How Much Money Do NFL Front-Office Executives Make?

Alex Dunlap@AlexDunlapNFLContributor IMay 15, 2013

Photo by Alex Dunlap. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff at the NFL Combine.
Photo by Alex Dunlap. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff at the NFL Combine.

The NFL has leaders who wear shoulder pads and helmets, and the NFL has leaders who wear suits and ties.

Fans know that NFL players reap the financial rewards of the league's mass appeal, but what about the guys who sign their checks?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, for example, made $29.5 million in 2011.

This is public information due to the fact that the NFL is viewed by the government as a nonprofit organization. All tax-exempt nonprofit enterprises must make the salaries of their highest-ranking officers public.

Imagine that: A product that makes money hand over fist is a nonprofit. 

This is why teams can find ways to secure public funds for the building of stadiums and receive property tax breaks on the land on which they are built. It's why you won't go one Sunday in September without seeing a few Play 60 commercials sponsored by the league.

At least one person is at odds with this designation.

In late April, Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn (R) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Marketplace Fairness Act which would make IRS code 1986 "exclude major professional sports from qualifying as tax-exempt organizations." 

Let's get one thing straight: NFL owners didn't get to be NFL owners by being dummies in business. The number of potential write-offs and "creative accounting" smudges on the general ledger grow immeasurably with this designation. It is a designation some call "a glorified tax shelter," via The Star Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro.

NFL teams as single entities do not fall under this category, though, and are most certainly not exempt from taxation. While the commissioner does technically report to the league's 32 team owners who elect him and pay his salary, he is paid under the umbrella of the National Football League.

And the NFL considers itself a trade association made up of the 32 teams which bankroll it. 

Confused yet? We're just getting started. 

NFL teams are guarded about the amount of money their executives get paid.

While outsiders may not know the salaries of team execs down to the final digits on the pay stub, we can estimate the neighborhood in which they are operating pretty well. 

General Manager: $1 Million-$3 Million Salary

Though not official, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is believed to have made about $2.8 million in 2011, according to Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post.

At the time former Chargers GM A.J. Smith was re-upped for five years in 2008, his contract was for around $11 million, according to Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune. Smith's five-year deal was "believed to be the third-richest and the longest pact among the league's general managers," according to Acee.

Another recent example: Eagles GM Howie Roseman received a contract for four to five years, according to Jeff McLane of the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The general manager is usually the club's highest-paid front-office employee. The GM reports to the owner and/or CEO, depending on how ownership has set up the leadership structure.

They have direct reports in scouting, personnel and football operations. They also have administrative oversight of groups such as marketing, business development and facilities. 

Vice President: $180,000-$400,000 Salary

Sports Business Daily gives an overall view of what a VP within an NFL organization is likely to make, starting at a median of around $230,000. At this level of seniority, the business operates just like most other businesses.

The VPs over the divisions or service lines that generate revenue are paid more than those who oversee support services. VPs over departments such as ticket sales, marketing, business development and corporate partnerships make more money than VPs who oversee groups like maintenance, environmental services, facilities or equipment.

Highly sought-after VPs in scouting are generally paid the most. VP of player personnel, or a similar title, is the most common stepping stone to a general manager appointment. Most GM titles actually come with an "executive VP" classification. 

Director of Scouting: $95,000-$275,000 Salary

There are two sides to the scouting department for NFL teams: college scouting and pro scouting.

The director of college scouting has direct reports from all of the regional and area scouts who travel to evaluate collegiate players. The pro scouting director has oversight of the pro scouting department, which scouts upcoming opponents, free agents and players currently under contract with the team. 

National Football Post's Dan Bechta estimates a director of college scouting's salary at around $275,000—understandably on the high end, as it's crucial for teams to bring in effective young talent. Also included here is the salary for the scouting assistants who report to the directors; they're down at the low end of this spectrum.

Account Executive: $35,000-$165,000 Salary

The headline here might as well say "ticket sales."

People can make a whole lot of money selling tickets for an NFL franchise. Sometimes PSL (personal seat licenses, which allow fans to purchase season tickets) packages can sell for more than an average person's mortgage. Those are monster commissions.

The producers on the low end of this spectrum are those who cannot sell or those who are afraid of hearing "no" from big clients—probably both. Either way, Jerry Jones doesn't want that type of person around the building. 

Scout: $20,000-$95,000 Salary

They don't wear suits, but they have their own suit. It has pockets for binoculars and stopwatches, and it has seen its fair share of the road.

The lowest "horror-story figure" I've heard was $20,000. Generally, the "road scouts" and the area guys make between $40,000 and $95,000 a year (latter figure per Bechta), depending on seniority.

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