How Much Extra Money Do NFL Players Make During The Playoffs?

The NFL's playoff season is here with teams and fandoms duking it out across a glut of postseason games all in the hopes of reaching the Super Bowl. While you might already know that players earn money from winning the Super Bowl, did you know they also make extra money for playing wild card, divisional, and conference championship games?

For starters, it's important to understand how NFL players are able to ensure their income to start. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is a union specifically for NFL players. This union negotiates on behalf of players for everything from pay to health care to the length of the football season. Notably, this negotiation with the NFL also includes pay for all postseason games. This negotiation leads to a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, which functions as a contract between the NFL players and the league for a set number of seasons. The current labor agreement was signed in 2020 and will be good through the 2030 season.

Some notable changes resulting from the 2020 CBA that have affected the NFL playoffs include an expansion of the postseason to 14 teams from the previous 12 (which had been in place since 1990). This is important not only because it creates more games for fans to watch but also because it allows more players on more teams to receive additional financial benefits from postseason play. The 2020 collective bargaining agreement also increased the pay and bonuses associated with each wild card, divisional, and championship game regardless of whether a team wins or not.

Pay for making the NFL postseason

The 2020 collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and NFL includes a four-tiered system for each round of postseason games: wild card, division playoff, conference championship, and Super Bowl. These tiers are also on a payment schedule that increases the pay for these games every year. For the 2023-24 season, players on a playoff team that wins their wild-card round game will each earn $50,500 while players on teams that lose their wild-card round game earn $45,500.

Divisional playoff games pay the same amount to all teams that play in this round — regardless of whether the team loses or moves on. For the 2023-24 season, the amount for playing in a divisional playoff game is the same amount as winning the previous wild-card round, with $50,500 going to all players. Conference championship games also pay the same amount to both teams regardless of who wins or loses. For the 2023-24 season, players playing in a conference championship for either the AFC or NFC title will earn $73,000.

For the two teams that make it to Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, they'll make an even bigger bonus on top of the pay they've already earned for each postseason game that lead to the big game. Players on the winning team will earn $171,000 each, while players on the losing team earn $96,000 each. Note that this pay is all in addition to an NFL player's regular contract, and it also doesn't factor in how much Super Bowl rings are worth (the 2015 rings, for example, cost $36,500 each).

How are NFL players paid during the playoffs?

For the wild-card and divisional playoff games, all NFL players on the active, inactive, and injured reserve (IR) lists of their teams get paid regardless of playing time. However, this isn't necessarily the case for the conference championship games or Super Bowl. Pay for conference championship and Super Bowl games instead relies on a full or partial payout system, which depends on the individual player and their status over the course of the entire season. For instance, a player who has been on a team's active or inactive list for less than three previous regular or postseason games is only entitled to half the designated pay amount. This means that if their team wins the conference championship game, they would only earn $36,500 instead of the full $73,000.

This is also key for players who might be unable to play in any NFL playoff games due to injuries that might have happened during the season. A player who isn't on the active or inactive roster at the time of the game in question but who played in at least eight games during the regular or postseason is entitled to the full payout amount (provided the player doesn't currently play for a different team in the same conference). There are also different payout rules for players based on their length of time in the NFL, like rookies versus veteran players. Further, the 2020 CBA between the NFLPA and NFL ensures that all players are paid their allotted bonus money within 15 days of the game in question.