NFL Players will receive $147.952 million in “Performance-Based Pay” for their performance during the 2019 season, the NFL announced today. The Performance-Based Pay program is a collectively bargained benefit that compensates all players, including rookies, based upon their playing time and salary levels.

In addition to the Performance-Based Pay pool, the NFL Players Association has elected to dedicate $83.2 million in benefits (i.e., $2.6 million per club) to fund a Veteran Performance-Based Compensation Pool (the “Veteran Pool”) for players with one or more accrued seasons. In total, $231.152 million will be disbursed to players under the combined pools.

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback CHARVARIUS WARD earned the highest combined distribution of all NFL players in the 2019 Performance-Based Pay program. He earned a total of $654,750, nearly 15 percent more than his 2019 salary, comprised of the following amounts: $428,335 from the Performance-Based Pay Pool, and an additional $226,415 from the Veteran Pool. Ward, a 2018 undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State, started all 16 games for the Chiefs during the 2019 regular season, playing in nearly 95 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive plays, as well as nearly 26 percent of the Chiefs’ special teams plays.  He earned the league minimum salary for a player with one credited season (i.e., $570,000).  Ward signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Cowboys in May of 2018 before being traded to the Chiefs in August 2018. During Kansas City’s Super Bowl-winning season in 2019, Ward finished second on the team with a career-high 10 passes defensed and registered his first two career interceptions.

Players have been paid approximately $1.8 billion cumulatively since the inception of the Performance-Based Pay program, which was implemented as part of the NFL’s 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association.

The Veteran Pool is a component of the Rookie Redistribution Fund, which is a player benefit that was created under the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NFL Players Association elected to fund the Veteran Pool for the first time in 2016 and has extended the benefit each season since then.

See the tables below for the top 25 distributions in each category, as well as combined totals.

HOW PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY WORKS

Under the Performance-Based Pay program, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. Players become eligible to receive a bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down.  In general, players with higher playtime percentages and lower salaries benefit most from the pools.

Performance-Based Pay is computed by using a player index (“Index”). To produce the Index, a player’s regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player’s Index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his Performance-Based Pay.

The Veteran Pool is computed in a similar manner, with two significant modifications: 1) players with zero accrued seasons are not eligible to receive distributions, however, such players remain eligible to receive distributions under the Performance-Based Pay program; and 2) to calculate the eligible player’s Index, if the player’s full-season base salary is less than $1 million, an additional amount will be imputed so that the player’s base salary equals $1 million. By imputing a minimum of $1 million to the denominator of the Veteran Pool’s index calculation (playtime divided by salary), a slightly higher percentage of the pool is directed to high-performing veteran players whose salaries exceed $1 million but are not among the highest in the league, as contemplated by the formula.  This imputation of salary is solely for the purpose of calculating distributions from the pool, and does not affect the actual salary paid to the player under his contract.

ILLUSTRATION OF PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY SYSTEM

Each player on the same team com­petes for his own share of his club’s Performance-Based Pay pool. The hypothetical example in the table below illustrates how the Player Index works, using a simplified four-player team and a club bonus pool of $1,000,000. Each player receives his share of the pool depending on how his Index compares to those of his teammates.

  A

Playtime

B

Compensation

C

Index**

(A/B)

D

% of Club Bonus Pool

(C/Team Total C)

E

Hypothetical Bonus

(D * $1,000,000)

Player A 50% $     500,000 10.0 50% of the Club’s pool (10 out of 20) 50% * $1,000,000 = $500,000
Player B 50% $  1,000,000 5.0 25% of the Club’s pool (5 out of 20) 25% * $1,000,000 = $250,000
Player C 20% $     500,000 4.0 20% of the Club’s pool (4 out of 20) 20% * $1,000,000 = $200,000
Player D 10% $  1,000,000 1.0 5% of the Club’s pool (1 out of 20)           5% * $1,000,000 =     $50,000
Team Total: 20.0 Points  

 

