The NFL Pension: Everything You Need To Know!

NFL players are famous for earning big salaries but also having very short phrases which has led the league being called Not For Long! So what happens to NFL players after they retire, does the league look after them or are they on their own? Let’s find out!

Do NFL Players Receive A Pension?

NFL players who have played at least 3 seasons in the NFL receive a pension. Previously players had to have played 4 seasons but this was lowered in 2020. NFL players are eligible for the pension at the age of 55.

Like the NBA the NFL also has a pension which known as Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan which was established in the 1960s. However, all players who have played in at least 3 seasons in the NFL irrespective of the date are entitled to an NFL pension.

While the barrier to receive an NFL pension is low the amount players receive is also low compared to other sports such as baseball and basketball.

An NFL player who retired before 1993 only receives between $24,000 and $43,560 a year and that is before tax!

In contrast an MLB player who retired after 1980 and played 10 years in league rakes in $200,000 per year at 62 years old. And a 10-year NBA legend who hung up his shoes after 1965 cashes $215,000 per year at 62 years.

The NFL has been notorious for not looking for after players post-retirement so it is not surprising that they would also try to keep pensions low.

How Much Do NFL Players Get For Pension?

NFL players who have played a minimum of 3 seasons receive at least $21,000 per year while 10 year veterans receive a maximum of $105,000 per year.
Receiving $105,000 per year for the rest of your life may sound like a dream come true until you realize that only NFL athletes who have played at least 10 years in the league qualify. When you factor in that the average NFL career is just 3.3 years you can quickly see that only a tiny minority of NFL players receive $105,000 per year.
Also a pension of $105,000 per year is actually small when you compare it to the maximum pension offered by the NBA and MLB. 10 year MLB veterans get paid $200,000 per year while NBA 10 year veterans get to retire on $215,000 per year.
The NFL minimum pension payment of just $21,000 per year is also woeful compared to the NBA who pay out a minimum of $56,988 per year. The MLB also does a much better job of looking after former players and pay a minimum pension of $68,000 which players can start drawing when they are 45, a full 10 years before NFL players receive anything!
The NFL has been facing immense criticism from the former players and the media and in recent years have started increasing the pension. However, they have a long way to go before they reach parity with the NBA an MLB.

How Do You Qualify For An NFL Pension?

To qualify for an NFL pension you must play a minimum of 3 seasons in the NFL and be at least 55 years old. The size of your NFL pension depends the number of seasons you played (maxes out at 10) an the age you take the pension.
Qualifying for an NFL pension is pretty simple, if you play at least 3 seasons in the league you are considered vested and are entitled to a life long pension.
However, the NFL is incredibly difficult to get into and the average NFL career only lasts 3.3 years. That means a huge percentage of former NFL players are missing out on a pension because they did not meet the 3 season minimum. With an average career length of under 4 years it becomes clear why the NFL is dubbed Not For Long!

What Age Can A NFL Player Collect His Pension?

An NFL player can start collecting his pension at the age of 55. NFL players can receive a higher pension by delaying their collection until they reach their 60s.

When an NFL player who has played at least 3 seasons in the league hits the age of 55 NFL clubs must start paying them their pension. The NFL pension is guaranteed for life and the maximum is currently slightly over $100,000 per year while the minimum is $21,000 per year.

Why Do NFL Players Receive A Pension?

NFL players receive a pension to ensure they can live a dignified life once their playing career is over. NFL players make large amounts of money for their clubs and often have very short careers, so owners feel compelled to help them retire comfortably. 
Pensions use to be common place in all businesses but they started being cut and and removed in the 80s and nowadays there are very few pension jobs left in the private sector. Due to the powerful NFL player’s lobby owners have not been able to cut NFL pensions.
Nowadays NFL owners have to make 401(k) contributions and payout the NFL pension which helps NFL athletes enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Does OJ Simpson Receive An NFL Pension?

If OJ Simpson claimed his pension at the age of 55 he would receive a yearly NFL pension of $48,408 which is based on him playing 11 NFL seasons from 1969 to 1979. However, if he waited until 60 to start drawing the pension he would receive $126,780 per year.

OJ Simpson previously would have qualified for a small pension of just $2,750 per month as players from his ear received just $250 per month for every season they played in the league.

However, due to lobbying by the player’s association back in 2011 NFL players managed to boost their pensions and NFL athletes who played before 1975 got an extra $124 per season and $108 per season played in subsequent years.

As OJ Simpson played both pre and post 1975 he ended adding an additional   $15,408 to his NFL pension.

Do NFL Practice Squad Players Get Benefits?

NFL practice squad players receive a range of benefits including pension (if they play at least 3 seasons), player insurance, 401(k) and disability payments.

NFL practice squad players receive the following benefits:

Player insurance – Practice squad NFL players receive  Medical, Dental, Vision, Prescription Drug, and Life Insurance.
401(k) – NFL practice squad members can defer salary and place it in their 401(k) where they make tax free investments.
Disability plan – NFL practice squad players receive a range of different disability payments and support.

Wrapping Things Up

The NFL has had a pension scheme since the 1960s but throughout its history the NFL has been infamous for underpaying its retired players.
Currently, the minimum NFL pension is just $21,000 per year which players can claim after playing 3 seasons. While the maximum NFL pension is $105,000 per year which players can claim after playing 10 years. The NFL pension is incredibly low compared to the NBA pension which pays players a minimum of $56,988 per year and a maximum of $215,000 per year.


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