Projecting the Rookie Escalators and Top Performance Based Play Earners

Now that the NFL season is complete there are a few offseason payment mechanisms that the NFL should soon determine- the proven performance escalator and performance based pay. The first of those to be released will be the PPE because it is only reliant on playtime whereas PBP is a bit more involved of a calculation. Still I thought I could try to project some of the names (with Nick’s aid on snap counts) who may qualify for the PPE and be the top PBP earners.  So after the jump I’ll explain a little about how both work and who may get recognized for their achievements.

The PPE is a new contractual mechanism included in the 2011 CBA. The original way that the draft process worked is that later round draft picks were eligible to sign either three or four year contracts.  Since the draft has always been essentially slotted in salary for players drafted from round 3 to 7, clearly those players would only want to be signed for three seasons even if it meant taking a slightly smaller signing bonus. The reason was because in the fourth year you would be a restricted free agent and free to either switch teams or potentially be offered a contract that at worst would probably be double what you would have earned on a four year contract. So while teams would prefer the four year contract the player would be looking for a three year deal.

To bridge that gap teams developed a mechanism by which the player on the four year contract could earn a salary equal to the lowest restricted free agent tender in his final contract year by meeting some type of performance or participation threshold. By the time the new CBA was negotiated all but a handful of teams had used this contract structure which led to the PPE system used today.

The new CBA required 4 year contracts for all draft picks and those selected from the third round onward could escalate their salary in the fourth year by either playing 35% of the offensive or defensive snaps in two of three seasons or 35% of the cumulative snaps across all three seasons. If earned, the player’s salary for the year increases from the contracted amount (in most cases the minimum) to that of the lowest RFA tender.  This year that generally means a salary increase from $675,000 to about $1.62 million.

I’m estimating that 40 players have reached that threshold. 24 teams were represented with the Buccaneers, Cardinals, Patriots, Dolphins, and Saints having 3 players each, which generally indicates a pretty decent draft.  The teams that I don’t believe will have anyone represented are the 49ers, Bengals, Giants, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Texans and Panthers. So if you have a player on that list expect to lose close to $1M in cap space for each player named. I have not added these in yet to our cap estimates and may wait until the RFA numbers are official.

Safety, tight end, and wide receiver were the top positions. Tight end surprised me a little because unlike the other positions there generally is not a tendency to play with multiple tight ends the way you can with DBs and receivers. The positions that did not qualify were the ILB and 34DE positions.

Here are the list of names that I believe will qualify.

Marquess WilsonBears
William GholstonBuccaneers
Akeem SpenceBuccaneers
Mike GlennonBuccaneers
Tyrann MathieuCardinals
Alex OkaforCardinals
Andre EllingtonCardinals
Keenan AllenChargers
Travis KelceChiefs
Sio MooreColts
Hugh ThorntonColts
JJ WilcoxCowboys
Terrance WilliamsCowboys
Dallas ThomasDolphins
Jelani JenkinsDolphins
Dion SimsDolphins
Bennie LoganEagles
Levine ToiloloFalcons
Kemal IshmaelFalcons
Joshua EvansJaguars
Dwayne GratzJaguars
Brian WintersJets
Larry WarfordLions
David BakhtiariPackers
Micah HydePackers
Logan RyanPatriots
Duron HarmonPatriots
Chris JonesPatriots
Mychal RiveraRaiders
TJ McDonaldRams
Ricky WagnerRavens
Brandon WilliamsRavens
Jordan ReedRedskins
Kenny StillsSaints
Terron ArmsteadSaints
John JenkinsSaints
Luke WillsonSeahawks
Markus WheatonSteelers
Brian SchwenkeTitans
Charles JohnsonVikings

Unlike the PPE which is only given to 4th year draft picks, the PBP is something that every player in the NFL is eligible for. The PBP is essentially a ratio of salary cap charge to playing time that is designed to fix some of the income inequality that occurs when you have an undrafted player playing for $435,000 logging more playing time than a veteran making millions. Each team I believe will distribute around $3.8 million to their roster with payouts ranging from a few thousand to close to $400,000 for the most underpaid talent. Last year Seantrel Henderson was the top earner at $373,000. These charges do not impact the salary cap.

This is a much more involved calculation that also requires accrual of incentives and other items and often is not completed until March, right at the start of free agency.  I know that there is no way for me to project that perfectly but I wanted to guesstimate who I think will be the top 25 earners this year. A few of these players probably won’t be in the top 25 when the NFL publicizes their top 25(the difference between many is a few dollars so little may separate 25 from 35), but I’d expect all will be close and definitely in the top 50. I figure I’ll pull these up again when the NFL releases the list and see how far off I am. I’d expect everyone in the top 25 to top $250,000 this year and the top 15 should all be right around $300,000 and more.

Here are the list of names who should be applauded by the fans for overcoming expectations and being bigger than expected contributors for their teams.

Matt ParadisBroncos
Russell BodineBengals
Garry GilliamSeahawks
TJ ClemmingsVikings
Ricardo AllenFalcons
Alejandro VillanuevaSteelers
Quincy EnunwaJets
Matt TobinEagles
Delvin BreauxSaints
Malcolm ButlerPatriots
Mike RemmersPanthers
La’el CollinsCowboys
Adrian AmosBears
Ryan SchraederFalcons
Kenneth Acker49ers
Preston BrownBills
Marvin JonesBengals
Avery WilliamsonTitans
Shaquil BarrettBroncos
Kwon AlexanderBuccaneers
Travis CarrieRaiders
Trai TurnerPanthers
Andre HalTexans
Michael ThomasDolphins
Aaron ColvinJaguars