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The 49ers were in a generous mood last season. When a hamstring injury left cornerback Richard Sherman short of the required 90 percent defensive playtime to qualify for a $1 million incentive, the 49ers decided to pay him anyway. In March, Sherman received the $1 million as signing bonus although his actual playtime in 2019 was 87.3 percent. Teams don't make a habit of paying performance bonuses that aren't actually earned.

Performance bonuses can be divided into two basic categories: incentives and salary escalators. Both types of bonuses can be used to bridge the financial gap when there is a disagreement in a negotiation between a player's agent and the team on the player's value. Incentives are also a way for a player taking a pay cut to make back some or all of the money he is losing through the salary reduction.

Incentives are usually designed to be classified as not likely to be earned (NLTBE) so that they will not count against the salary cap when a deal is signed. Generally, any incentives with higher thresholds than the player or team's statistical performance in the prior season qualify as NLTBE. The most frequent categories for individual achievement are playtime or based on the player's primary function (i.e., rushing yards for a running back). Coupling an individual achievement with a team statistical performance also makes an incentive NLTBE. If earned, a team will incur a salary cap charge for most incentives after the playoffs end. Incentives are typically paid in February or March following the season in which they are earned.

Per game roster bonuses are treated as incentives under the salary cap even though they are calculated as a part of a contract's base value. Because of this treatment, they weren't given any consideration.

Incentives are preferable to escalators. Triggering an escalator doesn't necessarily mean that the player will make the increased salary. The escalated amount is rarely guaranteed so teams can still ask the player to take a pay cut or release him without incurring the financial obligation. Running back Todd Gurley won't get the $1 million increase of his 2023 salary from his 2018 performance because the Rams released him in March.

There are entirely too many performance bonuses in NFL contracts to recognize them all. Here's a look at 2020 performance bonuses for 20 noteworthy players.

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady

Maximum: $4.5 million
Expected bonus: $1.625 million

Brady ended his 20-year tenure with the Patriots by signing a fully-guaranteed, two-year, $50 million contract with the Buccaneers worth a maximum of $59 million with incentives. The deal contains $2.25 million of annual incentives based on Tampa Bay's success provided Brady participates in least 75 percent of Tampa Bay's offensive plays (which he has) and another $2.25 million annually tied to how Brady performs.

With the requisite offensive playtime, Brady gets $500,000 for the Buccaneers making the playoffs. The amount increases by $250,000 to $750,000 for winning a wild-card playoff game where Brady plays a minimum of 75 percent of Tampa Bay's offensive snaps or a earning a first-round playoff bye. It becomes $1.25 million instead for winning a divisional round game and the same playtime requirement for that contest. There's another $500,000 for being NFC champions where Brady takes at least three-fourths of the offensive snaps in the game. If Tampa Bay wins the Super Bowl and Brady is on the field for 75 percent or more of the offensive plays during the game, he gets the entire $2.25 million.

Brady can make $562,500 each for ranking in the NFL's top five in passer rating, touchdown passes (or throwing for at least 25 touchdowns), passing yards, completion percentage or yards per pass attempt. He must throw a minimum of 224 passes to be eligible to earn any of these incentives.

Barring a late season collapse, the Buccaneers will make the playoffs. Brady already has 32 touchdown passes. He currently ranks fifth in the NFL with 3,886 passing yards.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: $1 million

When Russell Wilson became the NFL's first $35 million per year player in April 2019, a mechanism to increase his 2023 salary was also included in his four-year contract extension. Wilson's 2023 base salary increases based on his performance during the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons. Each Pro Bowl selection adds $250,000. Each time Wilson is named Super Bowl MVP is worth $500,000. The same goes for NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Every season in which Wilson completes at least 66 percent of his passes (minimum of 224 pass attempts), throws for 4,000 or more passing yards or has at least 36 touchdown passes adds $250,000 for each achievement.

Wilson was named to the Pro Bowl. He is completing 70.2 percent of his passes this season. Wilson has also thrown for 3,806 yards with 37 touchdowns. His $21 million 2023 base salary should become $22 million because of his performance this season.

