As expected, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva has once again qualified for extra pay under the NFL’s “Performance Based Pay” program that compensates players for playing time based upon their salary levels.
While the exact amount isn’t yet known, media reports indicate that Villanueva earned more than $300,000 extra for a second consecutive year. Villanueva also earned nearly another $84,000 in veteran performance-based pay.
If you missed the previous posts I have done on the NFL’s Performance Based Pay program, below is a quick explanation.
According to the league, performance-based-pay is a fund that was created and used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. Players become eligible to receive a portion of the bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down. The pay is reportedly computed by using a “player index.” To produce that index, a player’s regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player’s index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his pay.
Villanueva, who started all 16 games at left tackle for the Steelers last season, did so while only earning a salary of $525,000. A year ago, Villanueva was paid an extra $309,834.87 from the Performance-Based Pay Program fund after making 10 starts at left tackle for the Steelers during the 2015 regular season.
In case you’re curious, the extra money give out as part of the program does not count against the Steelers salary cap as it is considered a benefit.
Ahead of the start of the 2017 league year, the Steelers issued Villanueva an exclusive rights free agent tender in the amount of $615,000 and he must sign it at some point, if he hasn’t already, if he wants to continue his NFL career.
Even though the Steelers can easily retain Villanueva through the 2018 season by placing a first or second round restricted free agent tender on him next offseason, one has to wonder if they might ultimately decide to sign him to a long-term contract extension later on this summer at a below-market price related to other starting left tackles around the league.
While it’s rare for the Steelers to sign exclusive rights free agents to long-term contract extensions, they’ve done so in the past with linebacker James Harrison and former running back Willie Parker.
Villanueva was originally signed by the Steelers just prior to the start of the 2014 regular season following his release as a defensive lineman from the Philadelphia Eagles. The former Army captain has been a great find by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin, and offensive line coach Mike Munchak has done a great job of developing Villanueva as well.
It will now be interesting to see if Villanueva ultimately gets an extension in the coming months and my gut tells me that he will. Time will tell.