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How much money is in a minimum contract and how long can an NFL player sign for a team?

It’s that time of year when the free agency in the NFL is in full swing, and players with fulfilled contracts can seek out more lucrative deals.

Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals
Joe SargentAFP

Since March 15th of this year, the NFL free agency season has been underway, providing an ideal opportunity for players no longer bound by contract to explore new options, such as more lucrative contracts and a better fit with another team.

This free agency period begins as the new league year starts and the previous season’s agreements expire.

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More experience, more money

Free agents can officially sign new contracts during free agency, and any previously discussed trades can also become official. However, specific guidelines must be followed when joining a team as a free agent.

The minimum salary that a player can receive is determined by their credited season (CS). A player earns a credited season if they have been on full-pay status for three or more games during the regular season. The longer a player has been credited with seasons, the higher their minimum salary will be. The minimum salary amounts are based on a player’s number of credited seasons.

CS-based Minimum salary for 2023

Number of CS (credited seasons)Guaranteed money
0 CS$705,000
1 CS$825,000
2 CS$895,000
3 CS$965,000
4-6 CS$1,035,000
7+ CS$1,120,000

NFL players: Short career spans

The NFL has no limit to how long a contract can be. However, given that the average career of a professional football player is only around three and a half years, many contracts tend to fall within this range. It’s rare for players to receive contracts as long as the ten-year agreement is given to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

More extended contracts can benefit both sides- a player will be guaranteed some medium-term income, while the team can keep its hold on a player that could potentially play at a high level for years.

However, a shorter contract allows a player to enter free agency if he is unhappy with his team. It would also give teams a chance to release some players who are injury-prone or simply not performing as expected.