Playoff Payday: How Much Do NFL Players Get Paid for Playoff Games?

by | Jan 6, 2017 | Articles, The League, The Team

Ron Sachs via AP

Players for the 12 NFL teams that qualified for the postseason will have extra spending cash in the New Year. But for veteran players, the playoff paychecks are a pittance compared to regular season game checks.

Here’s the breakdown, round-by-round, for the 2016 NFL Postseason:

Wild Card Round:

$27,000 per player (Division Champion)

$24,000 per player (non-division champs)

(Example: The Giants play at the Packers on Sunday afternoon. The Packers are the division champs of the NFC North, so Packers players will get $27k; the Giants are the Wild Card entry and they get $24,000 for the same game.)

Divisional Round:

$27,000 per player

Conference Championship Game:

$49,000 per player

Super Bowl:

$107,000 (players on the winning team)

$53,000 (players on the losing team)

The Cowboys have the bye week, so they start their postseason play in the Divisional Round ($27,000 per player). If they go all the way to the Super Bowl and win, that’s an extra $183,000 for those 3 games combined (Divisional Round, Championship Game, and Super Bowl win).

Hey, sounds like good money…and it is. But in reality, for veterans, playoff paychecks are much smaller than regular season games.

Let’s use the Divisional Round as the example which is $27,000 per player, and compare it to the regular season.

The minimum NFL base salary for a rookie is $450,000. Dak Prescott’s base salary in 2016 was $450,000 (he also got a $383,393 signing bonus).

Take the rookie base salary and divide it by 17 to get to the weekly paycheck during the regular season (16 games, plus the bye week). $450k divided by 17 is $26,470.59. It is almost exactly the same amount as the Divisional Round check.

But let’s take an NFL veteran with 3 years experience. His minimum base salary is $675,000 which, divided by 17, is $39,705.88. He’s getting over $12,000 less to play in the Divisional Round than he makes weekly during the regular season.

A veteran with 10 years experience has a minimum base salary of $985,000 which is $57,941.17 weekly.

Matt Rourke via AP

That’s a pay cut of over $30,000 to play in the Divisional Round.

And what about top paid stars? Let’s use Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers as examples for the Wild Card weekend.

When they take the field on Sunday afternoon in Green Bay, Rodgers gets $27,000 (as the division winner) and Manning gets $24,000. Rodgers’ base salary for 2016 was $11.5 million (not including his prorated signing bonuses, etc.) which equates more than $676,000 per regular season game. Manning’s base salary was $17.5 million which, divided by 17 weeks, is $1,029,411.70 per game.

Ummm…that’s quite a bit more than the $24,000 he’ll get for Sunday’s Wild Card game.

Paul Sancya via AP

In fact, let’s take it one step further.

Manning and the Giants played the Packers in Green Bay earlier this season in Week 5. Manning attempted 35 passes in that game. If you take his paycheck for that week ($1.029 million) and divide it by the number of pass attempts, that’s $29,411.762. Manning got more money per pass attempt in Week 5 than he’ll make in Round 1 of the playoffs.

Nobody is crying for these players (except maybe their agents).

For those of us who aren’t professional athletes (or hedge fund managers), we’d love to make $24,000 or $27,000 this coming weekend. But the reality is that, unless you’re a rookie making the NFL minimum wage, you’re taking a significant pay cut to play in the first couple of rounds or the playoffs. That’s the strange economic reality of the NFL postseason.