First Faculty Advisor
NFL; Contracts; salary; performance; player; compensation; National Football League; Valuation
Many sport research studies have been conducted that examine the performance of professional athletes and their corresponding effect on franchise winning percentages, team revenues, economic repercussions, performance-based compensation, and much more. Research in the National Football League, however, has been found to be somewhat limited due to the numerous possible positions and resulting vastness of position-specific variables. The NFL lockout in 2011 caused many to question the specific relationship between professional athlete performance and salary distribution. This study’s purpose was to find a collection of variables with which all NFL athletes could be compared, and to identify relationships existing between a player’s performance and his value/salary. Data was collected from USAToday.com, Pro-football-reference.com, and AdvancedNFLStats.com. This data was then organized and manipulated into a format that allowed all players in the league during the 2009 season to be compared. Of the nine variables considered for this study, four were found to have a significant relationship with a player’s value/salary. These results were utilized to create a Player Valuation model and then analyze the overall salary distribution throughout the NFL. From this, it was observed while there are many athletes in the NFL that receive extravagant salaries well over their projected value, there is a much larger portion of the league that is undervalued and receive less than their projected value. It was then concluded that a super-star variable would be necessary to create a more accurate Player Valuation model, and the reason there is a larger proportion of NFL players receiving a lower salary than they deserve is due to franchise cap limits. These cap limits place pressure on franchises to push down the salaries of non-superstar athletes in order to compensate for the salaries required for the super-star athletes on their rosters.