From $286 to $395K: NFL's smallest, biggest incentives

Some players can almost double their salary with money from the NFL bonus pool. Meanwhile Khalil Mack got .009 percent of his potential payout. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NFL players typically collect their paychecks Week 1 through 17 of the season.

But because of the performance-based pay program, a collectively bargained benefit, they've had a nice March bonus to look forward to since 2002.

This year, players -- including rookies -- will receive a total of $140,880,000 in performance-based pay, and each team received $4,402,500 to dole out.

Players receive bonuses based on how much their playing time is disproportionate to their salaries. In other words, players who don't make a lot, but play a lot, receive the largest checks.

For some, the amount is enough to buy a nice steak dinner and a movie. For others, it's enough to purchase a new house.

There's also a veteran performance-based compensation pool worth $48 million, or $1.5 million per team, that is awarded to players with one or more accrued seasons. Those bonuses this season topped out at $144,472.

Here's a look at some of the notable performance-based bonuses that were distributed (not including the veteran pool of cash).

MAKE MONEY, MONEY ($350K club)

Matt Skura, C, Ravens; bonus: $395,660

An undrafted free agent from Duke in 2016, Skura started and played every offensive snap, plus 17 percent of the snaps on special teams. And get this, if you include the bonus Skura earned from the veteran pool, his March check totals $533,558 -- that nearly doubles his 2018 salary.

Austin Blythe, G, Rams; bonus: $380,060

The Rams claimed Blythe off waivers from Indianapolis. He served as a backup for a season, then the seventh-round pick in 2016 earned a starting spot at right guard for the Super Bowl-bound team. Blythe's base salary last season was $630,000. A 60 percent bonus? Not bad.

Jesse Davis, G, Dolphins; bonus: $374,833

Davis' bonus is six times more than he earned in his first two seasons in the NFL combined ($61,200). An undrafted free agent in 2015, Davis bounced between the practice squads of the Seahawks, Jets and Dolphins before he was promoted to a full-time starter in 2017 and 2018. Last season Davis collected a cool $308,989 bonus.

Jayon Brown, LB, Tennessee; bonus: $373,575

A fifth-round pick in 2017, Brown is in the back-to-back $320,000-plus bonus club. Brown started nine games for the Titans but appeared in all 16. He had six sacks and an interception that he returned 22 yards for a touchdown.

Cory Littleton, LB, Rams; bonus: $371,379

An undrafted free agent in 2016, Littleton stepped into a starting role after the Rams traded veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants. Littleton led the Rams with 90 tackles. Littleton's base salary was $630,000.

Chase Roullier, C, Redskins; bonus: $358,849

A sixth-round pick from Wyoming in 2017, Roullier started 16 games this season after he started seven as a rookie.

Joe Thuney, G, Patriots; bonus: $352,578

Three seasons, and three large bonus checks for Thuney since he was selected in the third round in 2016. Thuney has started 48 games, and has been rewarded handsomely as he's collected a total of $954,404.


Andrew DePaola, LS, Raiders; bonus: $286.04

DePaola is the unlucky recipient of the smallest bonus this season and was unlucky to suffer a torn ACL in Week 1, which caused the long-snapper to miss the rest of the season.

Rees Odhiambo, OT, Cardinals; bonus: $310.64

Odhiambo played one snap on special teams and earned himself enough for dinner, dessert and a movie.

Chad Kelly, QB, Broncos; bonus: $354.25

Chad played one snap in 2018, and it resulted in a kneel-down. Well done.


Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers; bonus: $909.01

It was a rough season for Garoppolo, who underwent season-ending knee surgery after Week 3. The good news for the 49ers' franchise quarterback is he already signed a mega-contract worth up to $137.5 million over five seasons. So he won't have to make that $909 go too far.

Khalil Mack, OLB, Bears; bonus: $13,622

Mack signed a six-year, $141 million contract extension before the season that made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. So, while $13,622 might mean a lot to many, it's merely .0097 percent of Mack's potential earnings.


Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys; bonus: $264,186

Prescott was among the top 25 in bonuses the past two seasons, but fell just outside the elite bonus group this season. No need to feel bad for the former fourth-round pick; three years of bonuses have netted him an extra $931,136.