Approximately $109.5 million of performance-based pay was distributed to players for their performance during the 2009 season. Sullivan, a 2008 sixth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, earned $397,555 in additional pay.
Players have been paid nearly $600 million during the eight seasons of the performance-based pay program, which was created as part of the NFL's 2002 collective bargaining agreement extension with the NFL Players Association. The program created a fund that was used as a supplemental form of player compensation based on a comparison of playing time to salary. The fund is only paid in league years in which a salary cap exists. Because 2009 was the last year under a salary-cap system, performance-based pay will not continue in the 2010 league year, the final league year of the current CBA.
Under the performance-based pay system, players become eligible to receive a bonus distribution in any regular season in which they play at least one official down.
Performance-based pay is computed by using a "player index." To produce the index, a player's regular-season playing time (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.