Here’s how much players earn during the NFL playoffs

 

By Paul Mueller

The National Football League is a cash cow. The average value of an NFL franchise rose to a record $4.47 billion in 2022 (+28% YoY), and as the league approaches $20 billion in annual revenue, it’s on pace to reach Commissioner Roger Goodell’s goal of $27 billion by 2027. With lucrative television contracts and record ratings inflating ad revenue, the NFL is poised to cash in yet again during these playoffs.

The players . . . not so much.

NFL players are generally paid weekly during the regular season with their annual salaries spread across 18 weeks. When the playoffs begin, these checks stop. Players participating in playoff games are compensated, but playoff checks are often drastically lower than regular season game checks.

Playoff compensation is broken down into four tiers—two for the Wild Card round, one for the Divisional Round and Conference Championship Round, and the last, of course, for the Super Bowl. To qualify for playoff compensation, a player must be on the team’s 53-man roster, active/inactive list or reserve/injured list.

According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), for the 2022/23 season, players on a team that won its division and hosted a Wild Card playoff game received $46,500. For a team that secured an at-large Wild Card berth or earned a first-round bye, each player received $41,500. For this weekend’s Divisional Round games, each player gets $46,500. Compensation increases for next weekend’s Conference Championship games, in which players will receive $69,000 each.

For the Super Bowl, players on the winning team will be paid $157,000, while each player on the losing team will earn a consolation check of $82,000.

For many players, these checks are drastically lower than their regular season compensation. Among the most extreme examples is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who, as one of the league’s highest-paid players, received a $2.5 million weekly salary during the season ($45 million annually). So the $46,000 check he receives for playing in this weekend’s Divisional Round against the Jacksonville Jaguars is a paltry 1.84 percent of his typical weekly check.

There likely won’t be any tears shed for Mahomes, who’s been cashing seven-figure checks each week for the last four-plus months. That same $46,000 check, however, represents about a 17 percent bump for a player making the league minimum of $705,000 annually, which is just over $39,000 per week.

Despite not cashing hefty playoff checks, the players still get their share. The current CBA stipulates that the players receive a minimum of 48% of all revenue, including revenue from television/broadcast deals, sponsorships, and local revenues. So the more money the league rakes in, the more the players make. And with the league signing media rights agreements with CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, and Amazon collectively worth about $110 billion over the next 11 years, the players at large are poised to earn roughly $54 billion over that period—a haul that wouldn’t be nearly as impressive without playoff revenue.

After all, the NFL dominates TV ratings, especially in January and February. In 2022, NFL games accounted for 82 of the Top 100 most-watched television broadcasts with Super Bowl LVI and the Conference Championship games leading up to it taking the top three spots and playoff games accounting for seven of the top 10 spots overall. Strong playoff viewership contributed heavily to the league’s 171.3 billion ad impressions in 2022, and with some 30-second ad spots in this year’s Super Bowl selling for a record $7 million, the NFL is prepared to cash in on the sport’s biggest spectacle once again.

Super Bowl LVII will be held on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, on Fox. Last year’s game averaged 112.3 million viewers, a 14 percent bump from the previous year. The record is 114.4 million viewers for the Patriots’ win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. With the NFL already setting playoff records in the Wild Card round in 2023, it would be no surprise if this year’s Super Bowl set yet another viewership record, breaking revenue records in the process.

Fast Company

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