Every year the NFL gives every player a performance-based pay bonus using a complex formula that factors in both his salary and his playing time, with the biggest bonuses going to low-paid players who play a lot. This year, the leaders were a little-known Falcons defense and special teams player, and a very well-known Cowboys quarterback.
Falcons defensive back Brian Poole got the biggest payday of any player in the NFL, $371,873. Poole was an undrafted rookie making the league minimum, but he played more than 1,000 snaps between defense and special teams. Those are the players the performance-based pay pool is designed to reward.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had the next-biggest bonus, at $353,545. Prescott, of course, went from the fourth round of the draft to a 16-game starter, and his bonus was almost as big as his base salary of $450,000. Unlike most players who benefit from big performance-based bonuses, Prescott has also emerged as a star who can make more money in endorsements than he makes on the field, so the bonus isn’t quite as big a deal to him as it is to Poole, but it’s still a nice chunk of change.
Every team has a performance-based pay pool of just under $4 million, and the payments do not affect the team’s salary cap.