During the negotiations for the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed on the establishment of a performance-based pool intended to specifically benefit players on low-level rookie contracts. Basically, it works like this: if a player was drafted in the third round or later, he is eligible to be awarded an increased salary in the final year of his deal through so-called proven performance escalators.
With only two players from the 2016 draft remaining on the New England Patriots’ roster on their respective rookie deals, the world champions’ list of potential benefactors under the performance-based system is rather short: only starting left guard Joe Thuney and rotational linebacker Elandon Roberts are eligible. However, both of them have met the requirements needed in order to qualify for the pay raise.
Thuney, who was drafted in the third round by the Patriots, has been a day-one starter and iron man for the club: after playing 99.6% of New England’s regular season snaps in 2016 and 99.5% one year later, the N.C. State product was on the field for 100% during the 2018 campaign. In general, Thuney has missed just 12 of a possible 3,841 snaps over his three-year career so far, and was on the field for 99.7% of all available offensive action — including postseason.
Roberts’ exposure was not on the same level, but the 214th overall pick of the 2016 draft still proved to be a valuable member of the club’s defensive operation. Roberts played 26.0% of New England’s defensive snaps during his rookie season, and improved the number to 52.7% and 41.5% in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The third linebacker behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, Roberts has carved out a niche for himself on the Patriots’ roster.
Given their playing time over the last three seasons, both Thuney and Roberts meet the requirements to be awarded under the proven performance escalator system: they participated in a minimum of 35% of the team’s offensive or defensive plays in any of the previous three regular seasons, and their cumulative average over the last three years also extends beyond the 35% barrier. A player needs to meet at least one of the two in order to see his salary increase.
As a result, Thuney’s salary jumps from $720,000 to $1.995 million; Roberts’ increases even more, from $720,000 to $2,025,000 (via the Boston Sports Journal’s Miguel Benzan) — a significant raise for two players on the verge of cashing in next year: after all, the two youngsters are scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency one year from now and should receive considerable second contracts either in New England or somewhere else.