How Do NFL Players Get Paid?

How Do NFL Players Get Paid?

In the Canton corners of the Ohio state of USA, the National Football League, or NFL, had been established in 1920. Formerly known as the American Football Association until 1922, football is a spin-off of rugby and soccer where 32 teams compete with 11 players each to win the season’s title. While the craze of the NFL is indubitably an infectious frenzy, there are speculations and doubts regarding the payments of the NFL players because the system of payment is complexly designed. So, in this article we will tell you how NFL players get paid and how much they get paid over here.

Payments of the Players – How Do NFL Players Get Paid?

All the players are paid based on some parameters. These include bonuses, signed contracts, games played in the season, and various other factors on the top of the base salary or base pay, along with several criteria.  

The Yearly Payment

However, the minimum or the base payment of an NFL player may fluctuate every year, decided by strict guidelines. It also relies on the performance plus the years of service by the player. As of 14th April 2021, the minimum salary of a newly signed NFL player is around $660,000, a significant raise indeed compared to the decade ago $375,000 salary. By 2030, the minimum salary is expected to cross the $1 million mark. The game checks that the players get from the commencement of the season in around 17 installments do not include any other incentives or bonuses. 

Is the money guaranteed when the player is cut?

No, it is not. When a player is cut from the team during a season, the player has no more to be paid. Now, even though these minimum salaries are also not necessarily guaranteed as it means that if during a season, a player bids farewell consequential to any reason, either personal or professional, the player loses the rest of the money that is to be paid as all the payments are made via installments weekly. The money is only secure if it comes under the guaranteed category. These guarantees are often mentioned in the contract as a clause while the players sign them.  

There are three types of guarantee category subdivisions:

  • Cap Guarantee Division

When a player has been cut or released during a regular season, mostly to make the base for ‘cap space,’ meaning for including freshly signed athletes, the cap guarantee does not let the player cut lose the amount designated to him.   

  • Skill Guarantee Division

Concerning a player’s declining skill score, meaning he is repeatedly unable to be competent enough during the gameplay, he gets cut from the team. If he has a skill guarantee reservation, even though he is released, he shall be entitled to the full amount of his salary. 

  • Injury Guarantee Division

If a player suffers an injury during the game, only football-related injury on the field, and the team is prescribed by the professional physician that the player shall be unable to play for the length of his contract, he is to be released. 

The full salary money of the player is entitled to him only when the injury is quite serious and renders him almost on his career-ending stake. Nevertheless, if the player is undergoing mild injury and shall be good to go soon, the injury guarantee is not applicable. 

When all the three categories are combined, the term is referred to as ‘Full Guarantee’ of a contract.   

Big Bang Bonuses

There are few kinds of bonuses that a player is entitled to while entering to play in a season. These are the top-up benefits granted legitimately to an NFL athlete. 

  • The Contract Signing Bonus: The signing bonus is the initial money that the player gets while entering a contract. It is guaranteed or fully guaranteed. It states that under no circumstances shall the player lose or can be revoked from the player. These amounts are paid by 12-18 months of the calendar year.   

  • The Roster Bonus: The Roster bonus is the money a player receives by being active on the roster on a specific date or the entire calendar year. Being ‘active on the roster means, unlike the signing bonus, the bonus amount is not guaranteed unless the player is on the roster. Roster active players duly receive their bonuses. It is used to avoid any dead money in future years. A per-game roster is awarded to a player for either being on the active roster list or inactive roster list, 53-roster man.     

  • The Workout Bonus: The players duly get paid during the regular season. However, they are at the advantage of being paid during the off-season as well by attending workouts. There is a percentage of attendance that the player is obliged to if the player desires not to be penalized for workout absence. The stipulated workout bonus percentage is 84.375%, and a player opts to miss only 5 out of the 32 workout routines without taking a toll on the bonus.  

  • The Reporting Bonus: These bonuses are earned by a player when they diurnally report to the team. 

  • The Option Bonus: This bonus is a dormant signing bonus, which means that the money is fully guaranteed and gets prorated like the signing bonus. The only difference is that its guaranteed life revival begins after a designated length of time during the contract.  

Play-off Earnings 

NFL players, unsurprisingly, also get paid by the playoffs after the regular season. All these payments are supposed to be paid within a quarter of a month post the played game. Their negotiated and pre-defined hefty salaries, bounteous bonuses, and incentive perks are vanquished in the play-offs. They earn from a league pool rather than their NFL teams. The amount of $275,000 is the maximum bonus a player can take home in the postseason playoffs. The players have to be on a 53-man roster while playing the playoffs. 

Wild Card Round

  • Division Winner: $33,000
  • Pro Bowl Winner: Amount of $70,000 for each player.  
  • Pro Bowl Loser: Amount of $35,000 for each player. 
  • Divisional Round: $33,000
  • Conference Championship: $59,000
  • Super Bowl Winner: The prize money of $150,000 for each player.  
  • Super Bowl Loser: The prize money of $75,000 for each player.

