One could not be blamed for having a perception that every National Football League player makes a fortune per the terms of their contracts. Not a NFL offseason goes by, after all, without stories about players signing massive deals being leaked by teams and by the press. Diehard followers of the NFL are aware that monetary values are not guaranteed to players unlike what occurs in leagues such as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. With that said, it would be understandable that somebody who has a standard 9-5 office job would feel jealousy toward anybody signed to a NFL team.
Anybody who is part of a NFL roster obviously should not be hurting for cash during his playing days. Still, you may be surprised to find out how much – or how little – certain NFL players make during a year. While the current league minimum guarantees that a player will take home hundreds of thousands of dollars so long as he is signed up through an entire season, there are a plethora of players who fail to make a million dollars in a year. Many of those guys will be looking for other work once their careers end due to the fact that they never emerged as stars in the most popular sport in the United States.
There are a variety of reasons why some NFLers don't make as much you think. Those who were selected in a later round of a particular NFL Draft are only guaranteed so much money until they prove that they can routinely produce for a team. Others may see their pay reduced because of their ages or because of the fact that they are no longer the players that they were while in their physical primes. Regardless of the numbers featured in this piece, you probably should not feel too sorry for any of the players mentioned. They are, after all, paid well to play a game.
All contract values per Spotrac
14 Tyler Eifert
Only one tight end in the NFL managed to reel in 13 touchdown passes for the 2015 season. It was not Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals was the best red zone tight end in pro football this past season and he was a steal for the Bengals at $2.25 million for 2015. Eifert's cap hit will remain relatively low next year, as it will go up to slightly over $2.62 million. The Bengals and Eifert will likely get together for negotiations at some point in 2016, but Cincinnati could choose to wait until next season before making a final decision.
13 La'el Collins
La'el Collins fell off of the 2015 NFL Draft board due to an unfortunate legal situation that did not directly involve the offensive lineman. The Dallas Cowboys took a shot on Collins, who proved his worth and then some during his first season in the NFL. Collins went undrafted, and thus the Cowboys only had to pay him a salary of $442,000 during his rookie year. His highest cap hit under his current deal will be only $623,750, although the Cowboys will probably look at signing Collins to an extension that will include a pay raise following the 2016 campaign.
12 Danny Amendola
Danny Amendola will not be on next year's edition of this list, as his price tag will go up to over $6.8 million for the 2016 regular season. For 2015, though, Amendola was a solid value for the New England Patriots when he was healthy. His total cap hit for 2015 was about $3.12 million. Tom Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the position, has a proven history of making those around him better and thus the Patriots have not needed conventional top-flight wide receivers. It also doesn't hurt Brady and the Patriots that the team has Rob Gronkowski playing tight end.
11 Charcandrick West
The Kansas City Chiefs have been fortunate to land multiple bargain players, as those individuals helped Kansas City earn a berth into the playoffs. Kansas City could have been in big trouble once Jamaal Charles was lost to injury, but Charcandrick West was there to assist in carrying the load and the rock during games. West, who is in the closing stages of his current contract with the Chiefs, made a total of $510,000 for the 2015 season. The Chiefs would be wise to strongly consider keeping West as backup or possibly as the main component of a strong rushing attack.
10 Tyrod Taylor
A starting quarterback in the NFL is almost always guaranteed to make at least $1 million in guaranteed money. That will be the case for Tyrod Taylor in 2016, but Taylor's current contract made him only $883,333 last season. The biggest reason Taylor was such a bargain was that he began the year lower on the depth chart of the Buffalo Bills. Taylor's cap hits of $1.13 million for 2016 and 2017 could make him one of the great steals in the NFL if he continues to play well for the Bills. Best of all for Buffalo is that the club can wait before having to negotiate with the QB.
10. Allen Hurns
Casual NFL fans could have been forgiven last August for not being all that familiar with Allen Hurns. Hurns then became part of one of the best wide receivers tandems in all of the NFL and he is a reason why fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars can be hopeful about the team's future. The 24-year-old wide receiver was on a deal that earned him $511,666 in 2015 and that figure will only rise to slightly over $600,000 for the final year of his contract. Hurns is going to be earning quite a bit more after 2016 and the Jaguars would be wise to keep the team's offense intact for the foreseeable future.
