Every year, NFL players can earn a little extra money through the performance-based pay system. There is a standard performance-based system and an additional veteran’s pool. The difference between the two and generally how they are calculated is covered at the end of this post. This system benefits players who are performing well on the field, but because of a small contract dollar amount, are not getting paid as well as other players.
For this year’s distributions (combined performance-based and veteran's pool), Cowboys safety Xavier Woods received the fourth highest amount in the league at $615,755. He was tops among the Cowboys players.
Some other numbers for the Cowboys:
Chidobe Awuzie - $402,903
Michael Gallup – $380,891
Darian Thompson - $355,842
Jourdan Lewis - $333,474
Blake Jarwin – $322,269
Connor Williams - $255,912
Dorance Armstrong - $236,916
Dak Prescott - $234,019
Antwaun Woods - $202,746
Even players like Ezekiel Elliott got in on the cash as he banked $65,073.
The Cowboys player who earned the least under this system? Cooper Rush at $2,879.
Now, the bad news in all of this. The highest earner in the entire league on this list was a former Cowboys player.
Conerback Charvarius Ward, who now plays for Kansas City, earned $654,750. That would be the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Once upon a time, Ward was an UDFA signed by the Cowboys back in 2018. The Cowboys gave him a three-year, $1.71 million contract and he spent that year’s training camp battling for a roster spot.
In late August of that year, the Cowboys needed some offensive line depth and traded him to the Chiefs for Parker Ehinger. Just over a week later, Ehinger suffered a knee injury and never played for the Cowboys.
Ward started all 16 regular-season games and the playoffs for the Chiefs as they won the Super Bowl. That trade definitely didn’t work out and with the cornerback issues the Cowboys will be facing once Byron Jones moves on, it would be nice to have Ward now.
A brief explanation of how the performance-based payments and veteran's pool payments follows.
Under the Performance-Based Pay program, a fund is created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. Players become eligible to receive a bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down. In general, players with higher playtime percentages and lower salaries benefit most from the pools.
Performance-Based Pay is computed by using a player index (“Index”). To produce the Index, a player’s regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player’s Index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his Performance-Based Pay.
The Veteran Pool is computed in a similar manner, with two significant modifications: 1) players with zero accrued seasons are not eligible to receive distributions, however, such players remain eligible to receive distributions under the Performance-Based Pay program; and 2) to calculate the eligible player’s Index, if the player’s full-season base salary is less than $1 million, an additional amount will be imputed so that the player’s base salary equals $1 million.