** Index is multiplied by 107 for legibility purposes only

TOP 25 PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY DISTRIBUTIONS FOR 2019

 

PLAYER

 

CLUB

 

POS

 

COLLEGE

ROOKIE

YEAR

DRAFT

ROUND

 

DISTRIBUTION

1  Charvarius Ward Kansas City CB Middle Tennessee St. 2018 UDFA  $428,335
2  Mack Wilson Cleveland LB Alabama 2019 5  $415,296
3  Bradley Bozeman Baltimore C Alabama 2018 6  $403,685
4  Xavier Woods Dallas S Louisiana Tech 2017 6  $403,298
5  Kyle Allen Carolina QB Houston 2018 UDFA  $393,378
6  Ted Karras New England C Illinois 2016 6  $393,363
7  Matt Feiler Pittsburgh T Bloomsburg 2014 UDFA  $387,578
8  J.C. Jackson New England CB Maryland 2018 UDFA  $375,004
9  Levi Wallace Buffalo CB Alabama 2018 UDFA  $363,599
10  Matt Milano Buffalo LB Boston College 2017 5  $360,498
11  Justin Murray Arizona T Cincinnati 2016 UDFA  $346,499
12  Nathan Gerry Philadelphia LB Nebraska 2017 5  $345,976
13  Tre Flowers Seattle CB Oklahoma State 2018 5  $340,118
14  Dre Greenlaw San Francisco LB Arkansas 2019 5  $339,981
15  Zach Pascal Indianapolis WR Old Dominion 2017 UDFA  $328,890
16  Tre Herndon Jacksonville CB Vanderbilt 2018 UDFA  $327,050
17  Emmanuel Moseley San Francisco CB Tennessee 2018 UDFA  $326,516
18  Gardner Minshew Jacksonville QB Washington State 2019 6  $319,098
19  Jordan Whitehead Tampa Bay S Pittsburgh 2018 4  $313,985
20  Chuck Clark Baltimore S Virginia Tech 2017 6  $311,857
21  Nicholas Morrow Oakland LB Greenville 2017 UDFA  $309,968
22  Marshall Newhouse New England T Texas Christian 2010 5  $307,476
23  Allen Lazard Green Bay WR Iowa State 2018 UDFA  $307,304
24  Dennis Daley Carolina T South Carolina 2019 6  $306,889
25  Jon Halapio NY Giants C Florida 2014 6  $306,081

UDFA – Undrafted free agent

TOP 25 DISTRIBUTIONS FROM THE VETERAN POOL

 

PLAYER

 

CLUB

 

POS

 

COLLEGE

ROOKIE

YEAR

DRAFT

ROUND

 

DISTRIBUTION

1  Ted Karras New England C Illinois 2016 6  $242,584
2  Matt Milano Buffalo LB Boston College 2017 5  $237,672
3  Matt Feiler Pittsburgh T Bloomsburg 2014 UDFA  $236,004
4  Charvarius Ward Kansas City CB Middle Tennessee St. 2018 UDFA  $226,415
5  Nicholas Morrow Oakland LB Greenville 2017 UDFA  $220,013
6  Jordan Whitehead Tampa Bay S Pittsburgh 2018 4  $215,356
7  Jon Halapio NY Giants C Florida 2014 6  $214,374
8  Nathan Gerry Philadelphia LB Nebraska 2017 5  $213,484
9  Xavier Woods Dallas S Louisiana Tech 2017 6  $212,457
10  Bradley Bozeman Baltimore C Alabama 2018 6  $209,495
11  Tre Herndon Jacksonville CB Vanderbilt 2018 UDFA  $205,658
12  Levi Wallace Buffalo CB Alabama 2018 UDFA  $205,356
13  Anthony Walker Indianapolis LB Northwestern 2017 5  $205,094
14  Damontae Kazee Atlanta S San Diego State 2017 5  $202,885
15  Zach Pascal Indianapolis WR Old Dominion 2017 UDFA  $200,948
16  Dion Dawkins Buffalo T Temple 2017 2  $198,085
17  Richie Incognito Oakland G Nebraska 2005 3  $197,329
18  Tre Flowers Seattle CB Oklahoma State 2018 5  $193,666
19  Justin Murray Arizona T Cincinnati 2016 UDFA  $192,648
20  Elijah Wilkinson Denver T Massachusetts 2017 UDFA  $192,217
21  Jon Bostic Washington LB Florida 2013 2  $191,655
22  Jerome Baker Miami LB Ohio State 2018 3  $191,282
23  Pat Elflein Minnesota G Ohio State 2017 3  $190,797
24  Taylor Moton Carolina T Western Michigan 2017 2  $190,592
25  David Mayo NY Giants LB Texas State 2015 5  $190,166