9 Chris Ivory
2015 was a positive year for the New York Jets despite the fact that Gang Green fell just shy of a playoff spot on the final afternoon of the campaign. Running back Chris Ivory was a big part of New York's success. Ivory finished fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards, and yet he made only $2.75 million during what some who cover the league believe will be his last season with the Jets. Ivory is set to enter free agency and the 27-year-old should be able to pick up a better deal for himself during the offseason. New York, meanwhile, can afford to spend that kind of money on other players.
8 Kirk Cousins
“You like that?!?” was the question that Kirk Cousins famously asked after leading the Washington Redskins to a victory. That is a question that the Redskins, and maybe other NFL teams, will have to ask during the 2016 offseason. Cousins started 2015 off as a backup quarterback who was set to make a little over $778,000 during the final year of his current contract. He then went on to earn the starting gig in Washington and have a better campaign than most thought he was capable of producing. Cousins is going to be worth millions of dollars on the open market if the Redskins allow him to enter free agency.
7 Marcus Peters
The Kansas City Chiefs seem to have hit on 2015 first-round pick Marcus Peters. The rookie cornerback ended the season tied for first place in interceptions with eight, and the 22-year-old was a key factor in the Chiefs finding success and the postseason. For his troubles, Peters earned a salary of $1.74 million during his first season as a pro. That number will go up, but Peters should, so long as he retains his form, be an absolute steal for the Chiefs up through 2018 and the end of his rookie contract. Kansas City won't have to worry about Peters' future for years to come.
6 Doug Martin
Doug Martin has several reasons why he would be keen on exploring free agency during the upcoming offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back finished the regular season behind only Adrian Peterson in rushing yards. At just 26-years old, Martin will likely want to cash in on that success. Martin made a little over $2.5 million during what could be his final season in Tampa Bay. While the Bucs would seemingly be wise to retain Martin for at least the next several seasons, they will have to make it worth Martin's while to not head elsewhere.
5 Gary Barnidge
The first of the two Cleveland Browns players to make the list had a much better campaign than his teammate who will be mentioned next in this piece. Gary Barnidge went from being just a guy on the Cleveland roster to, statistically speaking, one of the best tight ends in the NFL in 2015. Barnidge, who produced while playing with multiple quarterbacks who wouldn't start for several other teams, made slightly over $2 million last season. Barnidge put pen to paper on an extension with the Browns during the campaign, one that could make him an additional $12.3 million.
4 Johnny Manziel
He may have “money” as part of one of his nicknames, but Johnny Manziel is not raking in the dough compared to other quarterbacks in the NFL. Manziel earned under $1.9 million from the Cleveland Browns for the 2015 season. That number is set to go up to over $2.2 million next year. Unless the Browns are able to trade “Johnny Football” moving forward, the team will be on the hook for the remainder of his contract that is worth around $5 million. Remember, though, that Manziel also has family money, so he should never have to play another down of football in order to remain wealthy.
3 Odell Beckham Jr.
Assuming that he will continue to put up monster numbers on the field, remain healthy and keep out of trouble, there will, sooner than later, come a day when Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the highest-paid non-quarterbacks in all of the NFL. That day is not today, though, and the New York Giants have been able to rejoice over Beckham's play and also the fact that he is still on his rookie deal. Beckham earned over $2.3 million in 2015, which makes him an absolute bargain when compared with other top receivers in the NFL. While that kind of cash is nothing to sneeze at, it is a small sum compared to the amount of money Beckham will be making a couple of years down the road.
2 Colin Kaepernick
“But Colin Kaepernick signed a contract that included $61 million in guaranteed money,” one might say upon seeing Kaep's name on the list. While it is true that Kaepernick could technically make an average of $19 million a season as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, his contract includes a clause that allows the Niners to cut him before April 1 of a year without suffering a loss of cash outside of the prorated signing bonus (over $7 million) guaranteed to the quarterback. Kaepernick is a millionaire who should never be hurting for money in the future. He is not, however, paid as are other (supposed) starting quarterbacks.
1 Kroy Biermann
Those who are not avid followers of the NFL may be familiar with Kroy Biermann thanks to reality television programs. To pro football fans, Biermann is a defensive end who has featured for the Atlanta Falcons. Biermann was on a rather unspectacular deal compared to what he made in previous seasons. The 30-year-old was signed to a one-year deal worth a total of $1.925 million. Only $500,000 of that contract was initially guaranteed to Biermann. Biermann is set to enter free agency in March 2016. Whether or not the Falcons will once again bring him back as the club did in 2015 is not yet known.