How long is a rookie contract in the NFL?

How long is a rookie contract in the NFL?

Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow

The 2020 college football season is approaching the playoffs. The 2020 NFL season is approaching the playoffs. The 2021 NFL Draft is slowly approaching, which will produce a new class of college stars turned NFL rookies just getting their pro careers started.


It brings the question: How long are the NFL rookie contracts?

An NFL rookie contract is broken down into two different categories, one for drafted players and one for undrafted players. Let's take a look at the NFL rookie contract for drafted players and undrafted players.

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Breaking down the NFL rookie contract

The length of an NFL rookie contract for a player that is selected in the first round of the NFL Draft is four years.


For players who are labeled as undrafted rookies, they can have a contract length of three years. Let's take a look at how the NFL rookie contract works.

NFL contract breakdown

  • Signing Bonus
  • Base Salary
  • Offseason workout per diem (begins in the second year)
  • Base Salary guarantees
  • Permitted Performance Incentives
  • Roster Bonuses
  • Reporting Bonuses

Players who are drafted during the NFL Draft cannot renegotiate their contracts until after their third season in the NFL. The undrafted rookie contracts cannot be renegotiated until after their second season in the NFL.


A key point to the NFL rookie contract is that if a player renegotiates his contract it no longer is categorized as a rookie contract. The rookie loses all rules that go along with their original rookie contract if they renegotiate it.

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Some NFL franchises sign players to outrageous rookie contracts and those players do not live up to the expectations that come with such a big contract. Even though a lot of salaries are not guaranteed, some rookies work some sort of financial guarantee into their contracts.

There is one contract that stands out more than the rest as the worst NFL rookie contract that was ever signed.

JaMarcus Russell's rookie contract

JaMarcus Russell was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Oakland Raiders selected the former LSU quarterback in hopes of him becoming their next franchise quarterback. The Raiders would sign JaMarcus Russell to a 6-year, $61 million contract as a rookie.

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Oakland would add guaranteed money to the contract, which is rare for rookies. The Raiders would make $32 million of the $61 million dollars guaranteed for Russell. The rookie quarterback would never live up to the hype over three years with the Oakland Raiders.

JaMarcus Russell would hold a record of 7-18 while being the starter for the Oakland Raiders. He would throw 18 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions in 25 starts. Oakland would release Russell in 2010 and he would never play another snap in the NFL. This will go down as one of the worst NFL rookie contracts of all-time.

Edited by
Amaar Burton
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