This Jaguars player should be stoked about the NFL's performance-based pay for 2023

• The NFL's performance pay was kind to Jaguars C Luke Fortner.

Jacksonville Jaguars center Luke Fortner (79) runs onto the field before an NFL first round playoff
Jacksonville Jaguars center Luke Fortner (79) runs onto the field before an NFL first round playoff / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

Center Luke Fortner may be out of the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting lineup next season but that shouldn't diminish the fact that he's never missed time the past two seasons. In fact, his availability is a big reason he was one of the top earners in the NFL performance-based pay in 2023.

The league announced the performance-based pay for the 2023 season and Fortner was among the players that benefited from the program. The top earner was New York Jets offensive guard John Simpson, who got $974,613 in bonuses. The Jaguars' third-year center got the fifth-highest bonus at $872,196.

Other players who got bonuses were Reed Blankenship (Eagles), Spencer Brown (Bills), Cordell Volson (Bengals), Kader Kohou (Dolphins), Trey Smith (Chiefs), O'Cyrus Torrence (Bills), Jamaree Salyer (Chargers), Tariq Woolen (Seahawks).

The league created the performance-based pay program to supplement a player's compensation based on playing time. Generally, players who lower salaries who log higher playing time benefit the most. This year, the NFL gave $398.6 million in such performance-based bonuses.

In Fortner's case, he appeared in a team-high 99.8 percent of Jacksonville's offensive snaps last year. Last year, he had a salary of $905,003, so he'll get a nice pay bump thanks to his durability. He's the only Jaguar who got the performance bonus in 2024 but he and 2021 third-round pick Andre Cisco got it last year.

Luke Fortner will take on a different role for the Jaguars in 2024

A third-round pick in 2023, Luke Fortner has gotten plenty of flak the past two seasons. He was a Day 1 starter for the Jaguars as a rookie. While he dealt with ups and downs throughout his rookie season, the team's brass was confident that he would make a leap in 2022. However, he regressed instead and was routinely the weakest link on the offensive line.

Although Forter gave up four fewer pressures in 2023 — 28 compared to 32 the year prior — he gave up four sacks and routinely performed poorly in run blocking, getting a Pro Football Focus grade of 40.0 in that department.

The team's brass praised Fortner after the 2023 season but acknowledged that center was a need when they signed Mitch Morse in free agency. Although head coach Doug Pederson said that the move wasn't a knock on Fortner, they wouldn't have brought in Morse if they were confident Fortner could improve. Maybe he will but Jacksonville couldn't wait any longer.

With Morse in the fold, the Jaguars should be able to keep Trevor Lawrence upright. Similarly, they should be able to run the ball inside, something they weren't able to do last season.

Even though the Jaguars say that Morse and Fortner will compete for the job, the latter should have no trouble coming out on top. This isn't necessarily a bad position to be in for Fortner.

While he may not be thrilled to be the backup, taking a step back could help him readjust while he learns the ropes from Morse. Furthermore, he would provide valuable insurance in case his veteran counterpart has to miss time.

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