Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is expected to receive a significant raise in 2019 thanks to him qualifying for the league’s Proven Performance Escalator.
Hargrave, who was originally selected in the the third-round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Steelers out of South Carolina State, should see his 2019 base salary increase from the currently scheduled amount of $720,000 to roughly $2.045 million, which is the currently estimated amount of the lowest restricted free agent tender for the new league year, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry.
Hargrave qualified for a 2019 base salary escalator due to his playing time in his first two years in the league. Below is what the CBA says about the mechanism and the percentage of playing time needed to receive it.
ARTICLE 7, Section 4. Proven Performance Escalator:
(a) The Proven Performance Escalator is mandatory for Rookies drafted in the third through seventh rounds. Rookies drafted in the first or second rounds and Undrafted Rookies are not eligible to earn the Proven Performance Escalator.
(b) The Proven Performance Escalator is a non-negotiable amount by which an eligible player’s year-four Paragraph 5 Salary may escalate provided the player achieves at least one of the two qualifiers set forth in Subsection (c) below. The Proven Performance Escalator shall be deemed a part of every Rookie Contract of a player selected in the third through seventh round by virtue of this Agreement and may not be separately attached to such Rookie Contract.
(c) Qualifiers. An eligible player will qualify for the Proven Performance Escalator in his fourth League Year if: (1) he participated in a minimum of 35% of his Club’s offensive or defensive plays in any two of his previous three regular seasons; or (2) he participated in a “cumulative average” of at least 35% of his Club’s offensive or defensive plays over his previous three regular seasons. “Cumulative average” means the sum of the total number of offensive or defensive plays in which the player participated over the applicable seasons, divided by the sum of the Club’s offensive or defensive plays during the same seasons. (By way of example, if a player participates in 600 of the Club’s 1,000 offensive plays in his first season, 290 of the Club’s 1,000 plays in his second season, and 310 of the Club’s 1,000 plays in his third season for a total of 1,200 plays out of a possible 3,000, the cumulative average would equal 40%).
(d) Amount. The Proven Performance Escalator shall equal the difference between (i) the amount of the Restricted Free Agent Qualifying Offer for a Right of First Refusal Only as set forth in, or as calculated in accordance with, Article 9 for the League Year in such player’s fourth season and (ii) the player’s year-four Rookie Salary (excluding signing bonus and amounts treated as signing bonus). The resulting amount shall be added to the stated amount of the player’s year-four Paragraph 5 Salary. By way of example, if a rookie drafted in round three of the 2011 Draft has a year-four Rookie Salary of $1,000,000 (consisting of $700,000 in Paragraph 5 Salary, $150,000 in signing bonus proration, $100,000 in an incentive, and a $50,000 roster bonus), and the 2014 Restricted Free Agent Qualifying Offer for a Right of First Refusal Only equals $1,400,000, then, upon achieving the qualifier, the player’s stated Paragraph 5 Salary ($700,000) shall increase by $550,000 (i.e., $1,400,000 minus (1) the $700,000 Paragraph 5 Salary, (2) the $100,000 incentive, and (3) the $50,000 roster bonus). As a result, the player’s total earnable Salary in the 2014 League Year (minus his signing bonus proration) shall be $1,400,000, consisting of the player’s $1,250 ,000 Paragraph 5 Salary (as escalated), his $100,000 incentive, and his $50,000 roster bonus.
(e) The amount by which a player’s Paragraph 5 Salary may increase pursuant to this section shall not be considered Rookie Salary and shall not count toward the Total Rookie Compensation Pool, the Club’s Total Rookie Allocation, or the 25% Increase Rule.
(f) No portion of the Proven Performance Escalator may be guaranteed for skill, football-related injury or Salary Cap-related contract termination either before or after the player has achieved the qualifiers for the Escalator.
When it comes to the percentage of snaps played by Hargrave in his first three seasons with the Steelers, the defensive tackle had already qualified for the fourth-year Proven Performance Escalator in 2017 as he played 46.1% of all defensive snaps that season after playing 47.0% of all defensive snaps during his 2016 rookie season. Hargrave, by the way, played 43.5% of all defensive snaps in 2018.
Hargrave’s Proven Performance Escalator increase should officially hit the NFLPA records around the start of the 2019 new league year in March. Also, with Hargrave officially entering the final year of his rookie contract in March, the Steelers might decide to sign him to a contract extension later in the offseason. Such an extension would likely take place after training camp gets underway. If no contract extension is signed by Hargrave before the start of the 2019 regular season, he’ll then be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March of 2020.
Next year at this same time would could be talking about Steelers running back James Conner being slated for a 2020 base salary increase via the Proven Performance Escalator. Conner, however, needs to log enough offensive snaps during the 2019 season to qualify for a PPE as he didn’t play nearly enough offensive snaps during his rookie season.