Thousands of dollars, in addition to the title of Super Bowl 51 champions, was on the line on Sunday. The New England Patriots prevailed over the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 34-28 in overtime, claiming the franchise’s fifth title and along with that a nice bonus.
Player salaries, which often come to tens of millions of dollars on an annual basis in the National Football League, are paid out in 17 installments during the regular season. That means that the only paychecks that players on all 12 playoff-qualifying teams have received since the regular season ended have been determined not on their individual contracts with their respective teams, but rather from the NFL itself based on a pre-determined structure. That structure was laid out in the NFL’s postseason media guide.
Because both the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had first-round byes, they didn’t get paychecks from the league during Wild Card week.
For playing in the divisional round, each player on the eight participating teams got $27,000. In the conference championship games, players on all four participating teams got paid $49,000. The checks for all of these playoff rounds are the same regardless of whether a player’s team won or lost the respective game(s). That changed in the Super Bowl, however.
Each player on the New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl 51, will get a check for $107,000. Each player on the Atlanta Falcons will get less than half of that, $53,000.
That means that all the players on the New England Patriots have received a total of $183,000 for their three postseason victories, while each player on the Atlanta Falcons finishes the season with an extra $129,000 for their two victories and playing in Super Bowl 51.
While the lower amount of $129,000 for three weeks of work would be life-changing for most NFL fans, proper context is necessary to fully understand the situation.
Every player on both teams gets paid the same regardless of their role, so on Super Bowl Sunday backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was paid the same amount as starter Tom Brady. Additionally, for many players the paycheck is actually a considerable pay cut in comparison to their regular season paychecks.
Taking the case of Brady, for instance, he makes about $810,000 per week in the regular season. The three-week average of what he made winning the Super Bowl comes out to $61,000. That’s about a 92 percent pay cut. Of course, Brady isn’t going to turn the extra money down, but the point is that NFL players make the large majority of their money in the regular season.