Patriots QB Cam Newton

Maximum: $5.75 million
Expected bonus: $2.25 million

A lack of interest after Newton's release by the Panthers in March led him to sign a one-year deal with a base value of $1.75 million worth up to $7.5 million through incentives. Newton has $2.25 million of incentives tied solely to his offensive playtime beginning with $250,000 for at least 13 percent. There's $250,000 each for eight other thresholds: 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent. Newton's offensive playtime for the season is 86.8 percent.

An additional $1.5 million in playtime is tied to New England making the playoffs, which is a moot point. At least 50 percent offensive playtime would have earned Newton $250,000. Reaching 60 percent meant a total of $500,000. It was $500,000 apiece for the 70 percent and 80 percent marks. Each playoff win where Newton played at least 50 percent of the game was worth $250,000.

Newton has a $500,000 incentive for the Pro Bowl, which he did not make. Another $500,000 is for first or second team All-NFL.

Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: None

Cousins' $2 million of incentives for 2020 from his 2018 contract carried over to the two-year, $66 million extension he signed in March. He has an incentive worth $500,000 for the Vikings winning the Super Bowl this season. It's $2 million instead for a combination of winning the Super Bowl, a top eight ranking in points scored and Cousins being named Super Bowl MVP. The incentives also require Cousins to take a minimum of 75 percent of Minnesota's offensive snaps. It's going to take a miracle for the Vikings to make the playoffs.

Cowboys QB Andy Dalton

Maximum: $4 million
Expected bonus: $1 million

Dalton quickly signed a one-year deal for $3 million with an additional $4 million in incentives to back up Dak Prescott once the Bengals released him after late April's NFL Draft. Prescott's season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 has given Dalton extensive playing time.

Dalton gets $1 million for taking at least 50 percent of Dallas' offensive snaps. He's at 47 percent heading into the final two games of the season. Making any of the other $3 million is a long shot because it's based on Dallas' playoff success. With a minimum of 35 percent participation on offense during the regular season and 50 percent in the appropriate playoff game, Dalton gets $500,000 for a wild-card win, another $500,000 for a divisional-round win, an additional $750,000 for being NFC champions and an extra $1.25 million for winning the Super Bowl.

Raiders QB Marcus Mariota

Maximum: $17.9 million
Expected bonus: $1.65 million

Mariota's signed a two-year, $17.6 million deal worth a maximum of $47.5 million through incentives and salary escalators. He has an incentive paying $200,000 for every game in which he plays at least 60 percent of the Raiders' offensive plays where there's an additional $125,000 in a Las Vegas win over a maximum of 12 games. Every game in which Mariota hits the 60 percent playtime mark raises his 2021 base salary by $625,000.

There are $2 million of playoffs incentives tied to Mariota's postseason playtime. Mariota gets $250,000 for each playoff game in which his offensive playtime is 50 percent or above. A Super Bowl win is worth an additional $1 million. Mariota's 2021 base salary also increases by the amount of playoff incentives earned.

Mariota saw his first action of the season in Las Vegas' last game because of starting quarterback Derek Carr's groin injury. He took 86 percent of the offensive snaps in the loss to the Chargers. Mariota should get his first start against the Dolphins on Saturday. Carr is expected to be out for 10 to 14 days, which could make him available for the season finale against the Broncos.

If Carr comes back for the Broncos game, Mariota's base salary should increase from $10 million to $11.25 million. The Raiders' playoff chances are remote after losing four of the last five games.

Texans RB David Johnson

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: None

The three-year, $39 million extension Johnson signed with the Cardinals in 2018 is worth up to $45 million with incentives. The extension years have $2 million of annual incentives. Johnson has a laundry list of performance milestones where he earns $375,000 for each of the first two that are reached. The specific milestones are 1,700 yards from scrimmage, 1,800 yards from scrimmage, 15 offensive touchdowns, 17 offensive touchdowns and 1,300 rushing yards. The amount earned doubles for making the playoffs that season. The other $500,000 comes from having a minimum of 2,000 yards from scrimmage, winning the AP's NFL Offensive Player of the Year award or being the AP's MVP.

