Jon Weinbach discusses NFL salaries in today's WSJ (free column). At the top of the heap: Michael Vick at $23 million. The top running back? Rudi Johnson (who?) at $12 million. Weinbach reports an average salary of $1.4 million, which though considerably higher than in 1999, still trails the average in MLB and the NBA by a wide margin.
The numbers are interesting, but Weinbach doesn't tell us where he got them. This is a bit problematic. As Weinbach states,
Thanks to the NFL's salary cap, the accounting practices governing player contracts are enormously complicated. For teams, the main concern isn't how much a player is actually paid, but how much of his salary counts against the cap. Any money designated as a bonus can be prorated over the life of a player's deal to reduce his cap liability. This rule encourages teams to offer big bonuses, often paid up front in cash, attached to artificially long contracts. The result: the announced numbers of an NFL deal (seven years, $40 million, for example) bear little resemblance to what a player actually pockets from season to season.
I'd like to know more about how such numbers are generated. The NFL and the players association both refuse to make contract data public. What we get comes at the discretion of teams and agents. What is their incentive to provide accurate information to the public?