NFL CBA Series: Minimum Salaries

Alfred Morris' home-run swing.

Alfred Morris’ home-run swing. (Photo Credit:

Though this article of the CBA is titled “Salaries,” its focus is on the minimum salaries a player with a particular amount of Credited Seasons is entitled to.

While the Joe Flacco’s and Aaron Rodgers’ of the League set the ceiling (at least temporarily), this Article sets the salary floor. The average employee may look at these yearly salaries as if these players are set for the rest of their lives, forgetting that the average NFL career is only three years long.

This is why a popular alternative acronym for NFL is Not For Long.

The chart below displays the minimum P5 Salaries a team can contract a player to by Credited Seasons (CS) served in the NFL. These are the minimums for members of a team’s Active or Inactive. (Amounts are in thousands.)


2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020


$390 $405 $420 $435 $450 $465 $480 $495 $510


$465 $480 $495 $510 $525 $540 $555 $570 $585


$540 $555 $570 $585 $600 $615 $630 $645 $660


$615 $630 $645 $660 $675 $690 $705 $720 $735


$700 $715 $730 $745 $760 $775 $790 $805 $820


$825 $840 $855 $870 $885 $900 $915 $930 $945


$925 $940 $955 $970 $985 $1000 $1015 $1030 $1045

                (Article 26, Section 1, 146)

If a player is receiving the minimum and making a positive contribution on the field, the team is definitely in a better position to succeed. When salaries do not meet production, teams are in an ideal situation. Many successful teams have players who out perform their contracts. An NFL could draft 22 Pro-Bowl players, but once their rookie contracts expired, they would not be able to retain all of them under the salary cap.

When the tables are turned and production is not meeting salary, it can put a team in salary-cap struggles for years, hindering a team’s chances to compete. However, these players, like Dallas Cowboys’ tackle Doug Free, are definitely not earning the minimum.

Here are two recent examples of players who achieve in their reps more than they receive in their checks.

The Washington Redskins hit a home run in the sixth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Coincidentally, a home-run swing just happens to be running back Alfred Morris’ touchdown celebration of choice. Morris ran for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns during his rookie season, and he did so for the league minimum of $390,000. For as much praise as Robert Griffin III receives (and deserves), the Redskins would not have been able to win their first division title since 1999 without the efforts of Morris.

New Orleans’ tight end Jimmy Graham, one of the NFL’s best at his position, also played the 2012 season for the minimum player salary for a player with two Credited Seasons. The Saints actually paid Graham the minimum the past two seasons and were rewarded with 184 receptions, 2,292 yards and 20 touchdowns during the span. Graham is scheduled to receive a pay increase for 2013, but his $1.323 million salary (the Proven Performance Escalator) will seem like pennies compared to the exponential escalation his salary will see after the conclusion (or perhaps prior) to this coming season.

Plaxico Burress signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having accrued ten Credited Seasons, Burress will receive $940,000 (and a $65,000 signing bonus) in 2013.

Article 26 establishes the minimum-wage for NFL players. Unless there is deferred money in the contract or the Player Contract is split, the smallest check an NFL Player can receive would be approximately $22,941—for a player with no Credited Seasons but on a team’s Active or Inactive List.


All stats compiled from

All contract figures compiled from

Photo Credit:

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