Johnson's offseason trade to the Texans hasn't resurrected his career. His last highly productive season was in 2016 when he led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. Johnson has 746 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns this season.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs

Maximum: $2,208,333
Expected bonus: $2,208,333

The Bills tweaked Diggs' contract during the early part of training camp. His 2020 compensation increased by $3.3 million from $11.4 million to $14.7 million. His 2021, 2022 and 2023 compensation decreased by $316,666, $1.425 million and $1.45 million, respectively. Diggs' 2021 salary guarantees increased by $7.7 million in the process. There was also a slight modification to the base salary escalators already in the contract.

Diggs needed to hit 100 catches or 1,375 receiving yards for his 2021, 2022 and 2023 base salaries to increase by $658,333, $750,000 and $800,000. He is leading the NFL with 111 receptions. Diggs is third with 1,314 receiving yards.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett

Maximum: $2.4 million
Expected bonus: $2.2 million

Lockett has been overshadowed by D.K. Metcalf's emergence as one of the NFL's most dangerous receiving threats. Nonetheless, Lockett is on track for 97 receptions, 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns. He has maxed out his $500,000 catches incentive because he has 85 receptions. Lockett's 920 receiving yards are worth $200,000, and 80 more receiving yards to hit 1,000 will earn him another $200,000. Lockett has made $200,000 for his eight touchdowns, and getting to 10 would add $100,000. Any incentives Lockett earns will also increase his 2021 base salary by the same amount. This means Lockett's 2021 base salary should be $10.9 million instead of $9.8 million.

Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown

Maximum: $1.5 million
Expected bonus: None

Brown signed a contract with a base value of $1 million ($750,000 in base salary and $31,250 for each game on the active roster) worth up to $2.5 million through incentives for the remainder of the season after missing the first eight games serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He gets 250,000 each for hitting 45 receptions, 650 receiving yards and six touchdown catches if the Buccaneers make the playoffs. There's an additional $750,000 for playing at least 35 percent of the offensive snaps during the season with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl.

Brown is on pace for 40 catches, 413 receiving yards and one touchdown for eight games. His offensive playtime for the season after playing in six games is 23.8 percent.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

Maximum: $1 million
Expected bonus: $250,000

The future Hall of Famer has taken a backseat in the passing game to Cardinals newcomer DeAndre Hopkins during his 17th NFL season. Fitzgerald has already earned $250,000 for reaching 23 catches this season. There's also $250,000 each for hitting 76 receptions, 805 receiving yards and five touchdown receptions.  Fitzgerald has 48 catches, 381 receiving yards and one touchdown with two games left in the season.

Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins

Maximum: $7 million
Expected bonus: None

Watkins was scheduled to make $14 million in 2020 before agreeing to cut his salary to $9 million with the ability to make a total of $16 million because of incentives. Watkins makes $500,000 with 71 percent or more offensive playtime or six touchdowns scored. Hitting 75 percent playtime or seven touchdowns is worth an additional $500,000. Kansas City getting to the playoffs with Watkins catching a minimum of 65 passes earns him $750,000. Reaching 800 receiving yards and scoring at least eight touchdowns are also worth $750,000 each. It's $1.25 million for each of those same three thresholds if the Chiefs get back to the Super Bowl and Watkins takes at least 50 percent of the offensive snaps in the AFC Championship Game. Calf and hamstring injuries have cost Watkins five games this season and any chance at any of his incentive money.

Buccaneers DT Ndamukong Suh

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: $750,000

Suh returned to the Buccaneers for a second year on a one-year, $8 million deal with $2 million of incentives. If Suh participates in at least 65 percent of Tampa Bay's defensive plays, he gets $250,000 with the defense ranking in the NFL's top 10 in yards allowed. A top five ranking is worth another $500,000. The defense ranking in the top 10 in points allowed with the same playtime requirement earns Suh $250,000. Suh gets an additional $500,000 if Tampa Bay is in the top five. There's also $500,000 for Tampa Bay making the playoffs and Suh being on the 53-man roster for at least one postseason game provided he has the requisite regular season playtime. The playtime requirement shouldn't be an issue as Suh is at 74.2 percent right now. Tampa Bay is currently sixth in yards allowed and 12th in points surrendered.

Titans OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: None

Clowney couldn't find any takers in free agency at his original asking price, which was reportedly over $20 million per year, because of a lack of sacks and a core muscle injury that required surgery. He eventually signed a one-year deal for $13 million (worth up to $15 million through incentives) with the Titans shortly before the start of the regular season.

