NFL Players are entitled to extra compensation if their teams make it to the playoffs. Section 2 of Article 37 (NFL CBA) specifies the amount that playoff participants, as well as a long list of contingencies—which I will detail below—that compensate players who were on a playoff team’s roster at some point during the season.
Below is a chart of the payments players receive for advancing in playoffs from 2017-2020. (Players are paid within 15 of the date of the game, per Section 5 of Article 38).
(The 2011 CBA also shows the amounts that have been earned in the 2011 NFL Playoffs. They are equal to the amount in the 2012 Playoffs.)
As we can see from the table, the playoffs can definitely add a little width to a players’ pockets. Sure, team’s highest paid players won’t be making close to what they would during the regular season, but for many players, this boost in additional income made a pretty profound difference in their overall compensation for the season.
Section 3 and 4 concern the eligibility mentioned earlier. For the wild-card and divisional rounds, players who are on a team’s Active List, Inactive List, or Injured Reserve List are entitled to full playoff compensation for these games.
The first two rounds of the playoffs are pretty cut and dry in terms of payment to players. The formula for Conference Championship and Super Bowl income is much more complicated. Below is a summarized list of eligibility rules pertaining to full or partial payment of postseason pay. The definitions of (Letters correspond with letters in Section 4)
- Any player is currently on the team’s Active List or Inactive List and has been for at least three regular or postseason games in that League Year receives the full amount.
- A player of the same status, as stated above, who has been on either the team’s Active List or Inactive List for less than three regular or postseason games will be entitled to 50% of the individual player share.
- Any player who was on the team’s Active List or Inactive list for eight or more regular/postseason will get the full amount of individual player share, unless that player is under contract with an in-conference at the time of the game.
- A player of the same status, as stated above, but was only on the team’s Active or Inactive List for between “at least three and no more than seven” regular or postseason games will be paid 50% of the individual player share, as long as he was not signed with an in-conference team.
- A veteran player removed from the team’s Active List or Inactive List due to a regular season injury will receive the full compensation if he is still under contract with the club at the time of the game.
- A first-year player with the same parameters as 5 (above) will receive 50% of the individual player share.
- A veteran player who has completed four-years of credited service (under Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan) who is injured during the preseason and taken off of the Active or Inactive List as a result will get full payment if he is still under contract by the team participating in the game.
- A veteran player of the same status in 7 (above) but who has not completed four-years of credited service will receive 50% of the individual player share for the game played.
- A first-year player under the same parameters as 7 and 8 (above) will get 25% of individual player share as long as he has either been on the team’s practice squad for eight or more games or got a least one but no more than three game checks while on Active, Inactive, or IR list.
- Any player who has not signed an NFL Player Contract or NFL Practice Squad Contract during a prior League Year does not receive any postseason play.
So, per NFL rules, there are more players getting paychecks than there are wearing shoulder pads in the postseason. This seems reasonable giving that the players that have been a part of the roster during the season in question contributed something to the team. At the least, they provided another body for the team to practice with, and they should be entitled to some compensation for the team’s success.