• wpr
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a month ago

The league’s PPE program is half-baked and can result in negative affects for players who receive escalators.

The NFL’s Proven Performance Escalator (PPE) program is a relatively new mechanic that the league and player’s union agreed to when they rushed the 2020 collective bargaining agreement amid uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. On the surface, it seems like a good idea: Players who play snaps beyond their draft position get paid more in the final year of their rookie deal. In function, though, there are some issues with it.

There are three levels to a Proven Performance Escalator, all of which have different barriers to entry and pay out different amounts of money:

A Level One PPE turns the final year’s salary of a player’s rookie contract into a salary equal to an original draft round restricted free agent tender if a second-round pick plays at least 60 percent of the team’s snaps (on his side of the ball) over the first three years of his rookie contract or a third- through seventh-round pick plays at least 35 percent.

A Level Two PPE turns the final year’s salary of a player’s rookie contract into a salary equal to $250,000 above the original round tender if he plays at least 55 percent of the team’s snaps in every one of the team’s three seasons on his rookie deal.

A Level Three PPE turns the final year’s salary of a player’s rookie contract into a salary equal to a second-round restricted free agent tender if he makes the Pro Bowl  in any of his first three years in the league.

That’s not too crazy, right? Well, the 2024 Green Bay Packers  have a couple of examples of how this might backfire.

Three Packers players qualified for an escalator from the 2021 class: center Josh Myers, guard Royce Newman and defensive lineman T.J. Slaton. For the purposes of this, let’s focus on Newman’s and Slaton’s situations.

Newman played 97.1 percent of Green Bay’s snaps as a fourth-round rookie in 2021, but has slowly been phased out of the team’s offensive line rotation over the years. In 2022, Newman played just 41.2 percent of the snaps. In 2023, that number dropped all the way down to 16.7 percent, tying him for the eighth-most-played offensive lineman on the team last year — even without projected starting left tackle David Bakhtiari out of the lineup.

In his first three years of his NFL career, Newman made a total of $2.9 million. With the proven performance escalator, despite Newman’s recent slide down the depth chart, he is currently set to make $3.1 million in 2024 with a $3.2 million cap hit. Even at his old rate, due to his performance on the field and the Packers’ added offensive line depth, Newman would have been considered a roster bubble player. With the prospect of the team saving millions of dollars in cap space in exchange for allowing Newman to not play out the final year of his contract, he’s now firmly in the crosshairs.

The main reason why the Packers can do this cost-benefit analysis is because none of that proven performance escalator money is guaranteed and it all counts against the salary cap. This mechanic is nothing like the four-year qualifying offer, a deal that running back A.J. Dillon signed this offseason. The four-year qualifying offer, which allows teams to retain familiar players, is going to pay out Dillon $2.6 million this year, including a $167,500 bonus, but only counts $1.3 million against Green Bay’s cap.

Meanwhile, Newman received no bonus — or any guarantees — and his cap hit just automatically rose, which could put his roster spot in jeopardy. If the two sides wanted to do it right and give these rookie contract players more money, they should have just given these players dollars that would go unaccounted for on the salary cap — as the four-year qualifying offer does. Instead, roster bubble players could have their four-year rookie contracts treated like three-year rookie contracts moving forward, if their playing time ever exceeds their quality of play over a three-year period.

In a just world, Newman would get paid a decent chunk of change for bailing the Packers out in 2021, when the team needed him most. Instead, Newman’s non-guaranteed salary triples from 2023 to 2024, which just incentivizes Green Bay more to release him. That stinks for literally everyone involved.

Slaton also hit the 35 percent mark (37.4 percent) over his first three years of his contract, despite only hitting that number once (2023, 56.3 percent) in a single season. His situation is more nuanced, as his 6’4”, 330-pound body was more valued in the Packers’ 3-4 defense in 2023 than it will be in their 4-3 defense in 2024. Green Bay’s coaching staff has talked over and over this offseason about how they want their defensive line to make penetration plays in defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley’s new scheme.

Unfortunately, Slaton has played 1,214 defensive snaps for the Packers and has made just one sack and four tackles for loss in his NFL career over 51 career games and 19 starts. That’s just not his game. On top of that, Green Bay should be playing many more two-interior defensive line fronts than three-interior defensive line fronts this season, which will drop playing time for the Packers’ interior defensive linemen overall.

This is all to say that Slaton is likely to go from a starter to a backup, as former first-round picks Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt are the presumed starters in Hafley’s scheme. On top of that, Slaton will have to compete with 2023 draft picks Karl Brooks and Colby Wooden — two penetrating defensive tackles who are under contract for three more seasons — for playing time that suits Brooks and Wooden more than Slaton...all while Slaton’s salary triples.

Both Slaton and Newman might make the Packers’ final roster in 2024, but it certainly doesn’t help their cases that the league automatically added a bunch of non-guaranteed money to their cap hits this year. If I were an NFLPA member, one of my top objectives would be to try to rectify their escalator problem, primarily by making this money unaccounted for on the salary cap — like the four-year qualifying offer. In no world should a player’s past playing time — something that should reward both players and teams — be used against players while they’re still on a rookie deal. It just makes no sense.

I understand that this probably wasn’t the top priority in the 2020 CBA when it was pushed through, but there should be enough momentum — from the players’ side and the clubs’ side — to be able to rectify this issue before it gets out of hand. At the moment, the CBA is effective through 2030, but the two sides could certainly sit at a table and fix an issue that should be viewed as a problem for both parties.

For what it’s worth, here are the players who are expected to receive at least a Tier One PPE in future years, based on their current playing time per Over the Cap . In the 2022 class, receiver Romeo Doubs, right tackle Zach Tom, outside linebacker Kingsley Enagbare and left tackle Rasheed Walker are currently on pace to hit that 35 percent mark that will triple their 2025 salary. In the 2023 class, tight end Tucker Kraft, receiver Dontayvion Wicks and cornerback Carrington Valentine are set to hit those numbers. Wicks and Valentine are actually currently on pace to hit Tier Two PPE, which would pay out an extra $250,000 on top of the original round tender cost in 2026. Hopefully, by then, those figures will simply hit their bank account instead of being used against them when roster cut conversations begin to pop up.

Continue Reading @ Justis Mosqueda 

Justis Mosqueda wrote:

29 days ago
I thought PPE meant something way different, haha.

The talking of Newman deserving more money seems absurd to me. I think the guy is a turnstile.

Slaton should be a good player. I'm curious to see how he does. Although, Karl Brooks will probably be the one that shines most.
29 days ago
Yeah I was never a fan of how they set that up, because basically you're punishing teams for either good drafting, and/or injuries. And it's unfair to punish teams for that, especially injuries, it's just kicking them when they're down.

And the article does a great job of making me think about how it's unfair to those players because none of it is guaranteed.

The escalations should be 100% guaranteed (unless you're in prison for some horrible crime) and not counting against the cap.
29 days ago

The talking of Newman deserving more money seems absurd to me. I think the guy is a turnstile.

Originally Posted by: Zero2Cool 

I will be amazed and disappointed if he makes the squad, which is now even less likely.

The escalations should be 100% guaranteed (unless you're in prison for some horrible crime) and not counting against the cap.

Originally Posted by: beast 

What if you in prison for a non-horrible crime?
Go Packers!!!!
29 days ago

What if you in prison for a non-horrible crime?

Originally Posted by: Martha Careful 

Then they should get the money... I'm just thinking along the lines of Aaron Hernandez, Owner should be able to refuse to pay in situations like that.
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