Eligibility for Full Amount Payment 

The players have to be on the active roster previously for a minimum of 3 three seasons, either in regular seasons or in playoffs. Both the one-year service players termed Veterans and four-year service players, called Vested Veterans, have to be on the injured guarantee while still under the contract during the playoffs. 

If the players are not a 53-man roster but have an average of 8 games played on an active roster, whether in regular season or playoffs, they are still eligible for full payment, provided they are not under contract negotiations with another team.   

Eligibility for Half Amount Payment

The players were on a 53-man roster and played less than the required 3 games while on an active roster previously, either in the regular season or playoffs. Non-Veteran players, which means players who have not completed the one-year duration of their service, have been signed in with injured guarantee criteria are still under the contract while they have been playing for the playoffs. Non-vested veterans, meaning players ranging from one to three years of service in the NFL team, are registered under the injured guarantee and are still under contract when the playoffs games are played. Players who are not on an active 53-man roster but have spent three to seven games on an active roster, either in regular season or playoffs, are still entitled to half amount payment provided they’re not negotiating a contract to another team.    

What is a Salary Escalator?

A salary escalator is a sort of non-guaranteed incentive. It is received by a player solely based on his gaming performance. Once achieving fathomable targets victoriously, the player earns the amount of a priorly defined salary escalator. However, if the player is cut or traded and the salary escalator is not paid before the event happens, the player may lose the earned money. Surprisingly, there is also something known as ‘salary de-escalators.’ These threatening incentives cut down on the pay of the player. They are awarded when an NFL player fails to achieve a milestone.   

The Money Earning Deals 

The league earns its revenues from the broadcasting of the sport on TV channels. Recently in 2021, the news of deals with Amazon, CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox has spread like the flames of fire because the rise in league revenue is estimated to amount to $321 million per team. The fees paid by all these network channels are at a hike of 7% per annum. The league also profits from the Sunday tickets; these tickets are for those matches that do not witness the broadcast on TV channels.

However, the new TV channel networks would probably broadcast some of the Sunday Night matches. In 2020, the revenue of the NFL had been a staggering total of 16 billion dollars compared to the 12 billion dollars of 2019. All the money earned then gets divided into the teams and their players irrespective of the players’ leaderboard positions or individual performances through the system of players’ league revenue share. 

Incentive Benefits

A player may also earn some extra money via the add-on incentive factors, which are based on the player’s performance. Categorized as LTBE and NLTBE, these incentives are added or negotiated while the player signs the contract. 

  • LTBE: Likely To Be Earned incentives are awarded for those aims that the player has previously achieved. 
  • NLTBE: Not Likely To Be Earned incentives are to be awarded for those goals that the player has not achieved in the past games where he has performed.

Conclusive Figures and Announcements 

In 2020, the leading NFL player had been Deshaun Watson with 4823 Passing Yards, followed by Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady with 4740 and 4633 YDS. The highest-paid NFL player of 2020 had been Patrick Mahomes with a whopping worth of $45 million, followed by Russel Wilson at $35 million. The lowest was Tyrone Swoopes of the Seattle Seahawks, at an average salary of merely $378,000. The 2021 routine NFL season is expected to begin from 9th September 2021 till the 9th of January 2022. The play-offs might commence from January 15, 2022, and wrap up by February 13. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are players entitled to any more money than this?

Coherently, yes. By February 2021, the CBA may entitle a player to an extra game check as of the latest news. It means that a player can be given an additional lump sum of one-seventh of his base salary. It has happened on few criteria like:

  • The player must be on the active roster till the 17th game
  • He has a higher base salary compared to his service years 
  • He has no new contract negotiated 
  1. What is the player league share? 

As per the CBA, Collective Bargaining Agreement, an NFL athlete has a share of league revenue. For 2021 season play-offs, the players have entitled a share of 48% in the league revenue, which may increase based on the TV deals. 

  1. What is protracted Money? 

When a player is signed in, he has a signing bonus. But the signing bonus gets divided depending on the value of the signing bonus into several equal parts that get paid in installments till the contract span; this mechanism of calculation is called ‘protracted.’ The prorated money is fully guaranteed. However, if a player is cut or traded, the remaining amount gets deposited as ‘dead money.’  

  1. What is the salary cap? 

A salary cap is the limited money amount that an NFL team can spend on its NFL player salary. This is a strictly mandated guideline under the CBA for all the NFL teams. The amount is determined each year depending on the league revenue collected. A salary cap is a complex system because it has many levels of tie-ups and inclusions, which only unfold properly in a contract. The guidelines for these caps may also change as per the NFL and CBA.  

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How Do NFL Players Get Paid?

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