Kwon Alexander's big NFL payday is still likely a year away, but the former fourth-round pick will earn a hefty raise in 2018.
That's thanks to the NFL's "Proven Performance Escalator," designed to compensate low-round draft picks who have played significant roles for their teams. As a result, instead of his original $705,000 salary for the final year of his rookie contract, Alexander should earn around $1.9-million.
That's nearly as much as he's earned in his first three NFL seasons. Players drafted in the third round or later can trigger the PPE by playing in 35 percent of their team's offensive or defensive snaps over their first three seasons.
Alexander didn't have to play a snap this season to cover that — he played in 96.3 percent of snaps as a rookie in 2016 and 74.1 percent in 2015 (lower only because of his four-game suspension) and 67.8 percent this year (missing time due to injuries).
The Bucs, then, knew this was coming and planned accordingly — they have an estimated $68-million in salary-cap room in 2018, but a little less as a result of Alexander's extended playing time.
Offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile earned the same escalator last season.
No other 2015 Bucs draft picks earned the raise — Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet were drafted too high, and the other three lower-round picks (WR Kenny Bell, WR Kaelin Clay, FB Joey Iosefa) never played a single snap with the Bucs.
Alexander will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season — the Bucs could get a head start on that by negotiating extensions for him, Smith or Marpet before their contracts are up. They can keep Winston around by exercising his fifth-year option for the 2019 season as a first-round pick.