A credited season is any season that a player is on an NFL team’s roster (both active and inactive), Injured Reserve or Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for more than three games. The above lists qualify as ‘full pay status’ for an NFL player, and three games under full pay status count as a credited season. Credited seasons differ from accrued seasons, which require six games under full pay status.
Unlike accrued seasons that pertain to free agency and contracts, credited seasons are used to decide how the NFL calculates a player’s pension eligibility and the amount they should receive once they retire from the NFL. In addition, credited seasons are used to decide on the minimum salary benefit a player is entitled.
Once a player has finished three credited seasons they are considered a vested veteran, which renders them eligible to collect a pension under the Bell / Rozelle NFL retirement plan. For the full copy of the NFL’s pension and retirement plan click here.
Minimum Salary Benefit
Under the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), NFL players are entitled to a certain minimum salary depending on the number of credited seasons they have completed. The CBA put in place a set of rules that allows teams to sign players for their minimum salary benefit, but only have them count against the cap for as much as a younger player to better protect league veterans. For another great primer on the minimum salary benefit, check out Jason Fitzgerald’s work here. Below is a table based on credited seasons in the NFL, and the minimum salary a player with that many credited seasons is entitled to.
Numbers courtesy of sportrac.
For example, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead, a third-year undrafted player out of Ball State University, is scheduled to make $525,000 in 2016. As you can see in the table above, this is the minimum salary for a player like Snead, who spent all of 2014 as a free agent after being released by the Cleveland Browns, and has 2015 as his only credited season. Snead’s contract with the Saints began as a reserve / future contract worth $18,500 in 2014, before signing an active contract at the veteran minimum salary for 2015 and 2016.
Credited seasons play a smaller role compared to accrued seasons in the NFL, but are no less important, considering the role they play in deciding the salary of bottom of the roster players.