Undrafted rookie linebacker Dannell Ellerbe ended up being one of the most pleasant surprises and another great find by the Baltimore Ravens last season. Coming out of the University of Georgia, Ellerbe was at one point thought to be one of the better linebackers in the draft, but an injury that derailed his senior season and some off the field issues had him sitting at home without a team when the 2009 NFL Draft ended.
Luckily for him, he received a phone call right after the final pick was announced and the Ravens not only invited him to Training Camp but also gave him a cash bonus, unusual for undrafted players. Ellerbe's hard work in camp paid off and by the end of the 2009 season, he was usually found on the field next to Ray Lewis and making some solid plays, earning heaps of praise from coaches, players and fans as well.
All of that playing time paid off, as Ellerbe received a "performance-based pay" bonus of $245,395, easily more than his contracted salary for the season.
Where does that number come from? Performance-based pay is actually an integral part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and due to the fact that it was terminated as of March 5th, it will not be part of the 2010 season, which could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to many younger NFL players in 2010. In 2009, the NFL set aside approximately $3.5 million to distribute to players whose salaries were nowhere near commensurate with the amount of playing time they received, usually unexpectedly during the season. The league has a specific formula as part of the CBA that refigures what a player should be making in comparison to others at his position based on the amount of playing time they receive.
Therefore, based on the fact that Ellerbe's playing time greatly exceeded expectations, his salary was readjusted to an amount that earned him the extra cash.Congrats to Dannell and I guess drinks are on you tonight!
Here is a link to a site that lists each team's leader in performance-based pay.
Here is a link to the Wikipedia description of the system, although it is a few years old and not officially verified.
Here is a link to the NFL.com story about performance-based pay for the 2008 season.