2020 NFL CBA Explained: Performance Incentives in Rookie Contracts

While veterans can agree to various incentives, rookie incentives are based on playing an agreed-upon amount of a team’s offensive or defensive plays. All incentives in Year 1 of a rookie contract are considered Likely To Be Earned (LTBE).

Rookie performance incentives rules differ by the round a player was drafted in. For first- and second-round picks, the minimum amount of playtime a player can be rewarded for is set at 35 percent in the initial contract year and 45 percent in any other year of the deal. For players drafted in the third round and later, along with players who go undrafted, the minimum playtime incentive is set at 15 percent for the first year and 30 percent for any subsequent years. Rookie incentives must be set for a specific playtime percentage (i.e., 40 percent of plays) and can’t be awarded based on improving in such percentage year over year.

These incentives can’t be guaranteed for skill, injury or cap and can only be based on playtime in the current league year. Earning or failing to earn an incentive cannot modify, nullify or create another incentive clause. Unearned incentives cannot be carried over into future seasons.

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