Wide receiver DeSean Jackson wasn't a Super Bowl winner when the Rams beat the Bengals last February to become NFL champions. He did get a $215,000 consolation prize because of the way money gets allocated during the postseason. Jackson was eligible for the money since he was with the Rams for eight games before being released.
Players are paid much differently in the playoffs than during the regular season. A majority of players take a sizable pay cut in the playoffs because their salaries have no bearing on what they make during the postseason. Playoff money comes from a league pool instead of from NFL teams. There is a specific amount for each playoff round where each eligible player gets paid the same.
Players will receive the following amounts for the 2022 season's playoffs:
- Wild card division winners: $46,500
- Other wild cards: $41,500
- Wild card byes: $41,500
- Divisional round: $46,500
- Conference championships: $69,000
- Super Bowl winner: $157,000
- Super Bowl loser: $82,000
Players earn their base salary over the course of the 18-week regular season. For example, injured Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson earned a little more than $1.275 million per week from his team-high $23.016 million base salary during the regular season. He made $41,500 for Baltimore's wild card playoff game loss to the Bengals as did Tyler Huntley -- who started in his place -- and the rest of their teammates. Huntley earned $49,722 each regular-season week. Postseason money for wild card and divisional playoff games isn't much more than the weekly earnings of a player making the $705,000, first-year minimum salary ($39,167 per week).
The maximum a player can make in this season's playoffs from his current team is $319,000. The Super Bowl winner would have to be a division winner that participated in the wild card round (Bengals, Bills, Buccaneers, 49ers Jaguars and Vikings). The most that can be made from being a member on other playoff participants is $314,000.
For a player like 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, who was the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, winning the Super Bowl would be more meaningful financially than to most of his teammates. Purdy is making $782,812 between his signing bonus and 2022 season base salary. An additional $319,000 would be a little more than 40% of Purdy's career earnings from his NFL player contract.
Players on the 53-man roster and injured reserve at game time receive payment for wild card and divisional playoff games. Practice squad players continue to get paid at their weekly rate for as long as their respective teams are in the playoffs.
That's $11,500 per week for most practice squad players. Longtime veterans make between $15,400 and $19,900 a week.
Teams are allowed to expand the 53-man roster to 54 or 55 players by elevating up to two practice squad players for each regular or postseason game. The elevated players get paid like the others on the 53-man roster and injured reserve for the first two playoff rounds. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has started 138 of the 144 regular-season games he has played, is collecting $46,500 for the 49ers beating the Seahawks to advance to the divisional playoffs instead of $15,400 because he was elevated for the game.
Payment eligibility is more complicated for the conference championships and Super Bowl. The payment requirements for these two playoff rounds are outlined below.
- Players on the 53-man roster when the game is played who have been on the roster for at least three previous games (regular season or playoffs).
- Veterans (at least one year of service) put on injured reserve during the regular season who are still under contract when the game is played.
- Vested veterans (four or more years of service) put on injured reserve during the preseason who are still under contract when the game is played.
- Players who aren't on the 53-man roster at game time who spent at least eight games on the roster (regular season or playoffs) provided they're not under contract to another team in the same conference.
Bills safety Damar Hamlin is among the players eligible for payment through the second category. He is on injured reserve while recovering from cardiac arrest after making a tackle in a Jan. 2 game against the Bengals.
Offensive guard Blake Hance and running back Jeff Wilson have a chance to receive payment from two different teams in the playoffs thanks to the final category. The 49ers dealt Wilson to the Dolphins, who lost to the Bills in a wild card game, at the Nov. 1 trade deadline. The Jaguars claimed Hance through waivers after he was released by the 49ers eight games into the season.
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence and edge rusher Kemoko Turay are in a unique position because of the last category. Both players are currently on San Francisco's practice squad. Spence and Turay spent eight and 12 games, respectively, on the 49ers' 53-man roster.
Each would make $19,900 more than San Francisco players on the 53-man roster for the final two playoff rounds because they would also get practice squad pay as long as they weren't elevated for either of those games. The same is true for Kevin Huber with the Bengals. He had been the Bengals punter since 2009 when he was released 13 weeks into the season and was subsequently signed to Cincinnati's practice squad. For example, Turay would get $88,900 for the NFC Championship Game provided he wasn't promoted to the 53-man roster while 49ers First Team All-Pros Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Trent Williams would each make $69,000.
