Bengals each average $2.1 million annually

CINCINNATI -- Like other NFL players, the Cincinnati Bengals are grossly underpaid compared to athletes for teams in other sports leagues, a study published Tuesday on ESPN.com found.

The ESPN The Magazine/Sportingintelligence Global Salary Survey reported that NFL players made more than $6 million per year less than the average Manchester City soccer player, the average New York Yankee and the average Los Angeles Dodger, among others. As popular and lucrative as the NFL may be, it doesn't compensate its players like other sports leagues. A host of factors go into that, including the fact that NFL rosters are more than twice the size of major league baseball's. It's easier for teams to play fewer players.

According to the survey, the Bengals are each paid about $2.1 million annually, good enough to rank them 138th among the sporting world's top-paid athletes. Members of the Manchester City soccer club make more than other athletes, the survey found, walking away with more than $8.1 million each year. Yankees players make just more than $8 million per year, ranking second among the world's top-paid athletes.

At 115th, the Minnesota Vikings were the highest NFL team on the list, awarding their players an average $2.3 million each year.

The survey came to its findings by compiling contracts for the 2013, 2013-14 and 2014 seasons of the respective sports. The NFL, CFL and Nippon Professional Baseball league were among the sports leagues whose findings came from 2013 rosters. The NBA and NHL results came from 2013-14 rosters. Major league baseball and major league soccer results used the 2014 rosters. A total of 294 teams were evaluated for the survey.

So for the 2013 season, the Bengals ranked 11th among NFL teams in average annual pay to their players. Their 138th overall sports team ranking was up from 157th the previous year. The Bengals' baseball-playing neighbors, the Cincinnati Reds, are paying their players about $3.4 million per year, good enough for 68th in the overall rankings.

As of last year's roster, the Bengals also paid their players on average about $9.3 million across a five-season stretch. That's about $28 million less than the nearly $37 million Real Madrid soccer players receive across an average five-year stretch, according to the survey.

All this means is that the Bengals, like the rest of the NFL, don't get paid as well as their counterparts in other sports. It also means that despite that, they still are right in the thick of league spending. This report also delivers a blow to the perception that the Bengals are one of the NFL's more thrifty teams with respect to player compensation. They clearly are still spending -- just look at Geno Atkins' and Carlos Dunlap's deals last summer -- even if it doesn't seem like it.