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What does PFP stand for in football?

PFP is an acronym that stands for “Pay for Performance” in the context of football. It refers to performance-based pay structures for players and coaches in the National Football League (NFL). The basic idea behind PFP is that players and coaches are financially compensated based on their productivity and contribution to the team’s success.

The Origins of PFP in the NFL

The NFL first introduced PFP concepts in the 1990s as a way to better align player salaries with on-field performance. Prior to PFP, players were paid based on seniority and draft position rather than their actual statistical production. PFP helped usher in an era of contracts and bonuses tied to measurable outcomes.

Some of the first PFP metrics used in the NFL included:

  • Games started
  • Playing time percentage
  • Touchdowns
  • Interceptions
  • Sacks
  • Tackles

PFP gained traction in the NFL due to a few key factors:

  • The introduction of free agency meant players could negotiate contracts based on market value rather than being bound to teams.
  • There was rapid growth in NFL revenues and television contracts in the 1990s, allowing for bigger player salaries.
  • High-profile quarterbacks were early adopters of PFP, setting a precedent for other positions.

By better linking pay to performance, PFP helped transform NFL contract negotiations and strategy for both players and teams.

How PFP Works in the NFL

There are several ways PFP is incorporated into NFL player contracts and compensation:

Performance Bonuses

Players can earn additional money on top of their base salary by meeting certain statistical benchmarks. For example, a quarterback may get a bonus for throwing over 25 touchdown passes; a running back may earn extra cash for rushing for 1,000 yards.


Incentives are similar to performance bonuses but are more focused on team results. A player may earn an incentive bonus if the team makes the playoffs or wins a certain number of games.


Escalators automatically increase a player’s future salary or bonuses based on their play in the current season. If a wide receiver hits 1,200 receiving yards, his base salary may escalate by $2 million next season.


Guaranteed money is tied to skill, injury, and cap protections in the contract. If a player is cut before the contract ends, guarantees ensure they still get paid a certain amount.

Roster Bonuses

Roster bonuses are paid to players for being on the team’s roster on a certain date. They incentivize staying with the club.

In addition to player contracts, NFL coaches also incorporate PFP elements in their deals. Coaches can earn bonuses for playoff appearances, winning the division, or reaching the Super Bowl.

PFP Advantages and Disadvantages in the NFL

Here are some key pros and cons of the PFP model in professional football:


  • Motivates players to perform at a high level
  • Rewards outstanding statistical production
  • Aligns player and team goals more closely
  • Helps teams get more “bang for their buck” out of contracts
  • Allows players to earn salaries consistent with their value


  • Can cause tension between players focused on stats vs. team wins
  • Leads to players being cut quickly if their play declines
  • Bonuses can count against the salary cap in future years
  • Places intense pressure on players to stay healthy and productive
  • Incentivizes coaches to overuse players chasing bonuses

Examples of PFP in Action

Here are a few real-world examples of how PFP structures have played out in the NFL:

Patrick Mahomes

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has a 10-year, $450 million contract with several PFP components:

  • $140 million injury guarantee
  • $1 million bonus for AFC Championship game start
  • $1.25 million bonus for each league MVP award
  • Escalators for top 5 passing yards and TDs

Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys running back has PFP incentives in his deal:

  • $50,000 bonus for rushing yards leader
  • $500,000 bonus for 2,000 total yards in a season
  • $50,000 Pro Bowl bonus
  • Additional $13 million guarantee by Year 3 if he hits production marks

Andy Reid

The head coach of the Chiefs has performance bonuses written into his contract:

  • $500,000 for Divisional Round playoff win
  • $1 million for winning AFC Championship
  • $2 million for Super Bowl victory

The Future of PFP in the NFL

While PFP structures are well-established in the NFL, there are a few ways they may continue to evolve:

  • Increased use of PFP for younger players on rookie deals
  • More bonuses tied to team profitability and business goals
  • Guarantees spread over maximum years for cap flexibility
  • Incentives for off-field conduct and mentorship of younger players
  • Separate PFP metrics for offense, defense, and special teams

The NFL salary cap requires creative contract structures to align player, team, and league incentives. Performance-based pay has become an instrumental part of enabling those mutually beneficial deals.


PFP has transformed the way the NFL conducts business over the past couple decades. By tying player compensation to on-field production, PFP contracts help foster a competitive environment where the best performers earn the biggest rewards. This win-win framework enables teams to get the most out of their talent budget while empowering players to bet on their ability. As revenues and contracts continue rising in a salary capped league, expect PFP to take on an even bigger role in the NFL’s financial landscape for years to come.