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Harris' Play Earns Bonuses

Posted Mar 21, 2013

Cornerback Chris Harris was among the top 15 players in the league to benefit from performance-based pay bonuses.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The NFL announced its performance-based bonuses Wednesday, and no Bronco cashed in like cornerback Chris Harris.

Harris, whose league-minimum contract is rooted in his undrafted status upon breaking into the NFL in 2011, received $254,164 from a league-wide bonus pool of $110.72 million (an average of $3.46 million per team). That figure placed him 14th among all NFL players; he was the only Bronco to rank among the league's top 25.

Harris earned the bonus by becoming a first-teamer at right cornerback and playing 84.5 percent of the Broncos' defensive snaps in 2012. He tied for the club lead with three interceptions -- returning two for touchdowns -- and broke up 12 passes, which matched Tony Carter for the most among the Broncos.

The performance-based system is designed to reward players -- particularly young ones from the lower rounds or from outside the draft altogether. It does sometimes help aging veterans; Atlanta center Todd McClure, who just announced his retirement last week at 36 years old, pocketed an extra $251,204 beyond his base salary last year.

According to the league, bonuses are calculated by what the league calls a "player index," in which his total number of plays are divided by his regular-season compensation, which includes contract incentives and the signing bonus. The "player index" is subsequently measured against his teammates to calculate the bonus.

Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict led all players with a performance bonus of $299,465 in 2012. Since he was an undrafted rookie free agent after a troubled college career at Arizona State, Burfict made the league minimum rookie base salary of $390,000, so his salary was boosted by 76.8 percent.

Burfict's bonus wasn't as high as the league-high bonuses in each of the last four seasons of the bonus program under the old CBA (2006-09). Chargers offensive tackle Jeromey Clary's performance bonus of $405,859 for the 2008 season remains the league record.

Harris' total exceeds those of guard Chris Kuper in 2008 ($208,937) and offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus in 2009 ($237,237), the last two years of the previous performance-based bonus program.

There was no league-wide bonus system for the 2010 or 2011 seasons, the last year of the previous collective bargaining agreement and the first of the new CBA. Any performance bonuses received for those two seasons were under terms of the player's individual contract.