What Does Guaranteed Money Mean in NFL Contracts? (2024)

  1. What Does Guaranteed Money Mean in NFL Contracts?
  2. What Is the Most Guaranteed Money Ever in an NFL Contract?
  3. What Is a Signing Bonus?
  4. What Are Injury Guarantees?

NFL free agency is only a few weeks away, meaning we'll all have a ton of new contracts to sort through and compute their value against the league's salary cap. Once free agency opens, you'll hear a lot about today money vs. guaranteed money. What follows is an explainer about what guaranteed money means.

Guaranteed money is, quite simply, the amount of money a player is guaranteed at signing. NFL contracts are rarely "fully guaranteed" meaning many have performances bonuses or additional years that a team can get out of paying if a player is released. There are three types of guarantees: skill, cap and injury. If a contract is guaranteed for all three, it is considered "fully guaranteed."

Essentially, a player can negotiate to cover all three categories or any number of them over the length of his deal. If money is fully guaranteed it means the team cannot avoid paying the player if it releases him for a lack of skill, to get under the salary cap or due to an injury.

What Is the Most Guaranteed Money Ever in an NFL Contract?

Deshaun Watson sill holds the record for the most guaranteed money in an NFL contract. In March of 2022, the Cleveland Browns landed Watson in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans. They subsequently signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million deal and guaranteed the entire contract.

In the years since, no one has topped that guarantee. Before the 2023 season, Joe Burrow signed a five-year, $275 million contract extension with the Cincinnati Bengals that contained $219 million guaranteed. Shortly before that, Justin Herbert signed a five-year extension with the Los Angeles Chargers worth $262.5 million, with $218.7 million guaranteed. Those are currently the second and third biggest guarantees in NFL history.

A signing bonus is the amount of money the player gets at the time of signing the contract. It can be a way for NFL teams to get players to take back-loaded contracts by giving a big bonus up front but keeping the yearly salary of the contract low initially. Additionally, those signing bonuses count against the salary cap but are prorated over the length of the contract. If a player signs a five-year deal with a $30 million signing bonus, the bonus adds $6 million to the cap over each year of the deal, as opposed to $30 million in the first year and nothing after.

What Are Injury Guarantees?

An injury guarantee in the contract essentially protects a player from a team releasing him to avoid paying him if he's injured. If a player's contract is not guaranteed for injury, a team may release him and get out of his contract if he's unable to perform football duties as a result of team activities. If the team does release him, he is entitled to any money protected against injury.

You're now fully ready to understand the tweets that will come flying fast and furious during free agency.

What Does Guaranteed Money Mean in NFL Contracts? (2024)


What Does Guaranteed Money Mean in NFL Contracts? ›

Guaranteed money is, quite simply, the amount of money a player is guaranteed at signing. NFL contracts are rarely "fully guaranteed" meaning many have performances bonuses or additional years that a team can get out of paying if a player is released. There are three types of guarantees: skill, cap and injury.

Is NFL guaranteed money paid upfront? ›

Players often receive a lump sum payment upfront as a signing bonus. This amount is guaranteed and prorated over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes. Even if a player is released, the team cannot reclaim the portion of the signing bonus that has already been paid.

How does guaranteed money affect salary cap in the NFL? ›

The teams have to keep in mind what they call “dead money”, which is the money that's been fully guaranteed to a player who is no longer on the team due to a release or trade. If a player is cut, he still must be paid for the full outstanding amount, which can reduce a team's cap space by a lot.

Who has the most guaranteed money in the NFL? ›

Total guaranteed money:
  • Deshaun Watson, $230 million. Signed: March 2022 (contract ends in 2027)
  • Joe Burrow (CIN), $219.01 million.
  • Patrick Mahomes (KC), $208.1 million.
  • Justin Herbert (LAC), $193.7 million.
  • Kyler Murray (ARI), $189.5 million.
  • Lamar Jackson (BAL), $185 million.
4 days ago

What is guaranteed money? ›

The term "guaranteed money" in the context of the National Football League (NFL) refers to a specific type of contract payment that ensures a player will receive a specified amount of money regardless of injury, performance, or other factors.

How much of Joe Burrow's salary is guaranteed? ›

Most Guaranteed Money in NFL History

The guaranteed amount of $219.01M on Joe Burrow's five-year extension is the second-most in NFL history. Guaranteed Amt. "This is where I want to be," Burrow said.

Do NFL players get guaranteed money if injured? ›

Getting injured often leads to a hefty pay cut

In other words: a 45% salary cut because he suffered a cardiac arrest doing his job. And that is pretty standard for injured players. In a sport this violent, the question is not whether a player will get hurt, but when.

Do NFL players get guaranteed money if they are cut? ›

Injury guarantee

This is the best-known form of guaranteed money, which is activated when a player is cut from the team because they are unable to play ball or pass a physical. The player is entitled to the money in his contract that is protected against injury.

Why don't NFL players get guaranteed contracts? ›

Football is a physically demanding game, and the risk of career-ending injuries is a reality for players. By structuring contracts with non-guaranteed money, teams can mitigate the financial risk associated with players suffering severe injuries that prevent them from fulfilling the terms of their contracts.

Do you get guaranteed money if you retire NFL? ›

Severance is paid as a lump sum post-retirement check. You will receive the payment on the quarter-end date following one full year without any NFL contract activity. The amount you will receive is based on the number of credited seasons you have, and the years in which you played.

Who has the lowest salary in the NFL? ›

While Tyrone Swoopes won the reigning title of the lowest-paid NFL player in 2021, looking at the low end of league earners isn't as simple. NFL players face different minimum values that depend on their contract and designation as active or inactive players.

Who is the richest NFL player of all time? ›

Former National Football League (NFL) player and executive Jerry Richardson was the richest NFL player of all time as of January 2023, with a net worth of around two billion U.S. dollars.

How much do Waterboys in the NFL make? ›

NFL waterboys actually make a fairly decent salary. Typically speaking individuals earn around $35,000 per year. Those who have been in the game for an extended period of time, however, can earn significantly more, with some even reported to be starting well above $50,000.

Who has the richest contract in the NFL? ›

In all, there have been 1,276 free agents signed around the league for a whopping combined total of $9.3 billion. Kirk Cousins was the big winner, signing a contract with the Atlanta Falcons worth $180 million.

What NFL position gets paid the most? ›

NFL's highest paid players by position in 2024 (average salary per year): Quarterback: Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow - $55 million. Edge rusher: San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa - $34 million. Wide receiver: Philadelphia Eagles' A.J. Brown - $32 million.

How much does Brock Purdy make? ›

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy has an estimated net worth of $300,000 according to Celebrity Net Worth. In 2022, Purdy signed a four-year $3,737,008 contract with the 49ers, with an average annual salary of $934,252.

Do NFL players get direct deposit? ›

Player Corporation Payment

Player should complete these forms if he wishes to receive a direct deposit to his Player Corporation banking account. All three documents are required to process payment to a player corporation.

Do NFL rookies get paid right away? ›

NFL rookies must make the final 53-man roster before they receive regular-season game checks in accordance with the contracts that they initially signed. NFL rookies are paid their first game checks in September.

Are football signing bonuses paid up front? ›

Players are paid largely two ways. A signing bonus which is generally paid upfront, and their base salary, which is paid out weekly through the season. A signing bonus can be spread out over the course of a contract, whereas base salary is again paid weekly.

How and when do NFL players get paid? ›

They earn a weekly salary but only during the season with conditions set on whether they play and how they perform. Like other workers they get bonuses that are paid outside the regular schedule of payments. In order to understand how NFL players get paid, a look at different parts of their contracts is needed.

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