NFL contract incentive winners include Baker Mayfield, Jordan Love

ByMultiple contributors ESPN logo
Tuesday, January 9, 2024

There was a delayed dance, the promise of gifts and even a secret agreement with a head coach. The last week of the NFL's regular season featured storylines that weren't readily apparent to the casual viewer.

For instance, why did Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jadeveon Clowney delay celebrating his strip sack of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, and when the dancing began, why did it last so long?

"That was a very long celebration," Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce said. "That might have been a record for longest celebration."

Clowney had 750,000 reasons to get his dance on after he triggered a bonus for that amount when he passed 9.0 sacks. He didn't realize it at first, but the strip sack counted toward his total and gave him 9.5 on the season.

Some players say they aren't aware of their bonuses when they're on the field, but certain celebrations Sunday suggested that might not be entirely true.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon did the make-it-rain gesture after he scored his second touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. It was his 12th of the season (9 rushing, 3 receiving) and triggered a $350,000 bonus for 12 or more TDs.

Mixon could have made another $250,000 if he reached 1,100 rushing yards, but he fell 66 yards short.

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was another player whose celebration seemed excessive in the moment after he sacked the Los Angeles Chargers' Easton Stick with 4:11 left in the third quarter Sunday.

The Chiefs, who wrapped up the AFC West the previous week and were resting many of their starters, led the meaningless game 10-6 at the time, and the sack pushed the Chargers to the Chiefs' 25. Los Angeles converted a 43-yard field goal on the next play, but by that time, Jones' celebration spilled onto the sideline.

The sack gave Jones 10.5 on the season and triggered a $1.25 million incentive for topping 10.

"The whole [defensive line] gets a Rolex,'' Jones said after the game. "[Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] gets a Rolex, the coaches get a Rolex, because I think it takes a collective [effort] in order to reach those types of goals.''

If Jones has any money left after gifting the watches, he might want to buy one for head coach Andy Reid, considering Jones shouldn't have been in the game after the first quarter.

"I had to beg him for one more series,'' Jones said. "He gave me the finger like, 'One more and you're done.' So I went on the field praying to God like, 'Oh my God, please.'

"One quarter turned to two quarters. So thankful to Coach Reid that he allowed me to play.''

Reid knew what was at stake.

"He wanted the opportunity, so I gave him the opportunity to start off with third downs and then as it went on, he played a couple first and second downs," Reid said. "He wanted to get that done.

"That's a couple cheeseburgers right there.''

There were two quarterbacks who were going to make sure their receivers could afford a couple extra cheeseburgers. Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill wasn't going to let any playcall get in the way of helping receiver DeAndre Hopkins reach his $250,000 incentives for 75 catches, 1,050 yards and eight touchdowns.

Hopkins finished with 75 receptions and 1,057 yards for an extra $500,000. He had seven TDs, one short of another $250,000.

"I was very aware," Tannehill told reporters. "I thought that we were actually a couple of yards short, and I told him, 'Hey I'm going to get you this ball. I don't care what they call, I'm gonna get you this ball.'"

Once Tannehill learned Hopkins reached the marker, he didn't have to force it.

"Thankful that I didn't have to go rogue there, call a pass play at the end," he said. "I've got nothing to lose here. I'm out anyways [as a free agent], so what are they going to do?

"Thankful he was able to hit that. Obviously, wanted that for him and what he's meant for this team over the course of this year."

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff knew receiver Josh Reynolds needed 36 yards to reach 600 and trigger a $250,000 bonus. Reynolds had just 10 yards going into the final possession of the game. With Detroit leading 30-20, Goff threw four straight passes to Reynolds, who finished with 44 on the day and 608 on the season.

"It was important for us to try to get him that number to get him his incentives, and we were trying like hell all game to get it to him," Goff said. "It just wasn't quite connecting, and there at the end, kind of had to force it in some ways.

"And yeah, it was cool. It was fun to be a part of that and make sure he's well taken care of."

