So you are a high school athlete and you say that you want to be an NFL football player? Then you better sit down and take a hard look at these facts:
- According to the NFL Players Association, about 100,000 high school students play football.
- Of those high school players, 215 will go on to play for an NFL team.
- Therefore, only 0.2 percent of all high school football players will make it to the NFL.
- About 9,000 players make it to the college level.
- If a player makes it to college about 310 of them will actually make it to the NFL draft.
- The NFL roster cap is 53 players and there are 32 teams, so there are 1,696 players in the NFL each season.
The NFL Players Association indicates that the average football player's career is only three seasons long. Most players do not have guaranteed contracts, and may find themselves suddenly out of work because they were cut or because of injury. Around 400 NFL players end their NFL careers each year.
While the NFL's big-name stars may earn millions each year, average NFL players do not. In 2010, the minimum wage was $325,000 a season for rookies, going up to $395,000 in a player's second year and $470,000 in their third year.
Some first and second round draft picks may make more than this, but most players entering the NFL out of college do not. The average player salary, with both stars and rookies taken into consideration, was $1.1 million in 2010.
Most rookies starting their first year in the NFL earn a relatively small salary compared with stars of the draft and established veterans. Rookies selected in the later rounds of the draft or those who enter the NFL as undrafted free agents typically make the league minimum.
It is difficult to gauge the average starting football salary in the NFL because the monster contracts of the top rookie draft selections skew the overall numbers. In 2008, the average guaranteed salary for first-round picks was nearly $12 million, while for second-round picks that number dropped to around
$2 million and for third-rounders the average was just $650,000 in guaranteed compensation.
According to the NFL Players Association, the average NFL player makes $1.1 million annually. The NFL Players Association is the union that represents all NFL players.
The NFL has a salary cap that limits the total amount teams can spend on all of their players in a given year. The reason for the cap is to prevent one team from gaining an unfair playing advantage by spending the most on the more prized players.
Each rookie in the NFL earned at least a base salary of $325,000 in 2010, according to USA Today. The base salary does not include any bonuses or money earned from endorsements or other sources. Bonuses, including signing bonuses and performance bonuses, are paid separately.
A first-year player's salary is comprised of three things: base salary, prorated signing bonus and "likely to be earned" bonuses. Other incentives written into a player's contract do not go toward a team's rookie salary pool figure. Each team's rookie salary pool figure changes yearly and in 2010 the
St. Louis Rams had the highest total rookie salary pool at $7,596,000.
In the past two NFL drafts the top players chosen have set new records for the highest paid rookie players in the league. In 2010, the Rams signed quarterback Sam Bradford to a contract worth a total of $78 million over six seasons, including $50 million in guaranteed money. The previous year, the Detroit Lions signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to what was then the highest rookie contract --- a six-year deal worth $72 million.
By contrast QB Cam Newton, the first pick of the 2012 NFL draft, signed a four year contract for a measly $22 million under the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect this past year.
Top rookie salaries are not the norm in the league; many players only make the base salary. In a final tally of 2009 salaries, USA Today reported that rookies at each position in the league only earned the minimum salary and did not get bonuses. These players are usually low-round draft choices --- rounds four through seven --- and play for teams with low rookie salary pool figures.