Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers reportedly agreed to a contract that will pay him an NFL-record average annual value of $33.5 million if the 35-year-old fulfills the four-year, $134 million deal.
By comparison, NBA superstar LeBron James signed a four-year, $153.5 million with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer — an average annual salary of $38.4 million, all of which is guaranteed. Unlike the NBA, NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed. Rodgers’ new deal guarantees him $103 million, including roughly $80 million by March 2019, thanks to a $57.5 million signing bonus, according to reports.
The NFL’s highest-paid players
Rodgers is now the NFL’s highest-paid player in terms of practical guaranteed salary, followed by:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL’s reigning MVP, restructured his contract this month, coming to terms on a two-year deal that could pay him $30 million over the next two years, only $10 million of which is guaranteed. In terms of NBA equivalency, Ian Mahinmi will make $31.4 million to average some 15 minutes off the bench for the Washington Wizards for the next two years.
The NBA’s highest-paid players
James signed the NBA’s fifth-largest guaranteed contract, per spotrac.com. Rounding out the top five:
• Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: $205 million
• Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: $201 million
• James Harden, Houston Rockets: $199.8 million
• Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons: $171.2 million
Contract guarantees are the key
It’s easy to get distracted by the dollar figures for NFL contracts. Take San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, for example. He signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal in February, despite having just seven NFL starts under his belt. That compares favorably to an unproven NBA player, Minnesota Timberwolves wing Andrew Wiggins, whose four-year, $146.5 million extension kicks in this season.
Except, just $74.1 million (or a little over half) of Garoppolo’s contract is guaranteed. If he gets hurt or his performance doesn’t match his salary, he can be cut. Wiggins, meanwhile, will take home every penny. Keep in mind, football players are much more likely to get injured than basketball players.
Average and minimum NBA salaries are much higher
While there isn’t much difference between the total value of Aaron Rodgers’ and LeBron James’ contracts, there is a greater discrepancy between the NFL and NBA for less marketable players. The average NBA salary has consistently been three times higher than the average NFL salary. Last season, NBA players reportedly earned an average salary of $7.1 million, compared to $2.7 million in the NFL.
NBA minimum salaries range from $838,464 to $2.4 million, depending on a player’s level of experience. NFL minimum salaries follow a similar pattern, only they range from $480,000 to $1 million. Teams in both leagues can impose non- or partial guarantees on those contracts.
Keep in mind, NFL teams carry 53-man rosters, while NBA teams max out at 15.
The top NFL pick is guaranteed more money
The first pick in this year’s NBA draft, Phoenix Suns rookie DeAndre Ayton, signed a four-year deal worth $40.4 million, $17.7 million of which is guaranteed over the next two years. The Suns own club options in 2021-22 and 2022-23 before Ayton becomes a restricted free agent in 2023.
The NFL’s first overall pick, Cleveland Browns rookie Baker Mayfield, signed a four-year, $32.7 million deal this summer, all of which is guaranteed. He can become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
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