If things for WR Terry McLaurin, LB Cole Holcomb and S Kam Curl stay much as they have been so far in their young careers, each player should qualify for a pay raise that would take them from earning around a million dollars in the final year of his rookie contract to earning $2.18 million or more.
PPE - many people nowadays immediately think of “Personal Protective Equipment” when they see these three letters grouped together -- but, in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of the NFL, PPE means Proven Performance Escalator. It is a mechanism to give drafted players in Rounds 2 to 7 who play a significant number of snaps in the first three years of their contracts a chance to earn a significant raise in the fourth (and final) year of their rookie deal.
The PPE, as defined in the old 2011 CBA, used to be based exclusively on percentage of offensive or defensive snaps played, giving a boost to 3-down players like quarterbacks and offensive linemen, while disadvantaging rotational players like defensive linemen or some running backs or receivers. Also, only 3rd to 7th round draft picks were eligible for PPE under the old CBA.
Under the current CBA, adopted in March 2020, the program was adjusted in at least three significant ways.
- Part of the change was to introduce three tiers (labeled 1, 2, 3, with 3 being the highest) for the pay increases and the criteria for qualification.
- Another change was to add second-round draft picks to the system.
- A third change added selection to the Pro-Bowl to the qualifications for the PPE.
Amount of 4th year pay for players who hit the PPE
The amount of the player’s salary under the PPE is defined by the value of Restricted Free Agent (RFA) tenders. The amounts change (increase) yearly, so the amounts for 2022 and 2023 are not known yet, but we can approximate them by looking at the tender amounts for 2021 and using them as a proxy.
2021 RFA tender amounts:
- First-Round Tender = $4,776,000
- Second-Round Tender = $3,384,000
- Original-Round Tender = $2,183,000
Level 1 Raise = RFA Original Round Tender Amount ($2,183,000)
Level 2 Raise = RFA Original Round Tender Amount + $250K (2,433,000)
Level 3 Raise = RFA Second Round Tender Amount ($3,384,000)
Qualifying for the PPE
Level 1 - This is an either/or qualifier:
- 60% of snaps in 2 of 3 first seasons,
- a cumulative average of 60% over the first 3 seasons
Level 2 - 55% of snaps in each of first 3 seasons
Level 3 - Selected to one or more Pro Bowls on the original ballot in any of his first three seasons
In an article posted on OverTheCap last year that discussed these changes, OTC shared a few complaints about the updated program:
The Level Three breakdown highlights a few complaints I have with the new PPEs. First and foremost, allowing millions of salary dollars to be dictated by a completely arbitrary, fan-vote-based Pro Bowl is just asinine. Why any player’s union in any sport ever agrees to constructs like that I will never know. Secondly and more importantly, snap counts are not created equal for all positions. Positions like QB, OL, and S routinely play upwards of 95% of snaps in a game/season. On the other hand, RBs and DTs like Dalvin Cook and Kawann Short rarely play 60% of snaps in a game/season. All positions are subject to the same snap thresholds to qualify for these PPEs even though all positions are not utilized the same. Long story short… if you’re a nose tackle playing for a small market team, or a team that struggles in the W/L column even though you are balling individually, good luck qualifying for a PPE.
A recent example - Chase Roullier
The last Washinton player to earn the PPE was Chase Roullier, who took over as the starting Center in the middle of his rookie season, and qualified for the “old” program, averaging 45% of the offensive snaps as a rookie and 99.9% as a second-year player in 2018, then adding a 2019 season in which he was the full time starter.
He earned his PPE under the single-tier structure of the 2011 CBA, and saw the sharp increase in his paycheck in the 2020 season. Here’s a look at how his salary spiked last season as a result of earning the PPE:
Salary information from OverTheCap
McLaurin, Holcomb and Curl are currently on track for the PPE in 2022 & 2023
The only way to earn the top-tier (3) is to go to the Pro Bowl; theoretically, any drafted player has that opportunity in any given season; however, the non-first round draft pick currently in the first three years of his contract that seems most likely to go to a pro bowl is Terry McLaurin, and he seems a decent bet to do so in 2021. If he does, his pay would jump to $3.384m in 2022.
Levels 1 & 2
Qualification for Levels One and Two is purely quantitative, and the Washington Football team has three players – McLaurin, Holcomb and Curl – who are currently on-track to earn the PPE.
Snap count details from Pro Football Reference
Going into his third season as a starting wideout for the Washington Football Team, Terry seems to be a solid lock to earn the Level 2 PPE. The only thing that could derail him at this point would be a significant injury.
McLaurin was paid a very thrifty $450K base salary (plus a $1m signing bonus) as a rookie, and is slated to earn $965K in 2022, when the PPE will probably replace his contracted salary, pushing his pay up to $2.433m.
Holcomb was paid a much more modest signing bonus of $234.9K, but is also scheduled to earn $965K in 2022.
Holcomb can’t qualify for Level 2, but all he needs to do to earn a Level 1 PPE is to get on the field for at least 60% of the defensive snaps in 2021, which seems pretty achievable. If he does, his 2022 salary will jump to $2.133m.
Curl was paid a very fairly minimal signing bonus of $113,238, but his scheduled salary for the 4th year of his rookie deal in 2023 is $1,010,000.
If Curl gets over 60% of the snaps in either of the next two seasons, he will qualify for a Level 1 PPE.
With such a strong rookie year, he seems a good candidate to qualify for the Level 2 PPE by playing at least 55% of the defensive snaps in each of his first three seasons.
In either case, he would more than double his 2023 salary by earning the PPE.
Again, it’s impossible to know with certainty what the amount of the RFA tenders will be in 2022 & 2023 since they are linked to movements in the salary cap, but the calculation is clearly spelled out, and Washington’s good drafting has put the team in position to have three young players on the current roster get financial rewards for their excellent play.
It's great to see this young roster have success.