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What are the bonuses that an American football player can have thanks to his individual and team performance?

As one of the most popular forms of entertainment in North America, football is also one of the most lucrative sports in the world. The NFL’s biggest stars receive some of the biggest salaries in North American sports – in 2023, we witnessed a new name at the top of the tree as Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals became the league’s highest paid star with a staggering annual salary of $62.9 million. Although salaries of this magnitude are reserved for the league’s most effective players, the average NFL salary remains impressive at around $2.7 million.

However, player salaries are not a simple matter, with most contracts presenting a complex combination of sign-on fees, player bonuses and performance incentives. The amount a player can expect to earn is therefore highly dependent on their individual performances throughout the season, and ultimately, the success of their team. Let’s take a closer look at the bonuses that players can expect to receive through the course of the season!

Base Salaries and Guarantees

Before any bonuses are paid, every football player on a team’s roster will earn what is known as a base salary, which is divided up into installments for every game played. NFL base salaries will be divided into 18 installments for the 17 regular season games, with each payment called a game check. If for some reason a player is unavailable to play for a portion of the season, then they will lose out on the game checks for the games that they are unavailable to play in – unless they have a guarantee in their contract. These days, full guarantees are included in almost every NFL contract, ensuring players’ base salaries are covered in the event of injury during the season.

Signing Bonuses

Sign-up offers are a popular aspect of many industries across the world today – in Canada, some of the best online casinos offer sign up bonuses to incentivise players to use their platform to play their favourite games, whether that’s poker, blackjack or anything else in-between you can find them on Football teams also use bonuses to entice players to sign with them – signing bonuses are offered as part of a player’s initial contract, and are guaranteed regardless of the player’s performance.

These bonuses are often the largest a player will receive from their contract, with teams using them to impress the incoming player and generate excitement. When Lamar Jackson signed for the Baltimore Ravens in 2023, he received the highest signing bonus in NFL history – a massive sum of $72.5 million. Whilst sums of this size are reserved for the superstars of the league, most contracts will include some form of signing bonus.

Performance Incentives

When an NFL team signs a new player, their aim is to improve the overall quality of the team through the addition of a player with improved abilities. This means that a key aspect of player contracts is the inclusion of financial incentives based on individual performance. In a sport that is defined by its wealth of in-game stats, bonuses can be allocated to players for achieving certain statistical milestones. Quarterbacks can accrue bonuses based off their passing yards or touchdowns, whilst defensive players may be rewarded for successful tackles. Most players will also have a clause in their contract which entitles them to additional bonuses if they receive an individual accolade, like regular season MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. Performance incentives are an effective aspect of the contract for teams and players alike. By rewarding players for high quality performance, teams benefit in return – often playing deep into the playoffs.

Playoff Bonuses

If a team qualifies for the playoffs at the end of the season, many players will then qualify for additional bonuses due to the team’s success. Playoff bonuses vary depending on the player’s contract, with some players receiving a fee just for reaching the playoff stage of the competition. Often, players will receive bonuses for each playoff game that they win, with the amount increasing as the team progresses further into the final stages. For the league’s highest paid stars, playoff bonuses appear insignificant when compared to their regular season salaries. This is due to the fact that these high salaries are offered with the minimum expectation of a playoff berth. However, those with lower base salaries can see their earning jump quite significantly with a successful playoff journey.

Helping your team win the championship – whether that’s the world famous Super Bowl in the United States, or the Grey Cup in Canada – will lead to the largest playoff bonuses for players. For example, during the 2023 season, players from Super Bowl winners, the Kansas City Chiefs, received an additional bonus of 164,000 dollars. However, compared with significant signing bonuses, it is clear to see that often a player will earn most of their salary before the Super Bowl – even if they end up with a ring.

Pro Bowl Bonuses

While the bonuses above are the main ways players can expect to boost their salaries from playing football, participation in the Pro Bowl is an additional way that players can boost their income. The Pro Bowl, like the All-Star games held in the NBA and MLB, is a huge commercial event that is held a week before the Super Bowl, showcasing the best players from the NFL conferences. Players selected to perform in the Pro Bowl are guaranteed a healthy bonus – regardless of whether their conference team wins or loses in the game. In 2023, $88,000 was gifted to winning players, whilst those on the losing side still received a considerable sum of $44,000.

The pay structure of football players remains one of the most complex in world sports, with an abundance of clauses in player contracts related to both individual and team performance.  However, these performance related incentives are vital for the continued competitiveness of the game, ensuring that players continue to be motivated to play at their best. With contracts continuing to offer improved bonuses, American football will remain as competitive as ever!

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Priyanka Chaudhary
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