The NFL playoffs have been a showcase for elite field goal kickers. None of the final four teams — the Bengals, the Rams, the Chiefs or the 49ers — would have even been in the conference championship game if they didn’t have an elite field goal kicker.
NFL kickers account for roughly 30% of their team’s points every season. Quarterbacks are credited with participating in close to 45% of the team’s points each year even though few of them actually score the points themselves — running backs score from catching their short screen passes and receivers make sometimes miraculous catches and runs to score the touchdowns, not the quarterback.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was paid $45 million before taxes for the 2021 season. His KC kicker teammate Harrison Butker made $4 million. Based purely on point production, Butker should have been paid $30 million.
Why aren’t field goal kickers paid at least as well as the very best designated hitters (DH) in the American League in baseball? Giancarlo Stanton, the DH for the New York Yankees, is paid on a commensurate basis ($29 million) with the very best starting pitchers, who now make more than $30 million per year. DHs make fewer appearances per game (4) than the average NFL kicker.
How is it possible that a placekicker, who accounts for more points in a season than any player other than a quarterback, can be paid so “poorly,” relatively speaking? Is it “racially” motivated? It can’t be because virtually all kickers in NFL history have been white. It can’t be gender-related because they are all male kickers. There is no age discrimination since great kickers play as long or longer than Tom Brady did — George Blanda of the Oakland Raiders played (kicked) until he was 48.
Forty-nine of the top 50 scorers in NFL history are kickers. Not quarterbacks, not running backs, not wide receivers. Place-kickers.
Based on pure production of points per game, and not race, gender, education, age, creed or religion, kickers should at least be the second-highest paid player on every NFL team. What explains the disparity then?
The answer is the free market. Americans will not pay hundreds of dollars to sit in a stadium or watch endless hours of commercials on TV to see a place-kicker kick field goals. People around the world pay a lot of money to watch athletes score a miniscule number of goals with their feet in soccer, but not in America, not yet at least.
NFL fans want to see titanic quarterback duels such as the one Josh Allen of the Bills and Mahomes put on recently in the divisional round. They want to see running backs and wide receivers out-juke the defense on long scoring runs.
The same principle applies in every part of American life in our free enterprise system. The more the public wants to see or use a product or service, the higher the premium will be paid to the performers who can do it the best.
It may sound “unfair” to an extent to the uninitiated or economically naïve observer. You may have a painting you think is worth $10 million because you painted it and love it. If no one wants to buy it, however, and fork over $1 for it, it is intrinsically worth $0 to anyone else, and therefore, it has zero market value.
The same principle applies with field goal kickers in the NFL. Until “the market,” i.e. the owners, determines that paying a field goal kicker $40 million per year is what it takes for them to win the Super Bowl or get more people to pay to watch their games, kickers will be paid roughly 10% of what top quarterbacks are paid, which is still enormous when compared to the average American household income of $69,000.
Patrick Mahomes made $69,000 every 90 seconds in an NFL game this past season. His kicker, Harrison Butker, made $38,000 every time his foot struck the back of a football, whether it went through the uprights or not.
Don’t cry for any NFL player making such enormous salaries. Just understand that people are paid by whatever Mr. Market says they should get paid, not by whatever a liberal socialist politician, news outlet or commentator thinks and says.