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Big Money in Minutes: NFL Salaries vs. Average Fan Salaries

Larry Fitzgerald agrees to continue his job as a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals for the next eight years for $120 million.

Chris Johnson accepts an offer from the Tennessee Titans to continue as their running back for the next six years in exchange $53 million.

Quarterback Michael Vick signs a contract extension with the Philadelphia Eagles worth $100 million over six years.

These NFL salaries have made headlines this summer, in part because they are so far beyond anything most people could even fathom earning. How far? Let’s use PayScale.com’s database to take a look.

NFL Salary Showdown #1: Larry Fitzgerald vs. Arizona Cardinals Fans

Larry Fitzgerald enters his eighth season as an Arizona Cardinal with a shiny new contract. As he neared the final year of his existing deal, his status as an elite player motivated his employer to find a way to keep him in Phoenix.

Earning $120 million dollars over eight years pencils out to an annual average of $15 million per year. Due to the structure of the deal, however, Fitzgerald will make a staggering $20 million dollars in 2011.

How does Fitzgerald’s salary compare to that of some average Arizona Joes?

Job Title

2011 median salary

Years needed to make Larry Fitzgerald's 2011 salary

What Larry Fitzgerald can do to make fan's salary

Executive Assistant

$45,600

329 years

Be in a game for 3 minutes

Operations Manager

$58,800

255 years

Score 0.2 touchdowns

Software Engineer

$85,600

175 years

Gain 6.5 yards receiving


Fitzgerald is the best-paid wide receiver in the league, as well as the best player on his team.

The next highest-paid wide receiver, Calvin Johnson ($8.875 million) of the Detroit Lions, will make less than half what Fitzgerald will make in 2011.

NFL Salary Showdown #2: Chris Johnson vs. Tennessee Titans Fans

Chris Johnson just entered his fourth year as an NFL running back. Despite his short time on the job and two years remaining on a prior deal, Johnson wants to be paid like one of the league’s elite, a status his production statistics say he has earned.

After intense negotiations, employer and employee agreed to a deal worth $56 million over the next six years, averaging about $9.3 million per year. Thanks to a $10 million signing bonus supplementing a guaranteed $3 million salary, Johnson is scheduled to take home $13 million for his work in 2011.

How does Johnson’s salary compare to his Sunday fans?

Job Title

2011 median salary

Years needed to make Chris Johnson's 2011 salary

What Chris Johnson can do to make fan's salary

Staff Accountant

$42,400

306 years

Gain 1.25 yards receiving

Construction Manager

$58,500

222 years

Run for half a touchdown

IT Project Manager

$76,300

170 years

Rush for 80 yards


With a $10 million signing bonus and a $3 million salary, Johnson passes Adrian Peterson ($10.7 million) of the Minnesota Vikings to become the top earner among NFL running backs in 2011.

Salary Showdown #3: Michael Vick vs. Philadelphia Eagles Fans

What is interesting about Michael Vick’s new contract is that it’s not the first time he’s signed for nine figures, having signed his first $100 million-deal back in 2004, Vick is now the only NFL player to have earned two such contracts in a career.

There aren’t many jobs in Philadelphia that will pay the $20 million. Vick will earn in his role as leader of the Eagle offense in 2011. Here are some gigs and salaries for Philly fans and how they stack against the Vick deal.

Job Title

2011 median salary

Years needed to make Michael Vick's 2011 salary

What Michael Vick can do to make fan's salary

Administrative Assistant

$33,900

492 years

Score .08 of a touchdown

Registered Nurse

$56,300

296 years

Rush for 3.04 yards

Attorney

$77,700

215 years

Pass for 18.76 yards


Despite the eye-opening number, Vick won’t be the highest-paid signal-caller in 2011 season. That honor goes to Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning, who is on the books for a whopping $23 million.

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