The salaries of players in the National Football League depend on many factors, including salary caps, the positions of players and outlying criteria such as bonuses and postseason games. During each regular season of 16 games, NFL players have a guaranteed salary that totals at least six figures in annual base compensation. This results in NFL players potentially earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per game.
Minimum salaries in the NFL reflect years of play in the league and follow a strict pay structure. In 2011, the minimum salaries of NFL rookies increased by $55,000 annually, to $23,437.50 per regular season game, or $375,000 a year. After a player’s first year in the NFL, his minimum salary jumps to $28,125 per regular season game, totaling $450,000 per year. After two years, an NFL player earns a base pay of $32,812.50 per game, equaling $525,000 per year. Players with three years in the NFL receive a minimum of $37,500 per game, totaling $600,000 per year. Those with four to six years in the league earn a minimum of $42,812.50 per game, or $685,000 per year. Players with seven to nine years in the league earn a minimum of $50,625 per game, or $810,000 per year, and players with 10 or more years in the NFL earn $56,875 per game, or $910,000 per year. The minimum salary then increases by $937.50 per regular season game, totaling an annual base pay raise of $15,000 per year.
Draft Pick Order
The order of a player's pick by a team during the NFL draft contributes to the salary he earns per year. Players selected early during the draft process receive much more money in their initial contracts and typically sign for multiple years. The money allocated for subsequent players in the draft steadily shrinks, affecting what these players make annually and per game.
Position of Players
The salary an NFL player makes typically varies by the position he plays. On average, quarterbacks are the highest-earning players, garnering $1,970,982 per year. That amount breaks down to $123,186.38 per game. By comparison, tight ends earn an average annual salary of $863,414, or $53,963.38 per regular season game. The remaining nine positions on an NFL team fall between these two ends of the salary spectrum.
NFL players can earn extra money from postseason and signing bonuses when they join or reenlist with a team. These bonuses reflect a multitude of factors. For instance, winning Super Bowl teams earn an $88,000 bonus, while the losing team earns $44,000. Players on teams in the wild-card round earn a $20,000 bonus.
M. Skylar Ezell has been writing about politics, entertainment, urban culture and career-related topics since 2007. His communications work for Fortune 500 companies in health care, technology and hospitality has resulted in international recognition, including the Association for Talent Development BEST Award and Achievers Global Award. He is a graduate of Georgia State University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and public relations.