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Terry McLaurin and Cole Holcomb are On-Track for CBA-Mandated Pay Raises

NFL: SEP 15 Cowboys at Redskins Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Financial Rewards

If things for Terry McLaurin and Cole Holcomb stay much as they were in 2019, each player should qualify for a pay raise from $965,000 to more than $2.25 million in 2022 due to the PPE included in the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

PPE - many people nowadays immediately think of “Personal Protective Equipment” when they see these three letters grouped together, but in the Collective Bargaining Agreement of the NFL, PPE means Proven Performance Escalator. It is a mechanism created in the 2011 CBA to give drafted players in Rounds 3 to 7 who played a significant number of snaps in the first three years of their contracts a chance to earn a significant raise in the fourth (and final) year of their rookie deal.

Salary Cap Nuggets - 3rd to 7th round draft picks and the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE)

The PPE, as defined in the 2011 CBA, was based exclusively on percentage of offensive or defensive snaps played, giving a boost to 3-down players like quarterbacks and offensive linemen, while disadvantaging rotational players like defensive linemen or some running backs or receivers.

In the current CBA, adopted this off-season, the program was adjusted in at least three significant ways.

  • Part of the change was to introduce three tiers (labeled 1, 2, 3, with 3 being the highest) for the pay increases and the criteria for qualification.
  • Another change was to add second-round draft picks to the system.
  • A third change added selection to the Pro-Bowl to the qualifications for the PPE.

4th year pay for players who hit the PPE

Level 1 Raise = RFA Original Round Tender Amount

Level 2 Raise = RFA Original Round Tender Amount + $250K

Level 3 Raise = RFA Second Round Tender Amount

Qualifying for the PPE

Level 1 This is an either/or qualifier:

  • 60% of snaps in 2 of 3 first seasons, or
  • a cumulative average of 60% over the first 3 seasons

Level 2 55% of snaps in each of first 3 seasons

Level 3 Selected to one or more Pro Bowls on the original ballot in any of his first three seasons

I first learned about the PPE system by reading articles on the OverTheCap website a few years ago, and I was alerted to the details of the changes in the system in the same way. In a recent article on these changes, OTC shared a few complaints about the updated program:

The Level Three breakdown highlights a few complaints I have with the new PPEs. First and foremost, allowing millions of salary dollars to be dictated by a completely arbitrary, fan-vote-based Pro Bowl is just asinine. Why any player’s union in any sport ever agrees to constructs like that I will never know. Secondly and more importantly, snap counts are not created equal for all positions. Positions like QB, OL, and S routinely play upwards of 95% of snaps in a game/season. On the other hand, RBs and DTs like Dalvin Cook and Kawann Short rarely play 60% of snaps in a game/season. All positions are subject to the same snap thresholds to qualify for these PPEs even though all positions are not utilized the same. Long story short… if you’re a nose tackle playing for a small market team, or a team that struggles in the W/L column even though you are balling individually, good luck qualifying for a PPE.

A current example - Chase Roullier

To the best of my knowledge, the last Redskins player to earn the PPE was Chase Roullier, who took over as the starting Center in the middle of his rookie season, and qualified for the “old” program, averaging 45% of the offensive snaps as a rookie and 99.9% as a second-year player in 2018, then adding a 2019 season in which he was the full time starter.

He earned his PPE under the single-tier structure of the 2011 CBA, and will see the increase in his paychecks this year. Here’s a look at how his salary spiked this season as a result of earning the PPE:

Salary information from OverTheCap

McLaurin and Holcomb are currently on track for the PPE in 2022

The only way to earn the top-tier (3) is to go to the Pro Bowl; theoretically, any drafted player has that opportunity in any given season.

But qualification for Levels One and Two is purely quantitative, and, in their rookies seasons, both Terry McLaurin and Cole Holcomb passed the 60% of snaps threshold for qualification. According to OTC, McLaurin was on the field for a hefty 81.6% of the Redskins offensive snaps, setting himself up nicely to qualify for the PPE by the end of the 2021 season. Holcomb saw 63.3% of the defensive snaps for the Redskins as a rookie, and with the switch to a base 4-3 defense, it is likely that he will become an even more integral part of the team’s defensive plan in the next two years. This means that both are on track to qualify for the larger Tier 2 PPE.

McLaurin was paid a very thrifty $450K base salary (plus a $1m signing bonus) as a rookie, and is slated to earn $965K in 2022, when the PPE could potentially replace his contracted pay.

Holcomb was paid a much more modest signing bonus of $234.9K, but is also scheduled to earn $965K in 2022.

How much will they get paid?

It’s impossible to know with certainty what the amount of the RFA tenders will be in 2022, since they are linked to movements in the salary cap, but with the CBA freshly signed, the calculation is clearly spelled out:

RFA Original Round Tender
The 2020 RFA = $2,025,000, increased by the percentage increase (if any) in the Salary Cap in the 2020 League Year over the 2019 League Year.

RFA Second Round Tender
$3,095,000, increased by the per-centage increase (if any) in the Salary Cap in the 2020 League Year over the 2019 League Year.

For subsequent years, increases to the RFA tender amounts are linked to changes in the league salary cap amount.

At the moment, then, both McLaurin and Holcomb are on track to see their 2022 pay more than double to an amount well in excess of $2.25 million.

(Note: This final paragraph on Salary Cap impact was incorrect. PPE is counted towards salary cap.)

Salary Cap impact

One ‘nice’ feature of the PPE from the team’s standpoint is that it it treated as a Player Benefit, and the increase above contracted salary is not charged to the team’s salary cap, but is absorbed by the league’s “Player Benefits” portion of the Accounting System, meaning that there will be no change to the salary cap charge for the Redskins to reflect the pay increase if one or both of them (or anyone else on the roster) qualifies.