Do Baseball Players Make More Money Than Football Players?

Pro athletes’ salaries have never been bigger, especially in baseball and football. With rising ticket prices and TV contracts, football and baseball players can make serious bank. So which group of athletes make more money?

The biggest MLB and NFL contracts in history

Last offseason, Bryce Harper signed the single largest contract in MLB history with the Phillies for 13 years and $330 million. Later, the Angels’ Mike Trout bested him when he signed a 12-year, $430 million contract extension. This offseason, Gerrit Cole set the record for pitchers by signing a nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees.

MLB contracts have grown as the years pass. The contract that started the big-deal boom involved Alex Rodriguez signing with the Rangers in 2000. Rodriguez signed a then-record 10-year, $252 million deal. Rodriguez later topped his own contract when he opted out, only to re-sign for 10 years, $275 million with the Yankees in 2007.

In the NFL, Russell Wilson signed the biggest deal in league history when he agreed to a four-year, $140 million contract extension with the Seahawks in April 2019. Quarterbacks tend to be the highest-paid players in the NFL due to their importance to a team’s success. 

The factors that impact how much pro athletes make

A number of things influence how much players make in every sport. These factors govern the NFL and MLB as well. Some include: 

  • Game revenue: How many games do athletes play in their particular sport? The more games they play, the more money they’ll make. 
  • Collective bargaining agreements: The players and owners work through intermediaries to determine what percentage they’ll get and what percentage owners take.
  • TV deals: All four major sports have broadcasting agreements with networks, whether it’s a national network like Fox or CBS or a cable one like ESPN. The players get a percentage of this. 

Do baseball players make more money than football players? 

Kashton Miller and his father former Chicago Bears player Zach Miller visits with Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs before a game
Former Bears player Zach Miller and his son Kashton visit with Kris Bryant of the Cubs | Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Baseball players make more than football players or any other group of athletes. USA Today compiled a few reasons for this: 

  • They have a rock-solid union that negotiates great deals on the players’ behalf. The MLBPA is famous for being an effective union. 
  • They don’t have salary caps or max contracts. In the NBA, great players can only get paid so much; it’s called a max contract. In the NFL and NBA, teams have a set amount for player contracts due to the salary cap. MLB teams are free to spend as much as they like. 
  • NFL players play 16 games. Baseball players play 162. This means more ticket sales that translate to more dollars going toward salaries. 
  • MLB statistics are more robust and give front offices a better way to evaluate performances. NFL statistics don’t paint nearly as clear a picture, especially at positions like offensive or defensive lineman.
  • Young players aren’t expensive. Players without a lot of service time have especially low contracts, making it easier to shell out big dollars for veterans. 

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