Most of the players on the winning team in Super Bowl 52 will make a $112,000 lump sum for their participation. Most of the losers will make $56,000, an even 50 percent of the winners’ shares. There’s more than a Lombardi Trophy at stake.
The collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA outlines specific dollar figures for the winning and losing teams in each playoff round. Game checks are the same size for both teams in the Divisional and Championship rounds, and they’re close in the Wild Card. The Super Bowl’s the only game with a really wide discrepancy and pay between the two teams. Here’s how playoff pay works under the CBA:
Playing in a Super Bowl is good work if you can get it. The median U.S. household income is about $59,000, and you’ll almost match that (before taxes) if you play in this game, even on the losing team. (The Super Bowl generates at least hundreds of millions of dollars, so it’s not like the players don’t deserve a massive cut.)
If a player gets traded or cut, he can get paid, too.
The notable example this year is Jimmy Garoppolo, the quarterback the Patriots traded to the 49ers at midseason. Garoppolo’s going to get the same payout the rest of the Patriots get, because of a clause in the CBA that protects players like him.
If a player was on a Super Bowl team’s roster for at least eight games and isn’t on another team in the same conference at the time of the Super Bowl, he gets the full share that all of his ex-teammates get. Because the 49ers are in the NFC, Garoppolo is eligible to get paid big, and he’ll make either $56,000 or $112,000.
(Paying out ex-members of a team who are in the same conference would create potential playoff conflicts of interest, which the NFL would absolutely not like.)
All of this language is in the CBA. Garoppolo isn’t getting paid because of anything specific to the contract he’d signed with the Patriots before they traded him.
Because of some income tax particulars, Garoppolo’s likely to take home more from the game than Tom Brady will. Garoppolo, in a way, has already won.
Not every player is guaranteed the max payout for his team.
Players only qualify for the full payouts listed in the CBA if they’ve been on their team’s active or inactive list for at least three previous games that season (regular or playoff). If a player’s been on the roster for less than that, he gets half the share.
There are a bunch of carve-outs for injured players. For instance, if a rookie gets hurt during the regular season and misses the Super Bowl on injured reserve, he gets half his team’s standard share. If the same happens to a veteran with four years in the league, he still gets the full share. And there are some other, more minute exceptions.
All of these terms apply to both conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The same restrictions don’t apply in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds.
Still, the Super Bowl means a huge chunk of pay, even relatively.
League minimum salaries vary by how long a player’s been in the NFL, and players don’t all make the same amount, so this calculation isn’t the same for everyone. Super Bowl money is less a big deal for Tom Brady ($22 million a year, not counting endorsements) than for some practice squad pickup who’s just catching on.
But, for example: The minimum salary for a player with between four and six years of NFL service time was $775,000 this season. Players in that boat can get up to a 14.5 percent raise if they’re on a team that reaches and wins the Super Bowl.
Winning a Super Bowl is a lot of motivation. But the money on the line makes the game a far bigger deal for the players than many realize.