Surely, anyone who pays attention to ESPN or NFL Network coverage has heard the terms “base salary” or “game check.” In the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, this salary is referred to as Paragraph 5 (P5) Salary because its details are set forth in the fifth paragraph of the standard NFL player contract.
A player’s P5 salary is the base salary he receives for a given season. Players get “game checks” in equal weekly or bi-weekly installments during the 17 weeks of the regular season. These payments begin after the team’s first regular-season game.
When a player is suspended for one game and loses one game check, he is docked 1/17th of his P5 salary. Former Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was suspended for four games during the 2016 season. Playing on the franchise tag, those four games cost him $3.4M of his $14.6-million salary.
The NFL sets league-minimum salaries for P5s based on the number of Credited Seasons a player has played. Base salaries count against the cap during the season they are earned.
Example: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
If Kirk Cousins signs his $23,943,600 Exclusive franchise tag and plays on it in 2017, he would have the highest base salary of any player in the NFL and would receive weekly installments of $1.41 million.
NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (pg. 92 and 259)