July 02, 2009
They are when compared to other professional athletes in the United States, anyway.
It’s not exactly breaking news that the highest-paid players in the NBA, MLB and professional golf make more than the highest-paid NFL’ers. In fact, Joe Dumars spent his entire Wednesday making the point that you don’t have to be a great player in the NBA to get big-time money.
So why, when compared to Phil Mickelson, Alex Rodriguez, and Kevin Garnett, do most NFL players look like filthy hobos, carrying all their earthly possessions around in a bandana tied to the end of a stick? Here are a few theories:
1) Endorsement opportunities are limited. I think it’s a factor that players’ faces have to be covered for most of the three or four hours they spend on television every week. You’ve also got the NFL doing everything they can to limit personal expression through celebrations, things players can wear, etc. Plus, basketball players can sell people basketball shoes, and golfers can sell people all kinds of golf equipment. Best of luck to an NFL guy trying to sell cleats or mouthpieces.
2) Salary cap/big rosters. The salary cap limits what players can be paid, but of course, that’s not unique to the NFL. The fact that they have to pay 53 guys and about a dozen coaches is unique, though. They’ve got to spread the money around a little further.
3) Contract structure. There’s some weirdness allowed in the way NFL money is handed out. If a guy’s going to make $50 million over 5 years, he might get $25 million of that in the first year, so he’ll be appearing in lists like this one in that first year, and left out of it for the next four. That’s why guys like Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith and Rams center Jason Brown(notes) are able to crack the top 50. They both just signed big free agent deals that are heavy up front.
It’s kind of a shame. I think NFL players, generally speaking, take more of a beating than most other athletes in the major professional sports. Yet, they have the hardest time getting paid. Here’s hoping that your kids grow up to be 6’10” power forwards, and not 6’0” running backs.
Gracias, The Huddle.
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