Typically, no. Unlike Major League Baseball and the NBA, where nearly all contracts are fully guaranteed, NFL contracts are, by default, not guaranteed. That is, players typically only get paid when they are on a team’s roster each week (or in a special designation like injured reserve).
To guard against what can be a supremely unfair outcome—football players are often injured and careers are typically short—players and their agents tend to attempt to work in some guarantees to a contract. The most common guarantee is a signing bonus; in a hypothetical 3-year, $30 million contract, for example, there might be an $8 million signing bonus due to the player immediately. There might be a “morals clause” in the contract that would allow the team to clawback some of the signing bonus if the player was to get arrested for a serious crime or get injured due to a non-football reason (such as a motorcycle accident), but typically, that money belongs 100% to the player the moment the deal is signed.
Other common bonuses include “roster bonuses,” so that a player gets paid a chunk of change at the start of the year for making a 53-man roster (or sometimes, even just reporting to camp), even if the player then proceeds to get injured and/or plays poorly. Many contracts contain bonus clauses for hitting on-field performance targets or winning awards, etc. And finally, some bigger stars are starting to see portions of their annual salaries being guaranteed; to use the same hypothetical contract above, it’s becoming more common to see something like “first year [or two] fully guaranteed” or “$10 million of the remaining $22 million after signing bonus guaranteed,” etc. These days, when a player signs a contract, it’s common to also report the amount of guaranteed money, e.g., “$30 million, $18 million guaranteed.”
But absent negotiated guarantees, if a player is cut, he becomes a free agent and the team that previously signed him owes him nothing. There is a salary cap in the NFL, and things like signing bonuses typically are amortized over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes, so let’s use the same contract and assume that the player is cut before the third year of his deal. For an $8 million signing bonus over a 3-year deal, a team would retain one-third of that amount, or $2.67 million, in “dead money” that would count against its salary cap that season, even though it doesn’t owe the player any more money and paid the signing bonus at the time the contract was signed.
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If the player is still owed guaranteed money, however, then yes, the team owes it, although there are typically offset clauses in the contract, such that if the player goes to another team, he doesn’t get paid twice. Let’s say, for example, that the cut player was due $4.5 million in the final year of his deal and that the money was guaranteed. If the player is cut in camp and signs a one-year deal with another team worth $2.0 million, then the cutting team typically only owes the player another $2.5 million, and the player will receive $4.5 million in total, not $6.5 million.