Clowney has a $250,000 incentive for six sacks. The amount increases to $500,000 with eight sacks. Ten or more sacks is worth $1 million. There's $750,000 in playtime incentives. Clowney gets $250,000 for reaching 60 percent defensive playtime. Hitting 75 percent is worth another $250,000. There's an additional $250,000 at the 75 percent threshold if the Titans make the playoffs. Clowney also has a $250,000 incentive for a Pro Bowl berth. 

Unfortunately for Clowney, he is on injured reserve because of a left knee injury. In the eight games Clowney has played, he doesn't have any sacks. His defensive playtime for the season is currently 43 percent.

Packers OLB Za'Darius Smith

Maximum: $1.25 million
Expected bonus: $1.25 million

Smith's $9.5 million 2021 base salary has increased $250,000 to $9.75 million for his selection to the Pro Bowl. Hitting 10 sacks added another $500,000. Smith needs to reach to 12 sacks for additional $500,000 to raise his 2021 base salary to $10.75 million. He is currently fourth in the NFL with 11.5 sacks.

Rams OLB Leonard Floyd

Maximum: $3.25 million
Expected bonus: $2 million

Floyd signed a one-year, $10 million deal (worth up to $13.25 million with incentives) after the Bears released him to avoid his $13.222 million fifth-year option for 2020 from becoming fully guaranteed. 2016's ninth overall pick earned $1 million when he got his fifth sack of the season. Floyd picked up another $1 million for reaching 7.5 sacks. Getting another 2.5 sacks to bring his total 10 would mean another $1.25 million.

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

Maximum: $2 million
Expected bonus: None

The Patriots reworked Gilmore's contract right before the regular season started, raising his 2020 base salary by $2.5 million, including $2.5 million in per game roster bonus ($156,250 for each game on the active roster) in his 2020 compensation and adding a $2 million incentive for being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), which Gilmore was in 2019. Gilmore's 2021 base salary decreased from $11.5 million to $7 million in the process. A $411,765 roster bonus contingent on a 17th game being played and Gilmore remaining on the 90-man roster for that game was also added to his 2021 compensation. Gilmore isn't going to repeat as NFL DPOY.

The Patriots have a $2 million salary cap charge for the incentive this year because Gilmore was DPOY last season. Since Gilmore won't win the award again this year, the Patriots will get a $2 million salary cap credit relating to the incentive after the playoffs end.

49ers CB Richard Sherman

Maximum: $4 million
Expected bonus: None

A calf injury suffered in the season opener that kept Sherman out of nine games derailed his chances of earning any of the remaining incentives in the three year deal with a base value of $27.15 million he negotiated without an agent in 2018. There's $1 million for 90 percent or more defensive playing time, $1 million with a Pro Bowl selection and an additional $2 million for being named first or second team All-NFL/All-Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly, the Pro Football Writers Association, Sporting News or Sports Illustrated.

Colts CB Xavier Rhodes

Maximum: $1.5 million
Expected bonus: $500,000

The Vikings released Rhodes in March to pick up $8.1 million of much needed cap room because of his regression last season. He called getting released a reality check. Rhodes signed a one-year, $3 million "prove it" deal (worth up to $4.5 million with incentives) with the Colts. Picking off three passes earns Rhodes $250,000. Getting to five interceptions is worth another $250,000. Playing at least 70 percent of the Colts defensive snaps gets Rhodes $250,000. It increases to 500,000 for reaching the 80 percent. Having at least 90 percent defensive playtime will bring this total to $750,000. There's also $250,000 for a Pro Bowl berth. Rhodes has two interceptions and 85.6 percent defensive playtime this season.

Saints S Malcolm Jenkins

Maximum: $1 million
Expected bonus: $1 million

The four-year, $32 million deal Jenkins signed with the Saints in March is worth a maximum of $36 million because of incentives. Each year, Jenkins has $500,000 for participating in at least 80 percent of the Saints' defensive plays and the amount doubles for making the NFC Championship game. Jenkins has taken 99 percent of the defensive snaps. The Saints are on track for the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC.