the total amount of money that an NFL team can spend on player salaries for a given League Year. The League Year runs from March 1st through February 28th (or 29th in a leap year). As of 2021, the salary cap for each team is $182.5 million.

The salary cap was instituted in 1994 as part of the first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). The current CBA, which was signed in 2020, runs through the 2030 League Year.

Under the current CBA, each team is also given a rookie salary pool, which is an amount of money that can be spent on rookies without counting against the salary cap. For 2021, the rookie salary pool is $13.6 million per team.

How NFL Players Make Their Money

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league. It is made up of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is the highest level of professional football in the United States. NFL players are the highest-paid athletes in the world.

Signing Bonuses

Signing bonuses are large sums of money paid to a player upon the signing of a contract extension or new contract. In recent years, signing bonuses have averaged around $11 million for first-round draft picks, but they can vary greatly based on a number of factors. For example, in 2018, quarterback Sam Darnold received a $30 million signing bonus when he was drafted by the New York Jets.

Signing bonuses are paid out in a lump sum and are not subject to taxation. However, they do count against the team’s salary cap for the year in which they are paid. For instance, if Darnold’s $30 million signing bonus is spread out over the life of his 4-year contract, it will count $7.5 million against the Jets’ salary cap each year.


In addition to their salaries, many players also receive endorsement deals from companies that want to use their name or image to sell products. Endorsements can be a very lucrative form of income for players, and some have been able to command seven-figure deals. The most popular players in the league usually have the most valuable endorsement contracts.

Top-level endorsers can earn millions of dollars per year just by lending their name to a product or company. For example, Peyton Manning is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world thanks in part to his many endorsement deals. In 2014, Forbes estimated that Manning earned $12 million from endorsements, on top of his $15 million salary from the Denver Broncos.


While a player’s salary is the most straightforward way to understand how much he makes, it doesn’t tell the whole story. The average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years, and while the league has a pension plan that can provide some financial security after retirement, it’s not nearly enough to support a player — or his family — for life.

For this reason, many players invest their money in an effort to secure their financial future. This can take a variety of forms, but some of the most common investments made by NFL players include:

-Real estate: Football players are often drawn to real estate because it is a tangible asset that can appreciate in value over time. In addition, income from rental properties can provide a steady stream of revenue once a player retires from the NFL.
-Businesses: Player-owned businesses can take many different forms, but they all offer the potential for long-term financial success. For example, former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has invested in several car washes, while Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has stakes in several breweries and restaurants.
-Private equity: Private equity refers to investments made in privately held companies that are not listed on public stock exchanges. These investments can be difficult to value and are often quite risky, but they also have the potential to generate high returns. For example, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is an active investor in private equity firms.

Of course, not all NFL players invest their money wisely. Many have made poor decisions that have cost them millions of dollars, and some have even filed for bankruptcy. However, those who do make smart investments can set themselves up for a very comfortable life after football.


It is difficult to say definitively how much NFL players make because of the various factors that can affect their salaries, such as their experience, skill, and the team they play for. However, according to one estimate, the average NFL player made $2.7 million in 2016. This figure includes all forms of income, such as their salary, bonuses, and endorsements. Keep in mind that this is just an estimate, and the actual amount may be higher or lower.

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