The resurrection of the XFL is giving football fans an extra dose of pro football in the months following the NFL season. Although the league, started by the WWE’s Vince McMahon, notoriously failed during its initial season, it’s looking to make a splash this time.
The XFL is tough, fast, and innovative in the product it brings onto the field. One place where the league is surprisingly modest, however, is in how it pays its players.
What are XFL players paid?
Despite its initial pool of talent, the XFL is not necessarily trying to become a farm system for the NFL. Its very scheduling is meant to prevent players from signing with the NFL. Those under contract give the XFL their exclusive service until the season’s end when those who prove themselves are allowed to talk to NFL teams.
One immediate challenge for an upstart league like the XFL is the pool of talent. Filled with a combination of NFL burnouts and college players who never quite made it, the league can’t hang its hat on any superstars right away. Some players, like Houston Roughneck P.J. Walker, have already made waves in their debuts. But establishing stars synonymous with the XFL will take time.
This may work to the XFL’s advantage. Unlike the NFL, where most marginal players make millions after their rookie deals, the XFL, according to Athlon Sports, starts almost every player at a base of $27,040, paid over 13 two-week periods. From there, the players earn an additional $16,850 for remaining on an active roster throughout the season. Winning nets the players an additional $2,222 bonus.
In all, this means the average XFL player who remains on a roster throughout the season can earn anywhere from $43,890 to $66,110 for the season, reports Heavy. Unlike the NFL, this is akin to what many Americans make. The league’s better players, however, do get bigger contracts on top of these incentivized structures.
Who gets more money?
As the stars of their respective teams, the XFL’s starting quarterbacks make significantly more money. Starting XFL quarterbacks earn $495,000 per year. That’s 10 times more than other positional players and even more than the NFL’s rookie minimum. As an upstart league, the XFL is trying to lure QBs who might have some NFL experience.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones did not make it big in the NFL. But as a backup to one of its best quarterbacks and a college success story, he’s slightly more intriguing than a random lineman on a given team.
Cardale Jones once made a name for himself at Ohio State before bouncing around the NFL for three years. Now, he’s taking a salary that isn’t that much less than he made bouncing around practice squads and benches. By luring him in, the XFL already shows how entertaining it can be without the NFL’s superstars.
This structure makes it so that the league is not prioritizing players heading into an unproven product. While you could view the quarterback pay as unfair, all of the starting QBs in the eight-team league are fighting for their football lives. Some wonder if this current structure is sustainable.
Can the XFL continue this pay structure?
Football is a dangerous name. If the players in the league make as much as middle-class workers, some may not see the point of putting their limbs and brains on the line for such meager pay.
Additionally, this type of pay could be what keeps former NFL players like Colin Kaepernick or Antonio Brown off the field, as they earned far more from the NFL. The XFL has already lost one drafted player, Corey Vereen, over its low pay.
If the XFL succeeds where its last version did not, McMahon can expect the players, especially those in the non-QB positions, to seek pay raises. Furthermore, if some position players emerge as stars within his league, McMahon will either have to open up his pocketbook or risk losing them to the NFL.
The XFL is a fascinating experiment on and off the field. However, its meager pay can only last upon its startup. For the league to be a success, McMahon will have to grow this over time. If he doesn’t, history has a good chance of repeating itself.
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