Pro Bowl selections lead to big bonuses for some players

Getting voted to the Pro Bowl is reward enough. But some players were rewarded even more than others.

A handful of this year's Pro Bowl selections had Pro Bowl bonuses or Pro Bowl escalators in their contracts that dramatically raised their salaries for next season.

Packers cornerback Al Harris cashed in on a $200,000 bonus for his first Pro-Bowl selection.

Patriots defensive end Vince Wilfork had a Pro Bowl escalator in his contract that boosted next year's base salary by $500,000.

And Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald might have been the single biggest benefactor. His Pro Bowl selection triggered a $5 million escalator, boosting his base salary to $14.6 million for next season.

Fitzgerald initially was slated to make $1.1 million in base salary next season. But his playing-time and performance incentives increased next year's base salary by close to $10 million.

Other Pro Bowl selections also made out big Tuesday, though the exact results of their earnings will remain unknown until the off-season.

Pro Bowl selections such as Kansas City defensive end Jared Allen, Dallas running back Marion Barber, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca, Dallas safety Ken Hamlin, Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Hayneworth, New England cornerback Asante Samuel, Indianapolis safety Bob Sanders and Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant each is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Allen and Haynesworth are expected to receive the franchise tag.

Barber is only a restricted free agent. Briggs and Samuels already have met incentives in their contract that prevent their teams from franchising them. Faneca is determined to depart Pittsburgh.

Indianapolis must decide whether to franchise Sanders or tight end Dallas Clark, which are not easy decisions. And Seattle could slap its franchise tag on Trufant.

The cornerback market has the chance to be the deepest, and richest, in this year's free-agent class. It includes two Pro Bowl selections, Samuel and Trufant, and a third that just as easily could have gone, Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha.

Any team looking to upgrade its cornerback position this off-season –- and virtually every team in the league is –- will have a bounty of riches to choose from. Problem is, it is not going to be cheap. Last off-season, San Francisco showered an $80 million contract that included $22 million worth of guaranteed money on free-agent cornerback Nate Clements.

Each of the three cornerbacks expected to hit this year's free-agent market could meet or exceed Clements' deal.

Ask any agent or team if a Pro Bowl selection is worth any money at the bargaining table. It sure is. So for as much as some say that the Pro Bowl is meaningless, try telling that to the free agents-to-be.

They just added value to their off-season deals.

In memory of...

Former Washington safety Sean Taylor was voted into the Pro Bowl and he will be represented.

The NFL is flying members of Taylor's family to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl in February, just as it would have if Taylor had not been shot and killed in his Miami home Nov. 27, a Redskins official said this week.

In addition, the league has informed Taylor's family that it will receive either the winner's or loser's player share from the game. Players on the winning Pro Bowl team get $40,000, players on the losing Pro Bowl team get $20,000.

Let the games begin

Over the next 10 days, NFL Network is the home of some pivotal matchups with plenty of postseason implications.

Thursday night, the Steelers play in St. Louis in a game that has as much meaning to Cleveland as it does to Pittsburgh. The Browns and Steelers are tied for first place in the AFC North.

On Saturday night, the Cowboys play in Carolina in a game that has as much meaning to Green Bay as it does to Dallas. The Packers and Cowboys are tied for the NFC's top playoff seed and the battle for homefield advantage in the NFC.

And a week from Saturday night, the Patriots play in New Jersey against the Giants in a game that has as much meaning to Miami as it does to New England. The game is expected to be the last obstacle between the Patriots and a perfect 16-0 regular season. Of course, the Giants might need the game to eke into the playoffs.

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