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American Football

NFL Rookie contracts explained as Brock Purdy’s salary dwarfed by Super Bowl rival Patrick Mahomes'

Joe Mewis
NFL Rookie contracts explained as Brock Purdy’s salary dwarfed by Super Bowl rival Patrick Mahomes'Getty Images
Patrick Mahomes will earn 68 times more money than his opposite number Brock Purdy this season

Never before have two Super Bowl starting quarterbacks had such a contrast between their two salaries.

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is paid like the bona fide superstar he is, taking home no less than $59.4million this season, behind only Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Chiefs fans will argue that he’s been worth every penny this year, as at times he appeared to almost single-handedly drag his team into the playoffs, where the rest of his supporting cast finally bucked up their ideas and helped propel Kansas City to the Super Bowl. 

Remarkably, 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy would have to play 68 seasons under his current contract to match Mahomes’ 2023 payday. 

Purdy is in his second year in the NFL and will earn $870,000 this year - a great salary for a lot of us, but puny in comparison to most players in his position. 

Why? Because of the NFL’s rookie wage scale, which sees NFL players’ salaries capped early in their careers. Here’s a look at how the system works.

What is the rookie wage scale?

The NFL rookie wage scale is a form of salary cap within the standard salary cap. It means that teams have to issue draft picks or undrafted players with a standard, pre-determined contact. The higher the draft pick, the more they can pay them, but even a first-round draft pick’s salary will usually pale in comparison to an established veteran’s deal. 

Rookie contracts are typically four-year deals, with first-round picks having a fifth-year team option. 

How much do draft picks from each round earn?

Currently, first-round draft picks can sign four-year deals worth around $12.75m. In the second round, that number drops to between $6m and $12m, then third-round picks can earn between $5.4m and $6m. 

That drops to between $4.5m and $5.4m in round four, with fifth rounders between $4m and $5m. Sixth-round picks pick up around $4m and players in the seventh and final round - such as Purdy in 2022 - will earn less than $4m over their four-year deals. 

What impact does this have?

The rookie wage scale was introduced in 2011 as part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. A year before it came in the St Louis Rams made number one draft pick Sam Bradford the best-paid rookie in league history, handing him a six-year, $78m deal with $50m in guarantees.

The biggest impact that this new rule has had is to favour teams that have a starting quarterback on a rookie contract, as they can spend their salary cap money on building a stronger team around their QB, rather than piling big money into the most vital position on the field. The 49ers are a classic example of this, as Purdy is surrounded by the likes of Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle in the San Francisco offense.

Should Purdy lead his team to glory this season, you can bet that his agent will factor that in when contract negotiations for his client's second deal kick off. 

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