Millions in NFL bonuses on the line in last two weeks

ByMichael Rothstein ESPN logo
Friday, December 30, 2022

Seattle Seahawks quarterbackGeno Smith's resurgence should set him up for a nice payday when his contract expires after this season, but in the meantime, the veteran has a chance to add millions to his current deal.

It's a long shot, but achieving the unexpected has defined this season for Smith, who wasn't even supposed to be the starter this year.

Smith's final total will be determined by how the Seahawks fare in their final two games, beginning Sunday vs. the New York Jets (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox) at Lumen Field.

Smith will make an extra $2 million if Seattle makes the playoffs -- ESPN's Football Power Index currently has the Seahawks' chance at 27.8% -- and if he plays more than 80% of the snaps this season, which should be a lock considering he has played every offensive snap.

If the Seahawks miss the playoffs, he'll make an extra $1 million as long as he plays 85% of Seattle's snaps. If he were somehow to fall below that number, he'd make $750,000 instead.

Smith already collected $500,000 by making the Pro Bowl and throwing at least 20 touchdowns -- he has 27 --and he'll make $1 million for topping 4,000 or more passing yards -- he has 3,886. If he falls short, he'll get $750,000.

Not a bad haul for Smith, who is on a one-year deal with a $1.26 million base salary, $500,000 signing bonus and $1.105 million in per-game bonuses ($35,000 per game while he's on the 53-man roster and $30,000 for every game he's active).

And he's not the only quarterback expected to cash in because of unusual circumstances.

Bonus information is supplied by Roster Management System.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo: He earned significant bonus money despite the fact he didn't become a starter until afterTrey Lance's Week 2 injury.

Garoppolo was contracted to earn $250,000 for every game he played in for more than 25% of the snaps in addition to an extra $100,000 per win. Garoppolo hit the 25% mark in 10 games, and the Niners went 7-3 in those contests, earning him an extra $3.2 million. Garoppolo suffered his own injury in Week 13, and might not return this season.

But if he does come back, Garoppolo can earn $500,000 if he plays 50% of the snaps in a playoff game, another $500,000 if he plays 50% or more in the NFC title game, another $500,000 if he meets that playing marker and the 49ers win the NFC title game, and $1 million if he plays at least 50% of the snaps in the Super Bowl.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton: He began the season backing up Jameis Winston. Since becoming the starter in Week 4, Dalton has played nearly every snap. At 68.15% of the snaps this season, he's on his way to making an extra $1 million ($500,000 if he plays at least 50% of the snaps and another $500,000 for reaching the 60% mark). Dalton signed a deal with a base salary of $1.98 million and a $1.02 million signing bonus in March.

Here are some other players who have more on the line than team success heading into the final two weeks of the regular season:

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: The favorite to win the MVP, per Caesars Sportsbook, will make an extra $1.25 million if he wins the award and another $1.25 million if the Chiefs win the AFC championship and he plays in 50% or more of the snaps in the AFC title game or 50% of the snaps in the regular season.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: If he plays 75% or more of the offensive snaps in the regular season -- he's at 99% -- and the Vikings win the Super Bowl, he'll earn $1 million. And he'll get an additional $1 million if he's the Super Bowl MVP.

Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster: He has earned $3 million in incentives due to his 74-catch, 877-yard, three-touchdown season. If he hits 900 yards, he'll pick up an extra $500,000.

Smith-Schuster could also pick up another $1.5 million if he plays 65% of Kansas City's snaps this season (and he already hit the making-the-playoffs marker of that incentive). With two games to go, Smith-Schuster has played 66.31% of the Chiefs' snaps.

Smith-Schuster can also earn $1 million if K.C. wins the AFC title game, based on various incentives, and another $1 million if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and his incentives are met.

Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark: He will earn $1 million as long as he plays at least 60% of the snaps -- he's at 64.19% . The other part of that incentive was K.C. making the playoffs.

