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. 16 years later, this sum would place Heitman nowhere near the top of the league. Baltimore Ravens center Matt Skura received an extra $533,558 — most in the NFL and $60,000 more than what the highest-ranked New England Patriots player received.
Overall, the Super Bowl champions have two players listed among the top 25 players in performance-based bonus money:
#7 OG Joe Thuney: $473,275
#17 CB Jonathan Jones: $423,429
Joe Thuney earned his spot on the list after playing every single one of the Patriots’ 1,371 offensive snaps during the 2018 season. Compared to the relatively modest salary of a third-year player on a third-round rookie deal — he was paid $665,000 in 2018 (his salary plus his workout bonus) — it is therefore no surprise to see him get a sizable portion of the performance-based cake for the second year in a row.
This marks the second time this offseason that more money is coming the 26-year-old’s way: earlier this month it was announced that he would also be eligible to be awarded an increased salary in 2019 — the final year of his rookie contract — through so-called proven performance escalators. As a result, Thuney’s salary this season jumped to $1.995 million from what was previously scheduled to be $720,000.
Jonathan Jones did not see such an increase, but is also among the league leaders in performance-based bonus payments. In total, the former undrafted free agent received an additional $423,429 coming off a season during which he appeared in all 19 of New England’s games and played 51% of the team’s defensive snaps and 58% on special teams. The Patriots tendered the restricted free agent at the second-round level last week, all but ensuring he will return in 2019.
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 — Thuney and Jones among them — receive considerable payments out of both pots. The money, by the way, is distributed by the league and does not count against the salary cap.