Goff also cashed in.By surpassing 4,500 yards -- he finished with 4,575 -- Goff earned an additional $325,000 escalator for 2024. He can earn another $945,000 escalator for 2024 if the Lions win the Super Bowl or if he is named Super Bowl MVP.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love took care of himself by guiding his team into the playoffs and triggering a group of escalators that could increase Love's base salary for the 2024 season by as much as $4 million, according to a source with access to the contract. If the Packers win a playoff game, he will get another $500,000 bump. A win in the NFC Championship Game would be worth another $1 million. Another $1 million would come with a Super Bowl win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield also triggered a bonus by leading his team into the playoffs. The Bucs' win over the Carolina Panthers earned them their third straight NFC South title, and Mayfield earned an extra $2.5 million for making the playoffs and hitting playing-time markers.He also earned $600,000 for being in the Top 10 in the NFL or in the Top 5 in the NFC in passing touchdowns and passing yards. He can also earn a $250,000 incentive for each playoff game he plays in.

Other quarterbacks who either reached incentives or are pursuing them include:

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills:He earns $1 million if they win the AFC championship and he plays 60% of the snaps. He also makes $2.5 million if they win the Super Bowl and he plays 60% of the snaps. He makes $1.5 million if he's named NFL MVP.

Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns: He was making $75,000 per win, which gave him $225,000, because his first win on Dec. 10 was before he signed the new deal. He didn't play in the season finale to rest for the playoffs, but the Browns converted the money he lost to a roster bonus, according to ESPN's Field Yates. That brings his current total to $300,000.

If the Browns win a wild-card game and Flacco plays, he'll make another $250,000, and he would add another $500,000 for playing in a divisional-round victory. Flacco would receive another $1 million for playing in an AFC title game win, and if the Browns win the Super Bowl and he plays, he'll make an additional $2 million.

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles: He will earn a $500,000 escalator in 2024 and 2025 if the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: His 2024 base salary will escalate by $1.25 million if the Chiefs win the Super Bowl and he plays at least 50% of the snaps

Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts, QB: He earned $2 million for playing 60% of the Colts' offensive snaps.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys, QB: Prescott will earn $1 million if the Cowboys both win the Super Bowl and he plays at least 50% of the snaps.

Here are some other notable players who either earned a bonus or came close:

Nelson Agholor, Ravens, WR: He came up 19 yards short of reaching his incentive. He needed 58 receiving yards to reach 400 yards and trigger a $250,000 incentive. He finished with five catches for 39 yards.

Calais Campbell, Atlanta Falcons, defensive tackle: Made $500,000 for finishing with more than five sacks (had 6.5) and another $500,000 for playing 63% of the team's defensive snaps. He missed out on an extra $500,000 for not reaching eight sacks.

Cairo Santos, Chicago Bears, kicker: He made $500,000 for converting more than 90% of his field goal attempts. He finished with a 92.1% success rate. His 35 field goals set a single-season franchise record.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos, wide receiver: He made $100,000 for reaching 10 touchdowns, but he would have made an extra $100,000 if the Broncos made the playoffs.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks, QB: Smith needed one more win -- or a Bears victory over Green Bay in Week 18 -- to set himself up for an extra $2 million. The three-year, $75 million contract he signed last March included an additional $30 million available via escalators, with $15 million apiece in 2024 and '25.

The only one that was within reach heading into the regular-season finale was a $2 million escalator that required the Seahawks to either win 10 games or make the playoffs, provided he played at least 80% of the offensive snaps. Smith cleared the playing-time threshold, but the Seahawks missed the playoffs when the Packers beat the Bears. Smith would have had to remain on Seattle's roster through March 17 to earn the $2 million escalator.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, WR: Thomas was eligible to earn $190,000 for each game on the Saints' active roster and $30,000 for each game he was active on game day. Thomas played in 10 games, earning $1.9 million for his active roster bonuses and $300,000 for game-day active roster bonuses. He went on IR on Nov. 21 and did not return.

Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks, linebacker: He made $750,000 for making the Pro Bowl on the initial ballot, and he would hit another $750,000 for being named a first-team All-Pro.

Contributing: ESPN reporters Ben Baby, Courtney Cronin, Rob Demovsky, Brady Henderson, Jamison Hensley, Jenna Laine, Jeff Legwold, Michael Rothstein, Adam Teicher, Katherine Terrell, Eric Woodyard

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