Cushing’s suspension could cost him down the road

In addition to the stigma of possibly being stripped of his 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, there’s another issue for Texans LB Brian Cushing: How does this affect his wallet?

As it pertains to the rookie award, it actually has no effect at all. Cushing’s rookie contract included a $2.219 million bonus for which the ROY award was just one of a few performance-based goals that served as a trigger. Even without the award, Cushing met other incentives that triggered that bonus.

That said, there are more lucrative escalators in the contract that could be affected — and could cost Cushing as much as $2.6 million.

These escalators increase the value of the contract if Cushing plays 80 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and makes the Pro Bowl in three of the first four years of the contract. He reached both of those goals as a rookie, but his four-game drug suspension for the start of the 2010 season also disqualifies him from next year’s Pro Bowl and makes it highly unlikely that he will reach the 80 percent mark in total plays. That means he’d have to reach those goals in 2011 and again in 2012 to earn that $2.6 million in the fifth year — an uphill climb for what seemed like a very attainable goal just a few months ago.

— Gil Brandt

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