Incentives in a player contract are limited to the list provided in Exhibits A-C in Article 13 Section 6 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement (pages 116-119).
Player incentives are considered “likely to be earned” (LTBE) or “not likely to be earned” (NLTBE) based on the player or team’s prior-year performance.
For example, if a player has a $500,000 incentive for accumulating 1,000-plus rush yards in the upcoming season and he had 1,000-plus rush yards the previous season, the incentive is considered LTBE. If he did not record 1,000-plus rush yards in the previous season, the incentive is considered NLTBE.
Except in certain circumstances, LTBE incentives count against the team’s salary cap in the current season, and NLTBE incentives do not count against a team’s current year’s cap.
Except in rare cases, unearned LTBE incentives are credited to the following season’s salary cap, while earned NLTBE incentives are charged against the following season’s salary cap.
As a quick example of this, Eagles TE Zach Ertz earns $100,000 each season he makes the Pro Bowl. He missed the Pro Bowl in 2016, so his incentive was NLTBE in 2017. Ertz has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons, so the incentive was LTBE in 2018 and 2019 and will also be in 2020.