Compensation for players in the playoffs is much different than it is during the regular season. Playoff money comes from a league pool instead of from NFL teams. There is a specific amount for each playoff round where each eligible player gets paid the same.
Here's a look at how playoff compensation works for the 2013 league year.
- Wild-card game (division winners): $23,000
- Wild-card game (non-division winners: $21,000
- Divisional playoff game: $23,000
- Conference championship game: $42,000
- Super Bowl winning team: $92,000
- Super Bowl losing Team: $46,000
Most players take a significant paycut in the playoffs because their salaries have no bearing on what they make in the postseason. Players typically receive their entire salary over the course of the 17-week regular season. For example, Peyton Manning made almost $900,000 per week during the regular season from his $15 million base salary but will receive $23,000 for the Denver Broncos' divisional playoff game, just like the rest of his teammates.
Players on teams with wild-card-round byes (Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks) are essentially working for free for the week since they will not receive payment. The additional rest and home advantage in the Divisional Playoff round are supposed to make up for the lack of money.
The maximum a player can earn in the 2013 season playoffs is $180,000 but the Super Bowl winner would have to be a division winner that participated in Wild Card Weekend (Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles). Their effective weekly pay during the playoffs would be $36,000 when the week off between the Conference Championships and Super Bowl is factored into the equation. This amount equates to a $612,000 salary for the 17-week regular season, which is less than the $630,000 league minimum for players with three years of service. The maximum a player can earn if he is from a team with a first-round bye is $157,000. Payments during the playoffs must be made within 15 days after a game has been played.
For a player like Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a 2012 undrafted free agent, winning the Super Bowl would be more meaningful financially than to most of his teammates since he is only making his $480,000 league minimum salary this season. An additional $180,000 represents 37.5 percent of his 2013 salary.
The real financial reward for the playoffs can come for impending free agents who elevate their level play as the stage gets bigger. When the 2012 regular season ended, the Baltimore Ravens didn't have any incentive to increase the $16 million-per-year contract extension offer Joe Flacco rejected prior to the start of the season. His stellar playoff performance forced them to briefly make him the NFL's highest-paid player with a six-year, $120.6 million contract, including $52 million in guarantees.
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger also benefited from an impressive postseason with the Ravens. He capitalized on a career high nine regular season sacks and an additional 4.5 sacks in four playoff games by signing a five-year, $40.5 million contract (including $20 million guaranteed) with the Cleveland Browns. Players who could potentially change their salary fortunes in the playoffs this year include Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts), Tarell Brown (San Francisco 49ers) and B.J. Raji (Green Bay Packers).
Players on the 53-man roster and injured reserve at game time receive payment for wild card and divisional playoff games. Payment eligibility is more complicated for the conference championships and Super Bowl. The payment requirements for these two playoff rounds are outlined below.
1. Players on the 53-man roster when the game is played who have been on the roster for at least three previous games (regular season or playoffs).
2. Veterans (at least one year of service) put on injured reserve during the regular season who are still under contract when the game is played.
3. Vested veterans (four or more years of service) put on injured reserve during the pre-season who are still under contract when the game is played.
4. Players who aren't on the 53-man roster at game time that spent at least eight games on the roster (regular season or playoffs) provided they're not under contract to another team in the same conference.
The final category gives Nnamdi Asomugha a reason to root for the San Francisco 49ers. Since he was on San Francisco's roster for eight games, he will make $134,000 if they win the Super Bowl. Brandon Jacobs was in the same situation last year. He made $84,000 from the 49ers advancing to Super Bowl XLVII.
1. Players on the 53-man roster when the game is played who have been on the roster for less than three previous games (regular season or playoffs).
2. First-year players put on injured reserve during the regular season that are still under contract when the game is played and signed a player contract or practice squad contract in a prior season.
3. Non-vested veterans (one to three years of service) put on injured reserve during the preseason who are still under contract when the game is played.
4. Players who aren't on the 53-man roster at game time who spent between three and seven games on the roster (regular season or playoffs) provided they're not under contract to another team in the same conference.
When I was an agent, I had a client, David Gibson, receive payment from two different teams during the playoffs. He spent three games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 before being traded to the Indianapolis Colts where he became their starting strong safety. He made $110,500 in playoff pay. $12,500 of it was from the Colts' wild-card game and $98,000 came from the Buccaneers winning the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl.
There is one more category that receives a one-quarter share for conference championships and the Super Bowl: First-year players put on injured reserve during the preseason who are still under contract when the game is played. They also must have been on a team's practice squad for at least eight games in a prior season or received one or two game checks while on a team's 53-man roster or injured reserve in a prior year in order to qualify for payment.
Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Before his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott.
You can follow him on Twitter: @corryjoel
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org