The Proven Performance Escalator program has been a significant factor for the Green Bay Packers since it was implemented in the NFL’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement. As a team that has had several later-round draft picks achieve great success, the Packers have seen numerous players earn the escalator in their fourth years, giving them a significant increase in compensation in the final seasons of their rookie contracts.
Players like Corey Linsley, David Bakhtiari, Micah Hyde, Blake Martinez, Aaron Jones, and Jamaal Williams all qualified for this program in the past, though that is by no means an exhaustive list. In 2019 alone, the Packers saw four players hit that mark: Martinez, Kyler Fackrell, Dean Lowry, and Antonio Morrison, the last of whom was eventually released before the season.
Green Bay is certain to have at least one player achieve the escalator targets next year: wide receiver Marquez Valdes Scantling. The fifth-round draft pick from 2018 has already qualified based on his playing time in each of the past two years. However, with a new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated, there are some tweaks to this program. Specifically, more players will be eligible, and there will be multiple levels of escalation rather than just one bonus level.
Here’s a look at how the changes would take effect if the NFLPA ratifies the proposed CBA.
Proven Performance Escalator
Under the old CBA, players drafted in rounds three through seven would be eligible for the Proven Performance Escalator program for the fourth and final year of their rookie contracts. This provision allowed players who reached certain playing time thresholds to increase their base salary in year four to the equivalent of the lowest restricted free agent tender for that season. To qualify, a player must have participated in at least 35 percent of offensive or defensive snaps over the first three years of his contract in total, or in two of the three seasons individually.
The PPE in the new CBA, however, expands the eligibility pool out to second-round picks as well, and it adds levels to the program for different achievements. The program will work as follows:
- Level One: Increases the fourth-year salary to equal the lowest RFA tender amount
- Level Two: Increases the fourth-year salary to equal the lowest RFA tender plus $250,000
- Level Three: Increases the fourth-year salary to the 2nd-round RFA tender
In order to earn the Level One escalator, players drafted in round two must reach a higher threshold of snaps. They would become eligible for that added compensation by plaing in 60% of offensive or defensive snaps over entire first three years or 60% of snaps in any two of the three seasons. Players drafted in rounds three through seven must only meet the 35% playing time thresholds as specified in the current CBA.
The cutoff for the Level Two PPE is playing in at least 55% of offensive or defensive snaps in each of the player’s first three years.
Finally, a player is eligible for the Level Three PPE if they are named to a Pro Bowl on the first ballot in any of his first three years.
How would this affect the Packers in the future?
For 2021, Valdes-Scantling has already reached the Level One requirements as a fifth-round pick. However, since he played just under 55% of the team’s offensive snaps in 2019 (50.5% to be exact) he would not be eligible for level two.
Based on playing time, there is an outside chance that Josh Jackson, Oren Burks, or Equanimeous St. Brown could get to the Level One mark if they were to play every snap in 2020. However, that seems unlikely. The only other option for these players would be if they earn a first-ballot Pro Bowl honor.
One player from the 2019 draft class might be able to take advantage of the new rules, however. That is left guard Elgton Jenkins, a second-round pick who would not have been eligible for the program under the old CBA. Jenkins played 89 percent of the Packers’ offensive snaps in 2019, putting him on track for both the Levels One and Two escalators. If he stays healthy, he should easily crack Level Two, and he played at a high enough level to think that a Pro Bowl is entirely possible as well.
The third- through seventh-round picks in the 2019 class are ineligible for the Level Two escalator due to not playing at least 55% of snaps in their rookie years. They could still hit Levels One or Three, however, based on the 35% playing time thresholds or the Pro Bowl honor.