Clark will get another $500,000 if gets 60% of the snaps and the Chiefs win the AFC -- and he plays 50% of the snaps in the AFC title game. If Kansas City wins the Super Bowl and he plays half the snaps in that game -- along with the 60% regular-season metric -- he'll make another $1 million.

Clark can also earn $2.5 million if he reaches eight sacks; he's at five.

Chiefs defensive end Carlos Dunlap: He is close to cashing in. If he plays at least 50% of the snaps -- he's at 48.21% -- he'll make $1 million.

Dunlap has four sacks, and he needs two more to make another $1 million on top of the play-time percentage. He's unlikely to reach nine or 11 sacks, which would have kicked in even more money. Another stipulation dealt with team improvement, but the Chiefs will cover that by allowing fewer net yards than last year.

Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones:He's already made his money -- earning $1.25 million for surpassing 10 sacks. He has 12.

Denver Broncos edge rusher Randy Gregory: He's already made an extra $500,000 because he played more than 40% of the snaps in one game.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk: He changed the receiver market in the offseason when he signed a four-year, $72 million contract with $37 million guaranteed. Kirk is close to adding some more money, too. With 76 catches for 988 yards, Kirk is very close to an extra seven figures in his paycheck.

If Kirk hits 80 receptions, he'll get $500,000. If he reaches 90 catches, that'll add another $500,000, and if he were somehow to reach 100 catches, that'd be another $500,000.

It seems possible Kirk, who has caught six or more passes in eight of 15 games this season, could at least get to 90 receptions. Kirk will also receive $500,000 if he hits 1,000 yards, another $500,000 if he gets to 1,100 yards, and another $500,000 still if he hits 1,200 yards.

Kirk has games left against Houston and Tennessee. Against those opponents earlier this season, he combined for nine catches for 69 yards.

Kirk said he told his agent not to keep him updated on how close he's getting to his incentives.

"I'd rather find out at the end, you know?" he said. "The hard thing is you go into a game and it's like, 'Hey, you need six catches,' it's like, OK, I can only control what I can control.

"I'm not going to go begging, you know, especially if the game's on the line and we're trying to win it."

Jaguars tight end Evan Engram: With 68 catches for 723 yards, he already has made an extra $600,000 for surpassing 700 yards. If he reaches 80 catches or 800 yards, that number will jump to $800,000.

Engram also said he doesn't keep track of his bonuses.

"We're in a situation where we're trying to [make the playoffs], so I can only see that really manifesting itself in like a situation where you're going to be done soon," he said.

Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell: He has 5.5 sacks, already earning him $500,000. If he gets to eight sacks, that number will jump to $1 million. If he plays 60% of the snaps, he'll make $500,000 -- a number that jumps to $1 million if he hits 70%. Campbell, who missed Saturday's game against Atlanta, has played 54.13% of the snaps.

Ravens edge rusher Justin Houston: He has nine sacks, meaning he's already made an extra $1 million. If he gets to 10 sacks, that'll jump to $1.5 million. By not making the Pro Bowl, he missed out on $500,000.

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson: He has played in 98% of the snaps this season. As long as he finishes over 75% for the year, he'll make an extra $330,000, because the Vikings made the playoffs to satisfy the other part of the incentive. That'll jump to $666,000 if Minnesota wins a divisional-round game and it'll be $1 million if the Vikings win the NFC championship.

Tough breaks: Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox lost out on $1 million because he didn't make the Pro Bowl. Cox has 39 tackles and six sacks. He's been a Pro Bowler six times but not since the 2020 season.

Chicago Bears offensive lineman Riley Reiff, who could have earned up to $9 million in incentives, seems unlikely to hit any of them. The bonuses, however, were considered not likely to be earned. While the Bears improved in scoring, which was one of the demarcated areas, he just didn't play enough. He would have hit the first marker -- an extra $1 million -- by playing 65% of snaps. With two games to go, Reiff has played in 47.26% of Chicago's offensive snaps (440 plays).

ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco and Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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