Estimated salary differences for NFL positions
I always thought it was conventional wisdom in football that quarterbacks were paid much, much more than the players on the offensive line who protect him. At least that was what I inferred from "The Blind Side." The book talks about how left tackles used to be underrewarded until recently, when the NFL suddenly realized that it's the second most important position on the team.
But, according to the Massey/Thaler study of the NFL draft, the salary differential isn't that huge. Actually, the study doesn't give any detail on actual free-agent salaries by position, but they do give estimated salaries, based on their regression. Since they used dummy variables for each position, the differences between positions should be reasonably reliable. I'd expect the actual numbers to be not too far off either.
Here's their chart for estimated salary (base plus bonus) by position, for 1996-2002, for hypothetical sixth-year players who made the Pro Bowl all of their first five years. Players in their sixth year should all be earning free market salaries. (All salaries are in 2002 dollars.)
The best offensive linemen project to make almost two-thirds as much as the best quarterbacks. I would have thought the difference would be bigger than that. In terms of fame, all the members of the offensive line combined get probably 10% the media mentions that the quarterback does.
There's also a chart that breaks out the more recent years 2000-2002; in that time frame, the offensive linemen now earn only 54% as much as the quarterbacks. "The Blind Side" story would make you think the gap would be moving lower, rather than higher.
Those numbers are somewhat unrealistic, because they assume the player made the Pro Bowl all of his first five years in the NFL. Here's the same chart, from the same study, but for (again hypothetical) 6th-year players who started 8 or more games each of their first five years but never made the Pro Bowl:
The OL/QB ratio here is about the same – 62%, versus 65% for the Pro Bowl chart.
By the way, is there an obvious reason why defensive linemen make more money than offensive linemen?