Following the 2002 season, the NFL introduced a new system of player compensation meant to benefit those who play close to minimum contracts. This so-called “performance-based pay” scheme awards players based on the number of snaps they play in relation to the contract they have signed.
Back when the first performance payout took place, San Francisco 49ers guard Eric Heitmann received the biggest share: His check over $42,048 led the NFL. 15 years later, this sum would place Heitman nowhere near the top of the league. Tennessee Titans guard Quinton Spain received an extra $489,782.35 – most in the NFL and $90,000 more than what the highest-ranked New England Patriots player received.
Overall, the Super Bowl runner-ups have two players listed among the top 25 players in performance-based bonus money:
#10 OG Shaq Mason: $399,639.55
#18 OG Joe Thuney: $373,108.16
It is no coincidence to see Mason and Thuney listed near the top of the NFL when it comes to extra pay earned. After all, the two played considerable snaps in 2017 (both over 99% of offensive snaps) especially when compared to their modest salary: As a 2015 fourth round draft choice, Mason played on a $615,000 salary last year. Thuney, for comparison, received $630,000 as a 2016 third rounder.
Overall, the bonuses are divided into two pools from which each NFL club finances the performance payouts. One is given out to all players who have spent time on the team, while the second will be divided solely among veterans. Naturally, some players – like Mason and Thuney – receive payments out of both pots. The money, by the way, is distributed by the league and does not come from the salary cap.