The Super Bowl ends, and football fans enter purgatory until April’s NFL Draft. For the first time since August, America’s most popular sport is shelved in favor of NBA playoff pushes, the chaos of college basketball’s March Madness, and for some, the beginning of another long baseball season.
There’s a huge gap to fill. Spring football leagues like the Alliance of American Football (AAF) tried and failed to take up this mantle, mainly because the league wasn’t properly built or financed. But bring in a long-time football mind like XFL commissioner Oliver Luck, stack coaching staffs with names like Bob Stoops and Jim Zorn, and back the entire thing with billionaire WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, and folks, you’re looking at the new and improved XFL.
Kicking off Saturday, February 8, the XFL begins its inaugural season when the Seattle Dragons take on the DC Defenders. In the West Division, the Dragons, Los Angeles Wildcats, Dallas Roughnecks and Houston Renegades will play a 10-game schedule with two playoff spots up for grabs. Out East, the Defenders compete with the New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks and Tampa Bay Vipers for two playoff spots as well.
The winner of each division’s playoff game will meet in the XFL Championship Game on Sunday, April 26 live on ESPN.
You’ll recognize a lot of these players, too. DC’s Cardale Jones led Ohio State to a College Football Playoff National Championship. Tampa Bay’s Aaron Murray is the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes while he captained the Georgia Bulldogs.
There’s a lot of talent getting another shot at pro football, but how much money will these guys, some of whom played in the NFL for stretches, pocket when it’s all said and done?
Average XFL Salary
According to an XFL contract obtained by Pro Football Talk, XFL players are making a decent chunk of change for only playing a short XFL season.
The XFL’s non-negotiable agreement states players will earn $1,040 in base salary every week, which translates into a $27,040 gross payment. The contract outlines that XFL players earn another $1,685 for each game played, plus a $2,222 weekly win bonus is paid to every active roster member on the winning team. XFL players get no royalties for merchandise sold by the league, and they cannot pursue any legal claims in court. All this adds up to be an estimated average salary around $55,000 for every player.
By comparison, the original XFL paid players $45,000 during its lone season back in 2001. Don Johnson, who was recently named the Oregon Ducks’ director of high school relations, showed off his original contract via Twitter.
An added stipulation states that players may leave for the NFL, but only after their team’s 2020 season ends.
When it comes to quarterbacks, however, the price tag is way more hefty.
Sources told Yahoo Sports that the league’s top quarterbacks—likely former NFL players like Landry Jones and Cardale Jones—are expected to earn around $495,000 in 2020. The XFL wants to make quarterback play and high-scoring, fast-paced offensive attacks its draw for fans, so it’s not surprising the league is placing an emphasis on paying the most valuable player on the field almost 10 times what the average player makes right out of the gate.
Without a player’s union in place to negotiate contracts and raises, it’s take it or leave it for XFL players. But for most players hoping for one final shot, what choice do they really have?
NFL Minimum Salary
NFL rookies earned at least $495,000 during the 2019 season. That number increases for NFL players depending on their years of service in professional football’s highest league.
The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement also pays practice squad players $8,000 per week; Each NFL team is allowed 10 practice squad players in addition to a 53-man active roster. That number increases to $8,400 in 2020. That means at least 320 players who don’t survive training camp before the season begins are still able to make a very handsome NFL salary and never take the field on game day.
That also means the eight XFL teams, each of which has a 52-man roster, gives 416 football players a primetime window to audition for NFL jobs next year.
XFL games will air on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, FOX, FS1, and FS2. Everyone is going to see these contests on Saturdays and Sundays in the spring. The XFL doesn’t consider itself a “way station” for players, but these guys are vying for another chance to make an NFL roster and some life-changing cash.
But hell, a few thousand dollars and chance to play football again? I doubt these guys are going to complain. But if the XFL thrives, you can be sure these initial contract negotiations will change, and some players could make significant incomes in football’s new league.
This article was originally published February 3, 2020. It was updated to reflect editorial changes on the addition of weekly win bonuses and the $100,000 purse paid to the XFL’s winning team.