How Much Money Do NFL Players Make?

The typical NFL player makes $860,000 per year in 2015. Players like Drew Brees ($23.8 million) and Philip Rivers ($21.2 million) make a lot more. The minimum NFL salary is $435,000 per year.

There are 32 teams in the NFL with 53 players each. That makes 1,696 NFL players total. Total salary money of about $3.6 billion is split between all players.

Median NFL Salary

The Median NFL salary is $860,000 per year. Median means middle of the road. The historical data we’ve found shows the median NFL salary didn’t grow  from 2010 through 2014. It took a big jump in 2015.

Median NFL Player Salary 2010$770,000
Median NFL Player Salary 2011$770,000
Median NFL Player Salary 2012$770,000
Median NFL Player Salary 2013$770,000
Median NFL Player Salary 2014$770,000
Median NFL Player Salary 2015$860,000

In 2015, the average NFL player made $2.1 million. That doesn’t mean that most NFL players make that much though. See below for our explanation on the best measure of NFL player earnings.

How Much Money NFL Players Make

NFL Player MoneyThe question “How much money does an NFL player make” has several answers:

  • How much do the highest paid NFL players make?
  • How much do the lowest paid NFL players make?
  • What’s the average NFL salary?
  • What’s the median NFL salary?

We’ll dig into each question below. For now, the table below gives the short answer to each.

Highest NFL Salary (Drew Brees)$23,800,000
Lowest NFL Salary (Rookie Minimum)$435,000
Median NFL Salary$860,000
Average NFL Salary$2,150,000
Total NFL Salary Money$3.6 billion
Number of NFL Players1,696

Also see: How Much Money Does an NBA Player Make?

Arizona Cardinals Alex Okafor makes less than the typical NFL salary with $703,607. The video below shows him recovering a fumble by Vikings player Adrian Peterson.

Median NFL Salary: The Best Measurement of NFL Pay

To really answer the NFL player money question, median salary is best. Why? Because median gives the best picture of what a typical NFL player makes.

Median NFL Pay $860,000

Look at it this way. Take a group of ten people. One is Ben Roethlisberger ($17.2 million per year). The other nine are programmers who make $50,000. The average salary is $1.8 million. The median is $50,000. In other words, median means “typical” and average gets thrown off by the Peyton Mannings and Ben Roethlisbergers of the world.

The median NFL player earns $860,000 per year. That means for any given player, the chances are good that they make about that amount of money.

Average NFL Pay: A Misleading Money Measure

NFL salary player money

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady draws a $9 million dollar salary. The player takes less money so his team can afford to spend on building up a solid roster.

The average NFL salary is $2,150,000 in 2015. That just means there is about $3.6 billion in total NFL salary money. $3.6464 billion to be exact. That money is split across 1,696 players. $3.6464 billion divided by 1,696 players is $2.15 million each.

The trouble with that math is, the money isn’t divided evenly like that, nor should it be. Players like Calvin Johnson ($20.6 million) and Matt Ryan ($19.5 million) obviously deserve more pay than a rookie with no chops to his name. With a very few players earning $15 million or more and most earning a lot less, the “average” NFL salary doesn’t mean much.

The 10 Highest Paid NFL Players

The top 10 salaries in the NFL for 2015 are as follows:

Drew BreesQuarterbackNew Orleans Saints$23,800,000
Philip RiversQuarterbackSan Diego Chargers$21,166,668
Calvin JohnsonWide ReceiverDetroit Lions$20,558,000
Charles JohnsonDefensive EndCarolina Panthers$20,020,000
Matt RyanQuarterbackAtlanta Falcons$19,500,000
Mario WilliamsDefensive EndBuffalo Bills$19,400,000
Aaron RodgersQuarterbackGreen Bay Packers$18,250,000
Matthew StaffordQuarterbackDetroit Lions$17,721,250
Peyton ManningQuarterbackDenver Broncos$17,500,000
Ben RoethlisbergerQuarterbackPittsburgh Steelers$17,245,000

Also see: How Much Money Do Victoria’s Secret Models Make?

Seven of the top 10 biggest salaries in the NFL go to quarterbacks. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints draws the most NFL player money with $23.8 million. Only three non-quarterbacks are in the top 10. Calvin Johnson, Charles Johnson and Mario Williams.

Here’s a sweet catch by Calvin Johnson ($20.6 million) below.

The Lowest Paid NFL Players

What’s the NFL minimum wage? In 2015 it’s $435,000. That’s the minimum money a rookie NFL player is allowed to make. That number is set to increase to $480,000 by 2018. The table below shows the minimum salary allowed by the NFL for each year. There’s a different minimum pay level for rookies, 2nd season players, 3rd season and so on.

SeasonMin NFL Pay 2015Min NFL Pay 2016Min NFL Pay 2017Min NFL Pay 2018
5th and 6th$745,000$760,000$775,000$790,000
7th, 8th, 9th$870,000$885,000$900,000$915,000
10th +$970,000$985,000$1,000,000$1,015,000

Also see: Tom Brady Net Worth

Some NFL players aren’t all about the money. Retired Dallas Cowboys QB Jon Kitna recently returned to the NFL and donated his salary to charity. Check out the video below for evidence.

A tweet from DJ DNice on 1/20/16 points out that the average NFL salary is higher than what public servants make. That includes police, firefighters teachers and so on. In fact that’s a gross understatement. The median firefighter earns a salary of just $50,000 per year. Compare that to the median NFL salary at $860,000.