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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Little-Known NFL Pay System Doles Out Hundreds of Millions in Annual Bonuses

  • Jets lineman John Simpson led all NFL players with a $975,000 bonus.
  • The performance-based pay system is a way to reward players with heavy play time and low salaries.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Taking your team to the Super Bowl as Mr. Irrelevant doesn’t guarantee you’ll also be Mr. PBP. 

The NFL released its list of players who received the most bonuses for performance-based play, and 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy came in 24th, with Jets offensive lineman John Simpson leading the way with almost $975,000 in additional money. Purdy added almost $740,000 despite leading San Francisco to Super Bowl LVIII, where they lost in overtime to the Chiefs. 

For years, the NFL has had a little-known performance-based pay pool, which gives bonuses to players based on playing time and their regular salary. Only the base salary and snap count matter; lower-paid players who play a lot benefit the most.

Take Simpson, for example. In 2023, he earned just over $1 million off a one-year contract with the Ravens after spending the previous season on the practice squad, making roughly $200,000. Simpson’s PBP bonus this year nearly equaled his ’23 salary. Eagles safety Reed Blankenship had a similar bonus as he finished second on the list with a $923,000 bonus after making $985,000 this past season in Philadelphia. Blankenship was undrafted out of Middle Tennessee, which explains why his contract was so low. 

The PBP system was established in 2002 as part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association and has been renewed in three subsequent CBAs. Since its inception, the PBP system has paid out nearly $2.4 billion in player bonuses in the 20-plus years it’s existed. The program started out with a pool of $15 million in bonuses and has grown to $394 million in bonuses for ’23. 

Former NFL cornerback Domonique Foxworth has floated the idea of using the PBP system as a way to fix the running back market, as the once-premium position now earns less than kickers despite taking a beating.

Despite being pretty far down on the bonus list, Purdy, who is due for a contract extension anyway, still got quite the extra paycheck. His bonus was about $740,000, which isn’t far off from his 2023 base salary of $870,000. 

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