Money. Money. Money. It’s not just the root of all evil, it’s also often the root of most NFL free agency decisions. That may not be a quote by the Apostle Paul, but it is as important as anything else when we talk about where the top free agents will go each offseason. And the Los Angeles Rams, Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers are at a disadvantage:
California’s 13.3% rate of state income tax. Highest in the nation.
For example, the trade blocked Jalen Ramsey is set to make $1 million per game in 2023. They have eight home games, which amounts to $8 million for games at SoFi Stadium. Players are taxed appropriately by each state that they play in for their road games. That will include a game in San Francisco, so that’s $9 million taxed by the state of California. He will also play a game in New Jersey, which has the third-highest income tax rate.
That’s $10 million of his $17 million base salary being taxed in the harshest states in the union for income tax.
If Ramsey gets traded to the Miami Dolphins, he will have nine home games in a state with no income tax. From $9 million being taxed in California, to $9 million untaxed in Florida, if he stays on the same contract. That’s a significant difference and players are well aware of this once they start getting NFL game checks.
Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer, one of the top free agents at his position, acknowledged this in an interview recently: “I would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money.”
New York’s 8.8% is the seventh-highest state income tax in the country.
“I would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money… It would be nice to see the sun, maybe, every week or so.”
– Jordan Poyer on some things he’s looking for in his next team in Free Agency.
Doesn’t rule out a return to Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/W5W79Wehnv
— Air Raid | Buffalo (@TheBillsGuys) February 25, 2023
There’s no question that owner Stan Kroenke has some of the deepest pockets in the NFL and that the L.A. market should open up star players to have better off-field opportunities and awareness. In that way, players like Ramsey and Von Miller have been helped by their time with the Rams. But for most players, it’s just seeing a large chunk of change leave their pockets every year and a reason why they could prefer to play for other teams. It puts the Rams at a disadvantage.
Ramsey could make $10 million or he could make $8.5 million and the only difference would be the state of his home team.
Would the NFL or could the NFL ever do something to even the playing field for teams at a state income tax disadvantage by adjusting the salary cap accordingly for teams that are in certain states? Would that give teams in California too much of an advantage if their salary cap was 10% higher than say, teams in Florida, Washington, Texas, Nevada, and Tennessee, where there is no state income tax?
Consider the major difference also for the marquee players who get paid the most: What would a $60 million QB salary in 2026 feel like for a player if he was in Texas vs. if he was in California? That’s a huge chunk of income tax. Imagine what the Rams will need to go through to compete at that point?
They’d have to find ways to compensate. Perhaps the NFL should do the compensation for them.