Vereen would have made around $1,110 per week as a first-year player during training camp, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement (NFL players do not receive their base salaries during training camp, instead getting what the league describes as a per diem). That training camp pay obviously pales in comparison to what players receive if they make an NFL roster.
It’s also more than what the XFL is planning on paying most of its players for its inaugural season.
On Wednesday, Vereen’s agent announced he had decided not to play in the XFL in 2020 because the league’s salaries for non-quarterbacks “did not come close to matching” the pay that had been discussed previously. In the statement, Logan Brown Sports said the XFL planned on paying its non-quarterbacks $27,040 in max base salary, with per-game active bonuses of $1,685 and weekly bonuses of $2,222 for players on winning teams.
As tabulated by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, that means a player who is active for all 10 games and is on a team that goes 5-5 would earn $55,000 for the season, the equivalent of $1,058 per week over 52 weeks, less than the NFL’s rookie training camp per diem.
Vereen played in the doomed Alliance of American Football earlier this year, leading the Memphis Express with four sacks before the league imploded. Had the season played out in full, Vereen’s salary would have reached $70,000. Since then, Vereen has been working in computer science, his major at Tennessee.
“How are you going to sit here and get all these people together and try to get the best talent for your league and pay them $27,000?” Vereen told Seifert. “I love the game. But I’m not going to be taken advantage of at the end of the day. I have an engineering degree. I’m a software developer. My current job makes more than that. I’m not doing that, unfortunately. It looked like a great opportunity.”
The Los Angeles Wildcats selected Vereen in the XFL’s inaugural draft this month. Vereen told Seifert that he passed up a chance to play in the Canadian Football League — where the minimum salary is just more than $41,000 in U.S. currency — because the league had extended him a commissioner’s invitation to its draft, which he took assuming a higher salary.
Vereen added that other XFL draft picks “most definitely” are mulling a similar decision.
Soon after the XFL announced in January 2018 its plans for a rebirth, Commissioner Oliver Luck told ESPN that he expected average player salaries to be around $75,000 for the first season (a 10-week regular season followed by a two-week postseason). But as Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points out, the AAF’s demise eliminated the XFL’s competition in the alternative-league market, opening the door for the XFL to pay players less.
The first iteration of the XFL, a one-season run in 2001, paid its players an average of $45,000 for a 10-week schedule, ESPN has reported (that version of the league also awarded weekly player bonuses for members of winning teams). That’s equivalent to around $65,000 in 2019 dollars. And while quarterbacks were paid slightly more than other position players back then, they will be paid significantly more in this version of the XFL: up to nearly $500,000 for the season, Seifert reports.