Following the money in bounty saga

I’ve been in contact with ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt ever since the news came out that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated the player suspensions in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case.

The one thing Brandt repeatedly has said is that the players continued to get their paychecks throughout the process. That’s significant because we’re talking about a huge amount of money for the two guys -- linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith -- that still are playing for the Saints.

Vilma previously faced a full-season suspension and Smith initially was supposed to be suspended for four games.

Let’s start with Vilma, who opened the season on the physically unable to perform list, but has been paid all throughout the appeals process. Vilma got a $1 million signing bonus when he restructured his contract back in March. Tagliabue’s ruling also clears the way for Vilma to earn his full $1.6 million base salary this season. Vilma already received a $100,000 workout bonus and $600,000 roster bonus before the season ever started. Vilma’s contract also has a clause that could allow him to earn up to $2.2 million in not-likely-to-be-earned incentives that are tied to the number of games he’s been on the active roster and his playing time. We’re not sure of the details of the clause, but Vilma did miss the first five games of the season.

Smith also restructured his contract back in March and received a $6.175 million signing bonus. He now will get to make his full $825,000 base salary this season. Smith already received a $1 million roster bonus and a $150,000 workout bonus in the preseason.