A million here, a million there.

Professional sports contracts can seem massive, no matter the league, but we wanted to see what sport often ends up paying out the most in their top deals, especially relative to total league revenue. While the NFL has been a dominant force in US sports for the past decade for total league revenue, it was interesting to see how low their top 10 guaranteed contracts are compared to the NBA and MLB.

We pulled data on the top 100 guaranteed contracts in the NFL, MLB and NBA, and found a massive difference in the amount these contracts are worth.

What we found:

  • The top 10 guaranteed contracts in the NFL are only about 19% the total value of the top 10 guaranteed contracts in the MLB, and about 38% of the total value of the top 10 guaranteed contracts in the NBA.
  • The first NBA contract to show up, Mike Conley, is 30th on the list, behind 29 MLB contracts.
  • Most top NFL contracts don’t even crack the top 100 on the list in guaranteed money; counting non-guaranteed money, then Andrew Luck is the sole player to crack the top 50.

It’s interesting that the NFL pays so much less, relative to total league revenue. For each league’s total revenue in 2016, seen below:

League 2016 Revenue
NFL $12,270,000,000
MLB $9,440,000,000
NBA $5,570,000,000

Below you will find full data on the current top 10 guaranteed contracts in the three leagues.

MLB
Player Team Guaranteed Money
Giancarlo Stanton Miami Marlins 325,000,000
Miguel Cabrera Detroit Tigers 248,000,000
Robinson Cano Seattle Mariners 240,000,000
Albert Pujols Los Angeles Angels 240,000,000
Joey Votto Cincinnati Reds 225,000,000
David Price Boston Red Sox 217,000,000
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers 215,000,000
Prince Fielder Detroit Tigers 214,000,000
Max Scherzer Washington Nationals 210,000,000
Zack Greinke Arizona Diamondbacks 206,500,000
Total $2,340,500,000
NBA
Player Team Guaranteed Money
Mike Conley Memphis Grizzlies 140,529,829
Damian Lillard Portland Trailblazers 139,888,445
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards 127,171,313
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans 127,171,313
CJ McCollum Portland Trailblazers 109,853,029
DeMar DeRozen Toronto Raptors 109,760,025
Steven Adams Oklahoma City Thunder 103,140,517
Giannis Anteokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks 102,995,421
Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons 98,419,538
Rudy Gobert Utah Jazz 96,121,288
 Total $1,155,050,718
NFL
Player Team Guaranteed Money
Ndamukong Suh Miami Dolphins 59,955,000
Eli Manning New York Giants 54,000,000
Andrew Luck Indianapolis Colts 44,000,000
Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens 44,000,000
Marcel Dareus Buffalo Bills 42,900,000
Von Miller Denver Broncos 42,000,000
Cam Newton Carolina Panthers 41,000,000
Oliver Vernon New York Giants 40,500,000
Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys 40,000,000
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers 37,500,000
Total $445,855,000

So what’s the reason behind all of this?

There are a few obvious reasons for this major discrepancy in salaries:

  • NFL rosters are huge, and capped. It’s hard to pay any one player massive amounts of money without hamstringing the rest of the team. NBA rosters are about 1/5th the size, and they also play more games.
  • MLB doesn’t deal with a hard cap, and outside of top stars, most players don’t make nearly as much money.
  • MLB plays way more games, and thus has more opportunity for monetization.
  • MLB players don’t suffer career-ending injuries nearly as often.
  • The NFL CBA is thought to be the worst of the three leagues.