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Explaining how the NFL works, Part 11: Preseason and postseason pay

Let’s examine the process of some of the inner workings in the NFL and how teams manage the situations.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it’s when the NFL is in the full swing of its regular season or if it’s during the downtime of the early summer, there still is constant news and happenings with the league that has made itself relevant 365 days a year. When various things are discussed, sometimes there are terminologies and procedures where fans might have a general understanding of things. Even the most die-hard fans may have certain areas they don’t understand exactly what various things mean and wish to have a better understanding.

Over the next few weeks, I will take some time to do my best in thoroughly explaining some of the various inner workings of things in the NFL. These are not on-field items but more from an administrative standpoint. Whether it be understanding the waiver wire, the Reserve/Injured List, or the breakdown of the practice squad, we’ll take a look at some of the various terms that are thrown around and utilized in descriptions of things in the NFL but may not be fully understood.

Next up is looking at pay received by players that fall outside of their contract in the form of preseason and postseason pay.

Preseason pay

Because an NFL contract only pays the player during the regular season, players are paid during the preseason per diem. All players are in one of two categories as either a first-year player who does not have a credited season, or a veteran player who does have at least one credited season. With the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the pay each one of these types of players receives is specified and increases every two years. These costs are the same across the entire NFL and do not count towards the team’s salary cap. For the 2023 NFL season, first-year players receive $1,850 per week of the preseason which goes from the first day of training camp through the Sunday before the NFL season begins. For veteran players, they receive $3,200 per week.

With there being six weeks where players could receive pay, veteran players such as T.J. Watt receiving just over $19k for the preseason isn’t overly significant. But for the first-year player who is trying to make a 53-man roster, the more than $11k for the preseason helps from a compensation standpoint.

Postseason pay

When teams qualify for the postseason, all players on the roster receive extra pay for each game and all players receive the same amount on each team.

For teams in the playoffs for Wild Card Weekend, there is a difference in pay depending on the team’s situation. For 2023, a team who is playing on Wild Card Weekend and was a division winner will have players receive $50,500 for the game. If the team was not a division winter or they are receiving a first-round bye, they will be paid $45,500.

When it comes to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, all players with teams involved make $60,500 for the 2023 season. When it comes to the Conference Championship, all players make $73,000 for participating.

Moving on to the Super Bowl, the difference in the payout for this game depends on whether or not the team wins or loses. This is the only playoff pay where there is a difference in pay based on winning the game. For 2023, players on the winning team in the Super Bowl receive $164,000 where players and the losing team receive $89,000.

As for practice squad players during the postseason, they continue to make their same weekly amounts from the regular season.

In case you missed other parts of the series, they can be seen here: