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Salary Cap Nuggets - No. 8C : 3rd to 7th round draft picks and the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE)

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This series is called Salary Cap Nuggets because ‘nuggets’ is such an interesting word in English. It calls to mind chicken nuggets - tasty, bite sized and easy to eat. But it also calls to mind gold nuggets - small, but valuable.
The salary cap is a product of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which is a 301-page contract between the NFL Owners and the NFL Players Association. In these articles, I try to explore just one or two small parts of the NFL salary cap defined in the massive CBA. Hence, Salary Cap Nuggets - small, bite-sized, easy to digest, yet valuable information for NFL fans.
The goal is to, one bite at a time, get a clear understanding of the salary cap.

Click this link for handy access to all the Salary Cap Nuggets

This nugget can be read as a stand-alone article, but it also provides detail for Nugget #8 - Rookie Contracts.

The information for this nugget, and all the nuggets in the “8 series” (8, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E) was sourced primarily from Chapter 8 of the book, Crunching Numbers.


Players selected in the draft between rounds three through seven will have a fixed and unalterable contract length of four years but also will be eligible for the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE).

The Proven Performance Escalator is a fourth-year salary escalator that can be earned by meeting certain playtime requirements. The PPE is earned by participating in either (a) 35% of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons or (b) 35% of all offensive or defensive snaps over the entire (cumulative) three-year period.

So, here’s what happens. If a player is drafted in rounds 3 through 7, and then plays either 35% of his team’s offensive/defensive snaps as outlined above, then his 4th year salary from his rookie contract is increased.

How much will the player get in Year 4?

The PPE is equal to the lowest restricted free agent tender that is in place for that season.

The PPE will cause the player’s P5 base salary to escalate to the RFA tender amount minus any yearly bonuses or incentives.

So, the lowest RFA tender amount minus the bonuses and incentives written into the player’s contract. Got it.

Hypothetical Example

  • If the 2016 low RFA tender is equal to $1.671 million; and
  • that player’s fourth year contract contains a P5 base salary of $675,000 and
  • a roster bonus of $100,000,
  • then, the player’s new P5 base salary will be $1.571 million (RFA of $1.671m - $100k bonus)
  • while the $100,000 roster bonus remains in place.
  • Note that Prorated bonus money is not used for the calculation.

Other notes from Crunching Numbers:

  • It’s important to note that kickers and punters are not eligible for the PPE.
  • Unlike the fifth-year options, the PPE is not and cannot be guaranteed, which will likely cause many teams to restructure the contracts of players who earn the PPE. In the prior CBA, many contracts contained individually negotiated provisions that were essentially the same as the current PPE. Often those players would be asked to take pay cuts once the escalator was earned if they wanted to remain on the team.

Real world examples

Qualifying for the PPE

Here’s a partial list of players qualifying for the 2019 PPE. No current Redskins from the 2016 draft qualify for the ‘19 PPE.

There are two ways to qualify for the PPE, which is based on snaps played in the first three years of the contract. To qualify, a player mus participate in:

a. 35% of a team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons

Note that Nick Kwiatkoski of the Bears and Ryan Smith of the Bucs qualified only under this criterion.

(b) 35% of all offensive or defensive snaps over the entire (cumulative) three-year period

Note that Caleb Benenoch of the Bucs and Austin Blythe of the Rams qualified only under this criterion.

All the other players visible in the list below qualified under both criteria.

Here’s a full list of all players who earned the 2019 PPE. All of these players were drafted between the 3rd and 7th rounds of the 2016 draft.

Bears: RB Jordan Howard, LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Bengals: LB Nick Vigil

Broncos: G Connor McGovern, S Will Parks, S Justin Simmons

Browns: S Derrick Kindred, LB Joe Schobert

Buccaneers: G Caleb Benenoch, DE Carl Nassib, CB Ryan Smith

Chargers: LB Jatavis Brown

Chiefs: CB Kendall Fuller, WR Tyreek Hill, S Eric Murray, WR Demarcus Robinson

Colts: QB Jacoby Brissett, T Joe Haeg

Cowboys: CB Anthony Brown, DT Maliek Collins, QB Dak Prescott

Dolphins: RB Kenyan Drake

Eagles: CB Jalen Mills, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Falcons: LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Austin Hooper, G Wes Schweitzer

Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

Jets: LB Jordan Jenkins, CB Rashard Robinson, T Brandon Shell

Lions: C Graham Glasgow

Packers: LB Kyler Fackrell, DE Dean Lowry, LB Blake Martinez, LB Antonio Morrison

Patriots: G Joe Thuney, LB Elandon Roberts

Rams: G Austin Blythe, TE Tyler Higbee

Ravens: DE Matt Judon, OL Alex Lewis, CB Tavon Young

Saints: DT David Onyemata

Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave

Texans: DT D.J. Reader

Titans: S Kevin Byard, WR Tajae Sharpe

Two Redskins drafted in 2014 who qualified for the 2017 PPE

A number of the Redskins’ 2014 draft picks qualified for the PPE based on snap counts during their first 3 seasons. One of them — Morgan Moses — did not receive his PPE, because he signed a contract extension prior to the 2017 season when he would have received the PPE.

On the other hand, two other players from the ‘14 draft who qualified for the PPE actually did receive it:

  • Spencer Long, drafted in the 3rd round
  • Baushaud Breeland, drafted in the 4th round

Spencer Long salary history

Baushaud Breeland salary history

As you can see, Long’s P5 salary for 2017 was $10,000 less than Breeland’s because Long had a $10,000 workout bonus, which remained in place.

  • Obviously, the amount of the PPE in 2017 was $1.797m.
  • The amount of the 2019 PPE is $2,050,000.

2020 PPE Projections

You can see that Chase Roullier has already qualified for the 2020 PPE, no matter how many snaps he plays in 2019.

Also, at the moment, two other 2017 draft picks, Fabian Moreau and Montae Nicholson are averaging over 35% of defensive snaps, but they will need to either (a) average over 35% of the defensive snaps for the ‘19 season; (b) finish with a 3-year average of at least 35% of the team’s defensive snaps; or (c) both.

Other ‘Skins players drafted in 2017 have the chance to qualify under the second criterion if they play a high enough percentage of snaps in the ‘19 season to raise their 3-year average to at least 35%.