League shells out more than $109 million in final year of performance-based pay

The good news for NFL players?  The league has announced that more than $109 million was earned by players under the performance-based pay system in 2009.

The bad news?  The rules of the uncapped year provide for the performance-based pay system to be scuttled in 2010.

The system pays players based on a formula that specifically rewards those with low salaries who participate in a high amount of plays.  Whether the players perform well is irrelevant; the figures are driven by actually being on the field, in light of what the player already is due to earn.

As a result, low-round draft picks who become starters, like Vikings center John Sullivan, cleaned up in 2009, picking up an extra $397,555 to lead the league.  Twenty-two other players earned more than $250,000 in performance-based pay last season. 

For the life of the program, from 2002 through 2009, Jets and Falcons safety Erik Coleman earned the most of any player, at $837,654.  A total of 23 other players earned more than $650,000 over that same period.

In 2010, however, the valve has been shut off, which means that the total payout of $587 million since 2002 will get no larger until 2011 at the earliest, if the next labor deal resurrects the performance-based pay system.