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Who is the lowest paid player in the NFL? Is there a minimum salary in American football?

Lowest paid player, Tyrone Swoopes, does not quite cut it on the NFL active roster, but makes more than the minimum average salary of a practice squad player.

Who is the lowest paid player in the NFL? Is there a minimum salary in American football?

In professional sports, a salary cap is a wage cap that imposes a limit on the total amount of money a team can spend on their players’ salaries. It serves as both a per-player limit and a total limit, or either. The NFL’s cap is a hard cap, meaning that teams are forbidden from going above it, and the salary floor is also a hard floor. Contract cancellations, loss of draft picks and fines of up to $5 million are all penalties inflicted if caps are violated.

NFL Salary Cap

The NFL salary cap increases every year, with 2021’s floor set at $180 million; a $5 million increase since last year’s previous agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association. Since 2012 the addition has been at least $10 million per year. Read more on NFL 2021: salary cap space, highest players salary and contracts here.

How much is the average NFL player paid? 

According to, a site that tracks NFL contracts, 34 NFL players currently make $20 million a season in average annual salary.

To top it all, the highest paid player in the league right now makes a $45 million ‘per season’ in average annual salary. And to no one's surprise, that would be Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs QB.

A respectable amount for a player with Mahomes’ caliber. But not every player is Patrick Mahomes or Tom Brady. There are still a great deal of players who are not making it big on salaries this season, even with the increase of the NFL minimum salary through TV contracts.

The NFL’s minimum player salary

As per the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement established in March 2020, NFL players’ minimum salary measured up to $660,000 in the 2021 season. Since 2011, salaries have risen by nearly $300,000 in 10 years, according to Statistica.

As of Sept.10, 2021, over 41 players are making the minimum salarywhich went up from $610,000 last year. 

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Some of these players include Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Malik McDowell, who was a 2017 NFL Draft second-round pick and who also had multiple run-ins with the law. There’s also second-year undrafted running back Adrian Killins. However, the lowest-paid NFL player award goes to the Seattle Seahawks’ tight end Tyrone Swoopes.

The Lowest-paid NFL player: Tyrone Swoopes

2017-2019 Seattle Seahawks

The 26-year-old former Texas Longhorn quarterback was drafted by the Seahawks in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. He was continuously bounced on and off Seattle’s practice squad, and he only earned $27,353 with them in 2017. He slightly earned more in 2019, jumping up to $38,000.
Between 2017 and 2019, he only managed two receptions for 28 yard on 109 offensive snaps in all his seven regular-season games. He was making $174,706 with the Hawks before he parted ways after the 2019 season. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Swoopes became a free agent on March 18, 2020. He had tryouts with the Arizona Cardinals and with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but ended up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles on August 23, 2020. He was then waived on September 3, 2020 and shortly after signed with the Washington Football Team in December. Swoopes spent a few weeks on Washington’s practice squad in 2020, but was not called up to the active roster. He was making $16,800 in 2020.

Why is Swoopes not making the NFL minimum salary?

It might seem confusing as to why Swoopes is not making the minimum NFL salary, but he actually is, only as a practice squad player.

This title refers to a player who trains, prepares and practices with the 53-man roster, but is just not on the active list. A squad player usually falls under one of two categories: a rookie with no accrued season of experience, or a player who was on the active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). In Swoopes’ case, he falls under the second bracket.

How many players are on an NFL practice squad?  

NFL teams benefit from practice squad players as they allow them to be more flexible with their roster, and help better prepare younger or less experienced athletes with the system. Teams are allowed to carry up to 16 players on their practice, as of 2020.

How much are NFL practice squad players paid?

Rookies and players with two or fewer accrued NFL seasons make at least $9,200 a week. ‘Accrued’ stands for when a player is on full-time pay status for a minimum of six regular-season games. This means that these players would be making what’s equivalent to $165,600 for 18 weeks spent on the practice squad.

On the other hand, players who have accrued at least three seasons make a minimum of $14K per week and $252K for the whole season. As opposed to practice squad players, a rookie on an active roster would have a minimum salary this season of $660K.

For Tyrone Swoopes, being the least paid NFL player could seem like an unfortunate title. Nonetheless, he is actually set to make $780,000 in 2021 as a free agent, and he is making more than the average salary for a practice squad player. The only bad news for him is that he has yet to receive any of that salary.

It slightly gets worse. Throughout all his five NFL seasons, Swoopes has not been guaranteed any of the salaries he signed for on his contracts.


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