The NFL instituted a performance-based pay program as a part of the 2002 extension of the collective bargaining agreement, with a portion of league revenues set aside as supplementary compensation for players whose salaries didn't reflect playing time.
Bears cornerback Zack Bowman is a prime example, as the second-year pro earned a base salary of $310,000 in 2009. A fifth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Nebraska, Bowman unseated veteran Nathan Vasher at the right corner position and was on the field for 64.1 percent of Chicago's snaps on the season. Because Bowman got much more playing time than your run-of-the-mill second-year fifth rounder, he was entitled to extra performance-based pay in the amount of $355,355.
Only Vikings center John Sullivan, who received $397,555 in performance-based pay, got more than Bowman.
Not only was Bowman on the field quite a bit for Chicago, but he was also extremely productive. The former Cornhusker led the team with six interceptions, which tied for fifth in the league with six other defenders, trailing only co-leaders Asante Samuel, Darren Sharper, Jairus Byrd and Charles Woodson. In addition to the INTs, the 6-1, 193-pounder recorded 66 tackles, one forced fumble and 10 passes defensed.
Another defensive back was second on the Midway Monsters in performance-based pay for 2009: rookie safety Al Afalava.
A sixth-round pick from Oregon State, Afalava quickly became one of the coaching staff's favorites despite missing some of the offseason training program finishing up his degree. The Hawaii native appeared in 13 games, recording 53 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and seven passes defensed. Although he fell out of favor down the stretch, as evidenced by coach Lovie Smith's recently-expressed disappointment with the safety position as a whole, Afalava contributed much more than the standard sixth rounder and was on the field for 57 percent of the team's snaps.
For his efforts, the front office cut Afalava a check Friday for $297,450 – his salary had been $310,000.
Aside from the aforementioned Bowman and Afalava, 10 more Bears earned at least six figures in performance-based pay: linebacker Nick Roach ($206,872), receiver Johnny Knox ($180,744), receiver Earl Bennett ($162,025), safety Kevin Payne ($142,435), tight end Kellen Davis ($140,987), cornerback Corey Graham ($137,202), defensive tackle Marcus Harrison ($132,814), running back Matt Forte ($128,837), safety Danieal Manning ($126,683) and linebacker Jamar Williams ($105,829).
One player that did very well for himself despite being on the field for less than 10 percent of Chicago's snaps in 2009 was reserve running back Kahlil Bell, who was elevated to the active roster in Week 11. Earning the rookie minimum $310,000 in salary, Bell pocketed an extra $54,664 for participating in just 9.7 percent of the action. Compare that to tackle Chris Williams, who started all 16 games and saw 73.4 percent of the snaps. But because of his $4,158,700 in adjusted compensation, which is a product of base salary, prorated signing bonus, earned incentives and a few other factors, his performance-based pay was a mere $30,835.
Bringing up the rear is tight end Michael Gaines, who got released Oct. 17 but was still awarded $240 for being on the field 0.1 percent of the time.
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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Bowman Leads the Way in '09 PBP
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