- Players on the 53-man roster when the game is played who have been on the roster for less than three previous games (regular season or playoffs).
- First-year players put on injured reserve during the regular season who are still under contract when the game is played and signed a player contract or practice squad contract in a prior season.
- Non-vested veterans (one to three years of service) put on injured reserve during the preseason who are still under contract when the game is played.
- Players who aren't on the 53-man roster at game time who spent between three and seven games on the roster (regular season or playoffs) provided they're not under contract to another team in the same conference.
The most notable players eligible under these categories include cornerbacks Rashad Fenton and Xavier Rhodes. The Cowboys signed Rhodes to the practice squad during the final week of the regular season after the Bills released him. He had been on Buffalo's 53-man roster for seven games this season.
Felton was with the Chiefs for seven games and eight weeks before a trade to the Falcons. He stands to collect $113,000 if Kansas City wins the Super Bowl. Week 8 being a bye for the Chiefs will prevent Felton from receiving $226,000 instead with a Chiefs Super Bowl victory. He's one game short of qualifying for the full amount in the final two playoff rounds.
Running back Zack Moss isn't getting any playoff money for his seven games with the Bills regardless of how far they advance. He was traded to the Colts, who are also in the AFC.
There is one more category that receives a one-quarter share for conference championships and the Super Bowl: First-year players put on injured reserve during the preseason who are still under contract when the game is played. They also must have been on a team's practice squad for at least eight games in a prior season or received one or two game checks while on a team's 53-man roster or injured reserve in a prior year in order to qualify for payment.
Payments during the playoffs must be made within 15 days after a game has been played.
Individual playoff bonuses
NFL contracts occasionally contain performance bonuses, either incentives or salary escalators, for a player's or his team's performance in the playoffs. There are a few hanging in the balance for some prominent players this postseason.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will earn $1.25 million if Kansas City advances to the Super Bowl since his offensive playtime during the regular season was at least 50%. Teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster gets $1 million by playing at least 50% on offense in an AFC Championship Game win because he hit the 65-catch and 900-receiving-yards marks during the regular season. Doing the same in the Super Bowl is worth another $1 million to the wide receiver.
Chiefs edge rusher Frank Clark will be $500,000 richer with an AFC Championship Game win where he takes a minimum of 50% of Kansas City's defensive snaps in that game after fulfilling the needed 60% playtime during the regular season. A groin injury early in the regular-season finale ended any chance Clark had of collecting another $1 million with a Super Bowl win. Even if Clark's Super Bowl playtime hits the 50% mark, he won't have the requisite 65% or more defensive playtime during the regular season for this bonus. Clark's regular-season playtime was 62.46%.
Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo earned $500,000 for the 49ers making the playoffs since his offensive playtime for the season was still high enough (50% or more) despite him being sidelined after breaking his left foot against the Dolphins in Week 13. He has an incentive for $500,000 if his offensive playtime is 50% or above in the NFC Championship Game and $500,000 more with a win. Playing at least 50% in the Super Bowl is worth an additional $1 million. The 49ers reportedly are going to stick with Purdy at quarterback even if Garoppolo is able to return later in the playoffs.
A Cowboys Super Bowl win is worth $1 million to Dak Prescott. The quarterback must also take at least 50% of Dallas' offensive snaps in the Super Bowl to collect the incentive.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who was signed by the Cowboys late in the season, has $700,000 of incentives. He gets $100,000 for a wild card game win. It's $150,000 more for a win in the divisional playoffs. There's an additional $200,000 for an NFC Championship Game victory. A Super Bowl win is worth an extra $250,000. All of the incentives are also predicated on Hilton playing at least 30% on offense for that particular contest. Hilton earned $100,000 for the wild card win over the Buccaneers because his playtime was 36%.
The Eagles signed defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to nearly identical contracts during the middle of the season. By being on the field for a minimum of 30% of Philadelphia's defensive snaps over the last eight regular-season games, $125,000 is made for each playoff win while on the 53-man roster. Joseph and Suh's respective playtime for the eight games was 38% and 35.4%. The most the two players can make is $375,000 each because the Eagles had a wild card bye.