Following the 2002 season, the NFL introduced a new system of player compensation meant to benefit those who play contracts close to the league’s minimum. This so-called “performance-based pay” scheme awards players based on the number of snaps they play in relation to the contracts they have signed. The league divides its pay-out of a combined $231 million up in two pools, one based on performance, the other on veteran status.
The first pool is used as an additional form of player compensation based on their play time percentages in relation to salaries. The league sums up a player’s snaps on offense, defense and special teams and divides it by regular season compensation to get an index number that then serves as the basis of the payout model. All in all, the NFL awarded $148 million to players this way for their performances during the 2019 regular season.
The second pool is similar to the first one, but has two modifications: players with zero accrued season are not eligible to receive funds out of the veteran’s pool, while the basis of the index calculations is at least a $1 million salary (meaning that players who have a lower salary are treated as if they get $1 million for the purpose of calculations). As a result, the NFL’s middle class veterans benefits from this second payout pool.
Back when this first performance payout took place in 2003, San Francisco 49ers guard Eric Heitmann received the biggest share: his check over $42,048 led the NFL. 17 years later, this sum would place Heitman nowhere near the top of the league. Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward received an extra $654,750 from the league’s two pools — $428,335 from the performance-based pool and $226,415 from the veterans’ pool.
Not far behind him are some members of the New England Patriots, as three of their players are listed among the top 25 players in combined performance-based bonus money:
No. 2: OC Ted Karras ($635,947)
No. 9: CB J.C. Jackson ($559,036)
No. 22: OT Marshall Newhouse ($476,850)
Ted Karras earned his spot on the list after taking over the Patriots’ starting center position from David Andrews, who missed the entire 2019 season following a diagnosis of blood clots in his lungs. When comparing his playing time — Karras was no the field for a combined 1,101 of a possible 1,210 offensive snaps (91.0%) — to his relatively modest salary of $720,000, it is not surprise to see him get a sizable piece of the performance-based payout cake.
Karras earned not just $393,363 from the payout-pool, but also led the NFL with a veteran’s share of $242,584. The soon-to-be 27-year-old is therefore getting a significant pay raise just a few days before being scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency — something that can also be said about fellow offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse, whose payout was $307,476 from the performance pool and an additional $169,375 from the veterans’ share.
Newhouse joined the Patriots in early September after starting right tackle Marcus Cannon suffered a shoulder injury. While the issue kept Cannon out for only one week, Newhouse remained in the starting lineup after left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on temporary injured reserve following New England’s Week 2 game in Miami. Newhouse started a combined nine games for the team which contributed to his payout numbers.
J.C. Jackson, meanwhile, earned his $559,036 by being a prominent member of the NFL’s best secondary. Serving as the third outside cornerback early on in the season, he was pushed into the starting lineup after Jason McCourty’s season effectively came to an end due to a groin injury. Jackson was playing on a salary cap hit of just $663,334, so his payout — $375,004 from the performance pool, $184,032 from the veterans’ pool — adds significant money to his pockets.