- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an incentive to finish the regular season strong, both as a team and for at least a couple of individuals.
The Bucs, who host Carolina on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), can win the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and quarterback Tom Brady is one of many NFL players with bonuses and incentives tied into his contract, which means winning and losing won’t be confined to the field.
Brady needs the Buccaneers to have a better yards-per-rush average this year than last year — something Tampa Bay currently has at 4.35 yards per rush compared to 4.12 last season — to unlock some of his incentives. For others, he just needs to hit the mark for bonuses, according to Roster Management System, which provided all the incentive information for this story.
Brady’s 40 touchdown passes have eclipsed the 25 he needed to unlock a $562,500 bonus, but this bonus is contingent on the Bucs’ rushing yards.
He leads the NFL with 4,990 passing yards, and as long as he stays in the top five — Joe Burrow is fifth with 4,611 — he’ll hit another $562,500 incentive. Like the touchdown passes, this is tied to Tampa hitting those rushing totals.
Brady’s 66.9% completions is No. 13, and he’d need to get into the top five to hit a $562,500 bonus. That may be out of reach.
His 10.9 yards-per-completion average is No. 16, and he’d have to break into the top five to unlock a $562,500 bonus. No. 5 is at 11.9 yards-per-completion, so that also seems like an unlikely bonus to unlock.
Brady can earn $562,500 if he finishes in the top five in NFL passer rating. He is currently No. 8 at 100.5. Kirk Cousins sits in fifth at 101.3.
But even if he qualifies for all five of the $562,500 bonuses, the stipulation is he can only win four of them, and as long as Tampa Bay finishes the season above 4.12 yards per carry and not in the bottom five of the league, he’ll hit two of them.
Brady already has made $500,000 by playing in 75% of Tampa Bay’s snaps in the regular season and making the playoffs. If the Buccaneers win the wild-card round, that jumps to $750,000. It would increase to $1.25 million if the Bucs win in the divisional round, $1.75 million if they win the NFC championship, capping at $2.25 million if he repeats as Super Bowl champion.
One of Brady’s biggest competitors in the NFC and for most valuable player is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who also could see some extra money, and he might even do so by not playing in the regular-season finale against Detroit.
Rodgers will earn an extra $100,000 for each of these categories if he finishes in the top three of the NFL and the Packers hit one other stipulation: They have to improve as a team in touchdowns on returns and recoveries. It’s not clear if that is cumulative — the Packers have two returns this year and last year — or if it’s one individual category. If it’s one category, Green Bay has eclipsed this with two interception returns this season versus one last year. If the Packers as a team hit that stipulation, Rodgers will earn $100,000 if he is in the top three of each of the following:
Passer rating: He’s first at 111.1.
Completion percentage: He’s fourth at 68.6.
Interception percentage: He’s first at .8.
Yards per pass: He’s fifth at 7.8.
Touchdown passes: He’s tied for third with 35.
The two quarterbacks aren’t the only big-name players with money at stake. Players on almost every NFL team have possibilities; here are some of the more lucrative or interesting ones.
Arizona Cardinals receiver A.J. Green entered the season with a chance to earn $2.5 million through incentives, and with 50 catches for 825 yards and three touchdowns, along with the Cardinals making the playoffs and Green playing at least 50% of the snaps, he has already made $1.25 million in incentives.
He could make more money too, Sunday and in the playoffs. He would earn an extra $250,000 if he reaches 900 yards Sunday and another $250,000 if he hits 60 catches. Plus, if Arizona wins the NFC Championship Game and he plays at least 50% of the snaps in that game, he’ll earn another $250,000.
Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks will pick up $2 million since the Cardinals made the playoffs, and he eclipsed markers of 65% and 80% of playing time. He’ll enter Sunday having played 96.8% of Arizona’s defensive snaps. His fellow Cardinals linebacker, Markus Golden, already made $1 million because of his 11 sacks ($250,000 for six sacks, $250,000 for eight sacks and $500,000 for 10 sacks). If he picks up two sacks in the finale, he’ll add another $1 million.
Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. is a half-sack away from $1 million — with 4.5 sacks, he needs to reach five sacks to collect — and if he has a big game against New Orleans and reaches seven sacks, he would instead make $2 million.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Justin Houston could collect $2 million if he gets 1.5 sacks, plus the Ravens’ ranking improves from last year in interceptions, sacks or net yards allowed per rushing play.
Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell could have $1 million on the line Sunday. Currently at 55.2% of Baltimore’s snaps, if he finishes the season playing over 50%, he’ll make an extra $1.5 million — which should happen — or if he ends the season playing at least 55% of the Ravens’ snaps, that’ll bump to $2 million.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Haason Reddick has 11 sacks this season. If he picks up two more, he’ll earn $1 million. If that happens, it could cushion the blow of missing out on the Pro Bowl — and the $1 million that would have come with that.
If Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith plays in the finale, although nothing is on the line for the Packers, he has a chance to earn quite a bit more money. With nine sacks, he already has brought in $1.25 million. If he reaches 10 sacks, that will bump to $2 million, and if he were to hit 12 sacks, that would bump to $3.2 million. Likely unreachable, but if he were to hit 14 with five sacks, he’d see that bumped to $4.4 million.
Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Marvin Jones Jr., who is sitting at 66 catches, needs four receptions for $500,000 and 14 receptions for $1 million.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones has nine sacks. If he reaches 10, he’ll earn $1.25 million.
Los Angeles Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s potential of $3 million in incentives doesn’t start until the playoffs, where he’ll earn $500,000 if he plays and the team wins in the wild-card round. He’ll earn another $750,000 if he plays and the Rams win in the divisional round, and another $750,000 if he plays and Los Angeles wins the NFC championship. If Los Angeles reaches the Super Bowl, he’ll make $500,000 if he plays and the Rams lose or $1 million if he plays and the Rams win.
Miami cornerback Xavien Howard already made $1 million by making the Pro Bowl. Now, he can earn another $750,000 if he plays in 70% of Miami’s plays, another $750,000 if he plays 80% of snaps and $1 million if he finishes the season playing in at least 90% Miami’s snaps for a maximum of $2.5 million. So far, Howard has played in 928 of 1,022 of the Dolphins’ plays (90.8%).
He’s able to collect on the 70% or 80% snap count barrier only if the Dolphins finish the season having improved by NFL ranking from last season in either total net defensive yards allowed, net yards allowed per rushing play or net yards allowed per passing play. To make the $1 million tied to 90%, Miami must be improved from 2020 by NFL ranking in total net defensive yards allowed or net yards allowed per passing play.
Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski could make some money Sunday as well. With 48 catches, 665 yards and six touchdowns, if he gets to 55 catches, he’ll make $500,000, and if he reaches 750 yards, he’ll make another $500,000. If he hits nine touchdowns, he’ll add another $500,000 to that.
Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke made an extra $125,000 for every win in which he played at least 60% of the snaps. With the Football Team winning six games — all with him at quarterback — he’s already made $750,000 this year with the chance for another $125,000 on Sunday against the Giants. If it happens, that $875,000 will come close to doubling his base salary of $1 million for 2021.
Snap counts and playing time in this story were used from ESPN Stats & Information. Follow Stats and Info on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.
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