If you’ve been a reader of Dawgs By Nature for years, then you’ll know about the “proven performance escalator (PPE).” Prior to the 2021 season, it would offer a fourth-year salary bump to players who were selected between rounds 3-7 of the NFL Draft and met one of these two conditions: (1) the player participated in 35% of the snaps in two of his first three seasons, or (2) posted a cumulative average of 35% of snaps in his first three seasons.
After the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) happened, eligibility was expanded. Under the CBA, there are three different “levels” in which players can qualify for it, each one with a different pay grade. The player will receive the most lucrative level they are eligible for. Let’s dig into the levels first:
Level 1 PPE
- This is the old way, for players selected in rounds 3-7. If they play in 35% of the snaps in two of three seasons, or 35% of the team’s cumulative snaps over three seasons, they get the PPE.
- The expansion in this category is that second round picks are now included. They just have a different threshold: 60% of the snaps are required.
- For players earning the Level 1 PPE, their base salary in the final year of their contract will increase to the original round tender amount of $2.743 million.
Level 2 PPE
- This is a new category altogether, and it includes players from rounds 2-7. If they participated in 55% of the team’s snaps in all three seasons, they earn the Level 2 PPE.
- The Level 2 PPE is very similar to the Level 1 PPE financially: it is the same amount ($2.743 million), plus $250,000. Therefore, their base salary would be $2.993 million.
Level 3 PPE
- This is also a new category, and it’s the most lucrative one. If a player from rounds 2-7 is nominated to the Pro Bowl on the original ballot in any of their first three seasons, they earn the Level 3 PPE.
- The Level 3 PPE is worth the equivalent of a second-round RFA tender, which would equate to $4.304 million this year.
Who Was Eligible This Year?
Since the criteria waits three years, that means we have to look back at players from the 2020 NFL Draft. The players on the Cleveland Browns who would have been eligible for the escalator are: S Grant Delpit, DT Jordan Elliott, LB Jacob Phillips, TE Harrison Bryant, OL Nick Harris, and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. However, players from the 2020 NFL Draft who came from other teams would also be eligible. I don’t believe that applies to anyone for Cleveland; it would have for former DE Curtis Weaver, but he is with the Minnesota Vikings now.
S Grant Delpit - 2nd Round Pick in 2020
Let’s start with S Grant Delpit, the team’s second round pick. He was hurt by the fact that he missed the entire 2020 season to injury. Despite playing nearly every snap this past season on defense, his cumulative three-year percentage of defensive snaps only came to 51.29%, which is shy of the 60% requirement for second-round picks. Therefore, Delpit did not earn a base salary escalator for 2023.
DT Jordan Elliott - 3rd Round Pick in 2022
DT Jordan Elliott saw playing time in each of his first three seasons. His cumulative playing time was less than Delpit had, but remember that for players selected in rounds 3-7, the Level 1 PPE escalator only needed 35% of the team’s defensive snaps. Elliott surpassed that with 44.9% of the snaps, earning him a Level 1 escalator.
Elliott’s base salary for 2023 was originally set to be $1.159 million. His 2023 base salary is now $2.743 million, an increase of $1.584 million.
LB Jacob Phillips - 3rd Round Pick in 2020
For being a third round pick, LB Jacob Phillips hasn’t had much playing time, only playing in 18.6% of the team’s defensive snaps in three years. Some of that was due to him being injured. He didn’t come close to the 35% mark, though, so Phillips does not get a bump in pay.
TE Harrison Bryant - 4th Round Pick in 2020
TE Harrison Bryant played in 35% of his team’s snaps in every season, so his cumulative snap percentage (46.6%) earned him the Level 1 PPE. Bryant’s base salary for 2023 was originally set to be $1.010 million. His 2023 base salary is now $2.743 million, an increase of $1.733 million.
C Nick Harris - 5th Round Pick in 2020
C Nick Harris has been hurt by injuries and other centers unexpectedly performing at a high level. Even with as little as Harris played in his first two years, if he had not gotten hurt and had been the team’s starter in 2022, he would’ve earned an escalator with about 41% cumulative offensive snaps. Instead, that number was at a meager 6.3%, earning him nothing extra.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones - 6th Round Draft Pick
Last, but not least, we have WR Donovan Peoples-Jones. Even though he played in a cumulative 60.5% of the team’s offensive snaps, that does not earn him the Level 2 PPE, because the Level 2 PPE requires 55% of snaps in each season. Therefore, after Peoples-Jones only played in 25% of the team’s snaps as a rookie, the Level 2 PPE was immediately ruled out. He easily attained the Level 1 PPE, though, by exceeding an average of 35% of snaps.
Peoples-Jones’ base salary for 2023 was originally set to be $1.010 million. His 2023 base salary is now $2.743 million, an increase of $1.733 million. This is in addition to Peoples-Jones receiving a performance-based pay incentive — although that incentive does not impact the salary cap.
Cumulatively, all three PPEs consume an additional $5.05 million of the Browns’ cap space in 2023. This was already factored into previous calculations of the Browns’ cap space — we just decided to break down their escalators for you.
Looking Into the Future
Looking forward to next year, players who could potentially earn a PPE are LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, WR Anthony Schwartz, OT James Hudson, DT Tommy Togiai, LB Tony Fields, and RB Demetric Felton.