According to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), on average, a player should expect to turn up for his team for three-and-a-half-years. This helps to explain why most players negotiate hard for the best contracts they can get. They have roughly 42 months to make enough money to cushion themselves financially for more years to come. Without a solid financial base, they risk falling into hard times financially.
New players enter the NFL job market each year.
NFL is a highly competitive league.
Challenges of playing consistently at the top
Players have to try to fit into their teams system of play. They have to do whatever is humanly possible to stay off the injury list. They have to fend for their families. They have to be in top physical shape. They have to show they are worthy of a place in the team ahead of new players or their current colleagues. Laxity is not the kind of luxury or option an NFL player can afford to entertain. Otherwise, his career may die before hitting the third year.
The three major reasons that shorten an NFL player’s career are:
- Early retirement
- Laid off by the team
How long a player’s career lasts depends on the position he plays.
Those with the shortest careers tend to be:
- Running backs
- Wide receivers
As you may have deduced from that list, players with the shortest careers tend to be those who run a lot or hit other players a lot, or are themselves hit by other players a lot. On the average, a running back will play for around 2.57 years. On the other hand, a wide receiver’s career will last an average of 2.81 years. A cornerback will play at the top level an average of 2.94 years. After these many years, the player’s body can no longer function at optimal levels.
Players who suffer the least hits by other players tend to enjoy the longest careers. Here, kickers and punters reign supreme. On average, they expect to play for roughly 4.87 years. Similarly, quarterbacks also enjoy a relatively longer career compared to their other colleagues. The career of a quarterback will generally last 4.44 years. Many NFL players cannot overcome the mental fear of playing longer than these average years.
However, a look at the NFL history will show you that many players have enjoyed careers lasting more than five years. Seven players have played for 20 seasons or longer. That is an anomaly. Therefore, players should be ready for anything. Be mentally prepared to play at the top level of a few years only. That way, you will not feel disappointed in case your career ends prematurely.