UDFA – Undrafted free agent

TOP 25 COMBINED DISTRIBUTIONS (PERFORMANCE-BASED PAY PLUS VETERAN POOL)

   

 PLAYER

 

CLUB

 

POS

 

COLLEGE

ROOKIE

YEAR

DRAFT

ROUND

PERFORMANCE-BASED

PAY

VETERAN POOL COMBINED DISTRIBUTION
1  Charvarius Ward Kansas City CB Middle Tennessee St. 2018 UDFA  $428,335  $226,415  $654,750
2  Ted Karras New England C Illinois 2016 6  $393,363  $242,584  $635,947
3  Matt Feiler Pittsburgh T Bloomsburg 2014 UDFA  $387,578  $236,004  $623,582
4  Xavier Woods Dallas S Louisiana Tech 2017 6  $403,298  $212,457  $615,755
5  Bradley Bozeman Baltimore C Alabama 2018 6  $403,685  $209,495  $613,180
6  Matt Milano Buffalo LB Boston College 2017 5  $360,498  $237,672  $598,171
7  Levi Wallace Buffalo CB Alabama 2018 UDFA  $363,599  $205,356  $568,954
8  Nathan Gerry Philadelphia LB Nebraska 2017 5  $345,976  $213,484  $559,460
9  J.C. Jackson New England CB Maryland 2018 UDFA  $375,004  $184,032  $559,036
10  Justin Murray Arizona T Cincinnati 2016 UDFA  $346,499  $192,648  $539,147
11  Tre Flowers Seattle CB Oklahoma State 2018 5  $340,118  $193,666  $533,784
12  Tre Herndon Jacksonville CB Vanderbilt 2018 UDFA  $327,050  $205,658  $532,708
13  Nicholas Morrow Oakland LB Greenville 2017 UDFA  $309,968  $220,013  $529,981
14  Zach Pascal Indianapolis WR Old Dominion 2017 UDFA  $328,890  $200,948  $529,838
15  Jordan Whitehead Tampa Bay S Pittsburgh 2018 4  $313,985  $215,356  $529,341
16  Jon Halapio NY Giants C Florida 2014 6  $306,081  $214,374  $520,454
17  Emmanuel Moseley San Francisco CB Tennessee 2018 UDFA  $326,516  $174,002  $500,519
18  Damontae Kazee Atlanta S San Diego State 2017 5  $295,050  $202,885  $497,934
19  Chuck Clark Baltimore S Virginia Tech 2017 6  $311,857  $183,103  $494,960
20  Anthony Walker Indianapolis LB Northwestern 2017 5  $287,430  $205,094  $492,525
21  Eddie Jackson Chicago S Alabama 2017 4  $302,105  $189,171  $491,275
22  Marshall Newhouse New England T Texas Christian 2010 5  $307,476  $169,375  $476,850
23  Richie Incognito Oakland G Nebraska 2005 3  $279,239  $197,329  $476,567
24  Jayon Brown Tennessee LB UCLA 2017 5  $286,641  $188,386  $475,027
25  Orlando Brown Baltimore T Oklahoma 2018 3  $288,015  $177,517  $465,532
UDFA – Undrafted free agent