Sullivan earns more in PBP than base salary

Center John Sullivan led all NFL players in the performance-based-pay system in 2009. The program, which compensates players for playing time based upon their salary level, will no longer be in effect for 2010 because there is no salary cap.

The NFL delayed the release of its prime-time games (the Vikings are widely believed to be a leading candidate to face the New Orleans Saints on the first Thursday of the regular season) Tuesday at the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., but the league did release other figures to keep the NFL talk going.

In the NFL's "Performance-Based-Pay" program, Vikings center John Sullivan led the way, earning a distribution of $397,555, which was more than $42,000 more than the NFL's next biggest earner under the system.

The PBP system drew from a $109.5 million pot this year and awards players for playing time based upon their salary level. Low-paid players who end up contributing a lot earn the most. As a sixth-round draft pick in 2008, Sullivan had just a $385,000 base salary last year, meaning he basically doubled his earnings because of the PBP system.

The system was created in 2002 as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association, and almost $600 million has been paid out since that time. However, because 2009 was the last year with a salary cap, the system will not be in effect in 2010.

The distribution is based on a "player index" – a player's regular-season playing time (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus and earned incentives). Each player's index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the final amount. Each club is awarded the same amount of money to split among its players based on the system's formula. This year, that amount was $3,422,875 per team.

While Sullivan was the league leader in PBP earning because of his relatively low salary and the fact that he played in over 99 percent of the offensive snaps, according to a league source, he wasn't alone among offensive linemen. Guards and centers accounted for eight of the top 25 payouts in the PBP system.

Jets and Falcons safety Erik Coleman is the overall "winner" in the history of the performance-based-pay system, collecting $837,654 in the eight years it has been in effect. Defensive end Ray Edwards, who has made $648,463 under the system, is the only Viking to figure into the top-25 overall since 2002.

Not surprisingly, most of the Vikings' top earners this year under the system are still operating under their first NFL contract. After Sullivan, safeties Tyrell Johnson ($211,572) and Jamarca Sanford ($202,953) were next in line. The team also had eight players – LB Jasper Brinkley, LB Kenny Onatolu, T Phil Loadholt, Edwards, CB Benny Sapp, S Husain Abdullah, DE Brian Robison, S Eric Frampton and CB Asher Allen – earned between $100,000 and $200,000 in PBP.

While QB Brett Favre earned $12 million in base salary last year, he also earned $12,495 in performance-based pay. In all, more than 50 Vikings earned some extra money in the system, all the way down to center Jon Cooper's $468 payday.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

Viking Update Top Stories