With the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney. A few days later, the 21-year-old linebacker inked a $22-million, four-year contract, according to NFL.com. Without question, the NFL is big business, and the league's best players can rake in millions in annual salary, bonuses and product endorsement deals. However, the big-money contracts of NFL superstars may mislead you into falsely believing all players receive similar pay. The majority of the 53 players on each of the 32 NFL team rosters earn substantially less.
"Forbes Magazine" reported the average NFL salary at $1.9 million for the 2012 season, and salaries rise each year. However, the average is skewed by some of the league's biggest contracts. According to "The Sporting News," the highest-paid NFL player in 2014 was Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose annual salary was $22 million, and several other top players earn more than $10 million per season. The majority of NFL players earn less than $1 million. In fact, some earn the league minimum, which was $420,000 for the 2014 season, according to "Sports Illustrated."
How much a player earns depends on several factors. Foremost, the players selected in the early rounds of the NFL draft or who have proven their worth with their teams earn more. Historically, top draft picks receive the largest salaries of all rookie players. Players who perform well are rewarded with new contracts that pay them significantly more money. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers tend to earn more per season than offensive linemen, defensive players and special teams players.