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Cushing could lose $950K in incentives because of suspension

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Brian Cushing's four-game suspension for using a banned substance won't have a major impact on his contract. Even had the Houston Texans linebacker been stripped of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors -- which he wasn't -- he hit enough other triggers in his contract to reach incentives.

At first, it was believed that Cushing stood to miss out on $2.6 million in incentives because of the suspension. However, a closer examination of his deal shows that Cushing could end up losing much less -- $950,000 -- although the bulk of his incentive structure remains within reach.

There are three tiers to Cushing's bonus structure, but none of the money will be paid until 2013.

The first tier begins at the threshold of participating in 65 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps in any season over a four-year period (2010-2013). He would receive $350,000 in each season that he does this, and assuming he plays in all 12 games after serving his suspension in 2010, he still could accumulate that additional money.

The second tier involves Cushing playing 70 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps. If he accomplishes this in two seasons from 2010 to 2013 and earns a Pro Bowl berth (he already did so in 2009), he would earn $250,000. If he plays 70 percent of the snaps in three seasons -- and he still could do so in 2010 -- and makes two Pro Bowls, he would receive $450,000. And if he plays 70 percent of the snaps in four seasons and reaches the Pro Bowl three times -- which seems out of reach, given Cushing's 2010 penalty -- he would earn $800,000. Thus, Cushing likely has lost the ability to earn the highest of these three levels, costing him $350,000.

In the third tier, if Cushing plays 80 percent of the snaps twice from 2010 to 2013, he would receive $600,000 in bonuses. If he does it three times, he would earn $1.2 million, and if he does it four times -- which is now impossible, given he'll miss a quarter of the 2010 season -- he would max out at $1.8 million.

That $600,000 dropoff in the 80 percent tier, coupled with the $350,000 from the 70 percent tier, accounts for the $950,000 in potential losses.

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