Players are paid much differently in the playoffs than during the regular season. Most players take a significant pay cut in the playoffs because their salaries have no bearing on what they make in the postseason. 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 2014 league year.
Wild Card Round
Division Winners: $24,000
Wild Cards: $22,000
Divisional Playoff Game: $24,000
Conference Championship Game: $44,000
Winning Team: $97,000
Losing Team: $49,000
Players typically receive their entire salary over the course of the 17-week regular season. For example, Ndamukong Suh made $738,235 per week during the regular season from his $12.55 million base salary. He will receive $22,000 for the Detroit Lions’ Wild Card playoff game, just like third string quarterback Kellen Moore and the rest of his teammates. Wild Card playoff money is less than the weekly pay of a player making the $420,000 first-year player minimum salary ($24,706 per week).
Players on teams with Wild Card round byes (Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, 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 field advantage in the Divisional playoff round are supposed to make up for the lack of money.
$189,000 is the maximum a player can earn in the 2014 season’s playoffs, but the Super Bowl winner would have to be a division winner that participated in the Wild Card round (Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, or Pittsburgh Steelers). The most a player can earn if he is from a team with a first round bye is $165,000. Payments during the playoffs must be made within 15 days after a game has been played.
For a player like Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, winning the Super Bowl would be more meaningful financially than to most of his teammates since he is only making his $495,000 league minimum salary this season. The additional $165,000 would be one-third of his 2014 salary.
Players on the 53-man roster and injured reserve at game time receive payment for Wild Card and Divisional playoff games. Practice squad players don’t receive playoff money, but continue to get paid (minimum of $6,300 per week) during the weeks their respective teams are in the playoffs.
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 that 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 that are still under contract when the game is played.
3. Vested veterans (four or more years of service) put on injured reserve during the preseason that 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 Antoine Cason a chance of getting paid for being on two different teams during the season that made the playoffs. Cason played 12 games for the Carolina Panthers before he was released. Cason has been with the Baltimore Ravens since Week 15.
1. Players on the 53-man roster when the game is played that 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 that are still under contract when the game is played.
4. Players who aren’t on the 53-man roster at game time that 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.
Percy Harvin could be rooting for the Seahawks despite getting traded to the New York Jets in the middle of the season because of the last category. He will make $70,500 if the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl champions since he was on their roster for five games.
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 that 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.
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Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.