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Explaining how the NFL works, Part 5: Minimum salaries

Let’s examine the process of some of the inner workings in the NFL and how teams manage the situations.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it’s when the NFL is in the full swing of its regular season or if it’s during the downtime of the early summer, there still is constant news and happenings with the league that has made itself relevant 365 days a year. When various things are discussed, sometimes there are terminologies and procedures where fans might have a general understanding of things. Even the most die-hard fans may have certain areas they don’t understand exactly what various things mean and wish to have a better understanding.

Over the next few weeks, I will take some time to do my best in thoroughly explaining some of the various inner workings of things in the NFL. These are not on-field items but more from an administrative standpoint. Whether it be understanding the waiver wire, the Reserve/Injured List, or the breakdown of the practice squad, we’ll take a look at some of the various terms that are thrown around and utilized in descriptions of things in the NFL but may not be fully understood.

Next up is the minimum salary a player receives in the NFL and how it could change if the player is placed on the Reserve/Injured List (IR).

Minimum contracts

For the majority of NFL players, how much they are paid each week comes down to the minimum salary based on their credited seasons. These values increase with the number of seasons a player has credited to them as well as season by season. Here are the minimum salaries for this year based on a player’s credited seasons.


0: $750,000
1: $870,000
2: $940,000
3: $1,010,000
4-6: $1,080,000
7+: $1,165,000

A player is paid 1/18 of their salary each week throughout the regular season including their bye week. A player with no credited seasons in the NFL making the league minimum in 2023 would receive $41,667 each week they are on the roster.

Minimum salaries come into play for more than just players who are not paid at a higher salary. Whenever a player’s contract is restructured, the minimum salary for their credited seasons often comes into play. This subject will be covered more when we look at the restructuring of salaries.

Minimum “down” contracts

For many NFL players, it is in their contract where they have a “split salary” which comes into play if they are placed on IR. Unless there is a provision where the player receives their full pay, something often included in contracts for higher draft picks and salaries significantly above the league minimum, a player is not paid at a full rate while on IR. This is also considered their “down” salary. For 2023, the “down” salaries are as follows:


0: $450,000
1: $475,000
2: $500,000
3: $525,000
4-6: $550,000
7+: $600,000

So if one of the players on the Steelers drafted in 2023 ends up on IR for the season and has a split salary, they would receive $25,000 every week of the regular season.

This reduced amount is to help teams when a player goes on IR and they need a replacement on the 53-man roster. Rather than have to pay the equivalent of a 54th player, having this reduced rate for these players helps out as much as possible.

Additionally, a combination of both of these salaries comes into play if a player spends part of the season on IR. For weeks these players are on the active roster they receive their full pay, but on the weeks on IR they receive the down salary. So if a player in their first season who has a split salary is on the active roster for the first 10 weeks of the season but on IR for the final eight weeks of the season, their base salary and cap hit would be calculated as follows:

Weeks 1-10: $41,667 x 10 = $416,670
Weeks 11-18: $25,00 x 8 = $200,000
Total base salary = $616,670

To figure out the player's salary cap hit, and prorated bonus would need to be added to their base salary.


Every year the values for both minimum salary and down salary increase across the board. For the minimum salary, the values go up $45,000 each year for all the values listed throughout the remainder of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This means the minimum salary for 2024 will be $795k for players with no credited seasons. The minimum salary for players with no credited seasons will reach over $1 million by the 2029 season. So even though the salary cap is expected to go up every season, so do the minimum salaries which are used to fill out the remainder of the roster.

As for the down salaries, they increase $20k each season for each category of credited years for the remainder for the current CBA.

In case you missed other parts of the series, they can be seen here: