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NFL Players Make Money, but Maybe Not as Much as You Think

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Think all NFL players are making big cash? Well, you might be in for a surprise.

There are always going to be the headliners. The Tom Bradys and Matthew Staffords of the league demand stratospheric pay. They bring in the fans and endorsement deals, and land contracts that are worth tens of millions of dollars. Tom Brady is on track to clear more than $20 million USD this year at the Pats, which is a pile of loot for anyone.

The NFL league minimum is a different story. At just over $400,000 USD per year, the lowest paid NFL players make a lot less than the hero quarterbacks, and receivers. Then there are the practice-squads, who can earn as little as $8,000 USD. They are paid weekly, with no guarantee of continued work throughout the season.

NFL Players Run the Gamut

New England Patriots special teams superstar Matthew Slater says that the idea of every NFL player making loads of money is a “Big-time myth.” The average NFL career is just three years long, which doesn’t leave much time to stack up cash.

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Tom Brady, Superbowl

In most cases, the top two or three players on a team will make the majority of the salaries paid. For example, while Tom Brady is taking home his tens of millions of dollars, more than 20 other Patriots players will be earning less than $1 million USD. Less than 10% of the Patriots will earn more than $5 million USD, and most will be paid less than $3 million USD.

Once taxes are paid, a player will be left with around 60% of their salary. The lavish lifestyles that sometimes happen in the world of professional sports can eat up even more money. Some of the younger players can be left without a job, or a way to continue earning the money they quickly become used to making.

On The Low End of the Spectrum

Average salaries can be deceiving. When most of the money is spent on a few high-dollar players, the equation that creates an average price may suggest that an average player is making a lot more than most do. With this in mind, consider the fact that among professional baseball, basketball, and football, NFL players make the least of the three.

Last year, the average NBA player earned more than $7 million USD, while the average MLB player took home around $4 million USD. The average salary paid in the NFL was a little over $2 million USD, but as the above example illustrates, many make far less than the average.

Matthew Slater earned around $1.6 million USD last year, and he is happy to have it.

According to him:

“We’re very fortunate, financially, to be able to do what we’re doing: Play a game, a child’s game, and be compensated for it.”

But he went on to say:

“There are guys in this league that play on four or five teams in the same year. They’re on practice squads, and they’re scrapping and clawing and trying to provide for themselves and their family.”

Plan Ahead

The median household income in the US is hovering around $60,000 USD, which makes the average salary in the NFL look pretty good by comparison. The average US family would have to work for the better part of a decade to match an NFL player who is making the league minimum.

Depending on the taxes involved, a three-year stint in the NFL would clear more than a half-million dollars, which isn’t too shabby for a twenty-something.

As long as they take care of themselves, and avoid expensive toys, a short NFL career is an amazing start to a professional life. It probably looks pretty good on a resume as well!

Images from Shutterstock.

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