Dallas Cowboys

After an enriching regular season, few cash in during the NFL playoffs

Could Peyton Manning replace Jason Witten in ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth?
Could Peyton Manning replace Jason Witten in ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth? AP

Some businesses reward employees with salary bumps or other bonuses for a successful year’s work.

But for NFL players who reach the postseason, most take startling pay cuts along the path to the Super Bowl.

Aside from signing, roster and other bonuses, an NFL player’s yearly salary is doled out weekly from the first game of the season through the 17th, including their bye week. But when the playoffs roll around, players are no longer paid by their individual teams, but rather by the league through a designated postseason fund.

And every player on the 53-man active roster, from the starting quarterback to the backup kick returner, draws the same paycheck.

This season’s playoff payout is as follows:

▪ Wild-card round: division winners $27,000, wild-card teams $24,000.

▪ Divisional playoff games: $27,000.

▪ Conference championships: $49,000.

▪ Super Bowl: winners, $107,000; losers, $53,000.

That means the most any single player could earn through this season’s playoffs would be $210,000, and that would be anyone on a division-winning team that played in the wild-card round who went on to win the Super Bowl, the unlikely route last taken by the 2011 New York Giants.

While the money from any round would be a king’s ransom to the general workforce, consider that the NFL minimum salary this season is $450,000, or $26,470 per game. That’s the minimum. Look at the payroll for any NFL team and you’ll see those minimum guys wallowing at the bottom of the list.

For a player who was, say, a fourth-round rookie from Mississippi State, a win in the big game could add more than 46 percent to his year’s bottom line. But for players such as Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford, who each pulled in at least $1 million a week during the just completed regular season, even a month-long Super Bowl run represents losing a hefty chunk of their usual cabbage.

And, in an odd twist, yearly division winners with a first-round bye — the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs this season — get paid zilch for their “off” week. Not quite the selling point you’d imagine at the end of a bruising year.

Could that be why owners keep pushing for expanding the playoffs?