NFL Rookie Contracts Explained: Proven Performance Escalator

The Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) rewards draft choices from later rounds for contributions that exceed their draft slot. The PPE is a part of all rookie contracts for any player selected in rounds 3-7. First- and second-round draft choices, along with undrafted free agents, do not qualify for the PPE (Art. 7, Sec. 4, (a-b), 28).

A player will receive an increase to his fourth-year P5 Salary (base) by reaching one of two qualifiers. The player has to participate in a minimum of 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive plays for either two of his three seasons or for a “cumulative average” of at least 35% of the offensive or defensive plays over the course of his first three years (Art. 7, Sec. 4, (c), 28).

Let’s assume a team offensive snap count of 1,000 plays a season, and let’s use Washington’s 2012 rookie running back Alfred Morris as an example. Morris touched the football 346 times in 2012 (335 rushes and 11 receptions). If Morris had not been on the field for any other snaps except those times had the football, 2012 would not have qualified as a season towards the PPE. Obviously, Morris was on the field for more than four plays that he did not carry the rock, so the season did count towards the first PPE escalator.

Football Outsiders credited Morris with 728 total snaps in 2012. Morris only would need 322 snaps in 2013 to earn the PPE through the second qualifier (three-year average). He could miss the entire season in 2014 and still reach the 1,050 threshold (for a team with 3,000 total players over the three years) to earn an escalated salary in 2015.

If a player qualifies for the PPE, he receives a non-negotiable escalation of his fourth-year P5 Salary of the amount equal to the Right of First Refusal tender for Restricted Free Agents subtracted by the player’s fourth year salary. This figure (excluding signing bonus) is added to the player’s fourth year P5 Salary (Sec. 4, (d), 28).

No portion of the PPE can be guaranteed for any type of termination. This increase in salary is not subject to the Total Rookie Compensation Pool, the Club’s Total Rookie Allocation Pool or the 25% Rule (Sec. 4, (e-f), 29).

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