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What is the average NFL player salary?

It is a common misconception that NFL players earn exorbitant salaries. However, upon closer inspection, their earnings are not as big as one might think.

Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers, warms up

In almost every top-tier professional sport, athletes are rewarded with substantial compensation for their skills and performances. However, this does not necessarily mean they earn as much as expected, and they may not enjoy lengthy careers that would guarantee more significant wealth accumulation. This is also true for NFL players, but rather than solely relying on our perspective, let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

A Dream you can take to the bank

The regular season of the National Football League (NFL) begins on the weekend following the first Monday of September and concludes at the start of January. Following this, the playoff tournament for that season begins. The regular season consists of 272 games, with all 32 NFL teams playing 17 matches over 18 weeks, including one “bye” week off.

For many high school and college players, joining the NFL is not just a goal but the ultimate dream. The financial rewards can be substantial, and the accompanying fame can be pretty satisfying. However, the job’s physical demands are brutal, and most players retire before reaching 40 years old. At this point, they can enjoy the benefits of their success, including a sizable pension. So, what kind of salaries are we talking about? Let’s examine how salaries work in the NFL, from the highest to the lowest. It’s worth noting that even the lowest-paid players in the league are still paid a significant amount.

An Analytical Look at NFL Salaries

When searching for the average salary of an NFL player, the amount you will typically come across is over $3.3 million per year. However, this number is not an accurate reflection of reality, as it is skewed by the exceptionally high salaries earned by high-profile quarterbacks and other star players. To further elaborate on this paradox, consider a group of 10 players. If one of them is a star quarterback earning $20 million per year, while the other nine players each make $50,000 per year, the average salary for the group becomes $2,045,000. A more representative value is the median salary, the middle value in a set of numbers. In our example group, the median salary is $50,000.

When looking at the average salary for NFL players, the commonly referenced $2 million figure is misleading. This is due to the incredibly high earnings of star quarterbacks and other top players that skew the average. The median wage for all NFL players is around $860,000, which is considerably lower, and First-year rookies earn a minimum of $435,000. While top quarterbacks can make over $25 to $30 million per year, the average salary for all quarterbacks is $5,766,000, with a median income of $1,100,000. Defensive ends also earn significant salaries, with an average income of $2,625,000 and a median salary of $847,300. On the other hand, running backs are among the lowest-paid players, with an average wage of $1,012,000 and a median salary of $630,000, likely due to the high physical demands of the position. Interestingly, NFL kickers have the longest average career of 7 years and earn an annual salary of $1,792,000, with a median income of $1,000,000.

“Show me the money” effect

It’s worth noting that the salaries of NFL players tend to increase as they reach the age of 26, which is directly related to their career longevity. Football is a challenging and physically demanding sport, and by the time players reach their mid-twenties, they have to start worrying about how much longer they can continue playing. Those who have demonstrated exceptional skills and can continue to withstand the game’s physical demands are compensated accordingly. It’s only fair to pay a player who has proven his worth and ability to persevere at the sport’s highest level.

The NFL’s Highest-Paid Players

After examining the workings of NFL salaries and the differences between positions, it’s intriguing to glimpse the top earners in the league. Their wages put into context the enormous gap between the average salary and the massive amounts these players earn. Comparing these figures with those top players made a decade ago is astounding. Therefore, let’s take a look at the current highest-paid players in the NFL: