The Proven Performance Escalator is intended to reward non-first-round draft picks for contributions that exceed the expectations of their draft status. The PPE is not considered “Rookie Salary” and is not subject to the 25 percent rule (more on that below).
Beginning with the 2018 draft class, players drafted in the second through seventh rounds are eligible to receive the Level One, Level Two or Level Three PPE. Those selected in the first round, as well as undrafted players, are not eligible for any PPE. Any player who qualifies for multiple levels of the PPE will receive the highest escalator but can’t receive more than one.
The PPE is now a three-level, non-negotiable amount in which a player’s base salary in the fourth year of his rookie contract increases if he meets certain predetermined thresholds.
The Level One PPE is structured differently for second-round picks and those selected in Rounds 3 through 7. In order to qualify for Level One, second-round picks must either (a) play 60 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays in any two of his first three seasons or (b) participate in a cumulative average of 60 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays over the course of his first three regular seasons. For third- through seventh-round picks, players can hit either (a) or (b) above, but the threshold to reach drops to 35 percent of such plays.
For such players, the Level One PPE increases a player’s fourth-year base salary by the difference of the original-round tender for restricted free agents set for the player’s fourth season and the player’s Year 4 rookie salary, less any signing bonus prorations. This amount is then added to the player’s Year 4 base salary. Let’s look at 49ers LB Fred Warner as an example. A third-round pick in 2018, Warner has played more than 95 percent of the 49ers‘ defensive plays in each of his first two seasons and is already eligible for the Level One PPE.
A player selected in the second through seventh round will qualify for the Level Two PPE if he participates in 55 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive plays in each of his first three regular seasons. The amount of the Level Two PPE is the difference of the original-round tender in the player’s fourth season and his Year 4 rookie salary (minus any signing bonus prorations), plus $250,000. This amount is then added to the player’s year-four base salary. For example: Warner, from above, will be eligible for the Level Two PPE if he plays in over 55 percent of the 49ers‘ defensive plays in 2020.
To qualify for the Level Three PPE, a second- through seventh-round pick must be selected to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot in at least one of his first three seasons. The Level Three PPE is equal to the difference between the second-round tender for restricted free agents and the player’s Year 4 rookie salary, less any signing bonus prorations. The player’s Year 4 base salary increases by this amount. For example, Colts LB Darius Leonard, a second-round pick in 2018, is eligible for the Level Three PPE because he was selected to the 2020 Pro Bowl on the original ballot.
Third- to seventh-round picks in the 2017 draft are eligible for the Level One PPE — an escalation to their 2020 base salary. Those selected in the first or second round and undrafted players are not eligible, as well as any player selected in any draft prior. The Level One PPE for the 2017 draft class will increase a player’s base salary by the difference between the right-of-first-refusal tender for restricted free agents and the player’s rookie salary in his fourth season, less any signing bonus prorations. As an example, Rams WR Cooper Kupp, a third-round pick in 2017, missed eight games in 2018 and failed to reach 60 percent of the Rams‘ snaps that season. However, he has played in over 60 percent of the Rams‘ offensive snaps in two of his first three seasons (2017 and 2019), and he is eligible for the Level One PPE in 2020.
Notable players who earned the PPE in 2020: George Kittle (49ers), Alvin Kamara (Saints), Kenny Golladay (Lions), Chris Godwin (Buccaneers), Aaron Jones (Packers), Chris Carson (Seahawks), Desmond King (Chargers), Cooper Kupp (Rams).