Ahhh, good ole escalator clauses.

Odds are, you’ve  heard the word thrown around on NFL Network or something when they’re talking about player’s contracts.  To the average person, it can sound kinda intimidating, but it’s actually fairly simple.

What is an Escalator Clause?


Brian Bulaga's five year $12.21 million contract he signed in 2010 included a $2.54 million escalator clause.  (ICON Sports)

Brian Bulaga’s five year $12.21 million contract he signed in 2010 included a $2.54 million escalator clause. (ICON Sports)

In a nutshell, an escalator clause gives the player an opportunity to increase the value of  their contract if they meet specific criteria negotiated between the player’s agent and the team.

Related: NFL Contract Negotiations – A Little-Known Glitch that Can Slow Down Negotiations for Top Picks


Quite often, the “triggers” of the escalator clause are playing time-related.

They can also be performance-related, or a combination of both.

The period of time that the “triggered” action has to take place can vary, as well.

For example, if you were a defensive end who signed a four-year deal, your trigger can be to accumulate at least 15 sacks during any of your four seasons playing under that contract.

Related: NFL Contracts: Explaining the New NFL Rookie Salary Scale


Your trigger could also be to accumulate five sacks over any two seasons.

It all depends on what was negotiated and agreed upon.



For example, let’s say you get drafted, and your agent is in the midst of negotiating your deal.

Your agent might make a push to get you an Escalator clause that would increase your base salary in the last two years of your four year deal if you play 60 percent of the snaps during your first season with the team; or if you play in 75 percent of the snaps in any of the first three years of the deal.


The team might not agree with the proposal that your agent is putting forth, as they may feel like the proposed triggers are too easy for you to reach, so they respond with an incentive that they feel is a little tougher for you to reach.

This talk back and forth kicks off the negotiating process on this issue, and it continues until both parties agree to terms.

The amount of your potential salary increase is negotiable as well.

There can also be multiple escalators in a single contract; some that are easier to earn, and some that might be nearly impossible to be earned.

Related: NFL Contracts – 15 Ways NFL Players and Teams Gain Leverage in Negotiations – Part One


Make sense now?

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