Super Bowl win would mean big bucks for Grossman

MIAMI -- Suspend for a moment the ridiculous debate over whether Rex Grossman is the worst quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl berth.

Concentrate instead on this Grossman-related element, which is indisputable: The Chicago Bears' starter is one of the lowest-paid Super Bowl quarterbacks in recent history.

Which could change dramatically if Grossman engineers an upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday evening in Super Bowl XLI.

"Not many quarterbacks go to a Super Bowl in their first season as a starter," acknowledged Bears veteran wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad here Sunday, shortly after the Chicago charter flight arrived. "Win the Super Bowl in your first [try] and, hey, that's got to be worth something pretty good, doesn't it?"

How much value is attached to a Super Bowl victory, at least in the case of Grossman, remains to be seen. Certainly, a championship would command a measure of respect for Grossman that he hasn't yet been afforded, despite fashioning a 15-3 record (counting two playoff victories) in his first full season as a starter. And it might bring the former first-round draft pick from the University of Florida the kinds of riches that he has been unable to amass to this point in his four-year career, in large part because of injuries.

It is, in essence, the makings of a perfect storm for Grossman, who could make a killing at the bargaining table with one more win. He has got motive, opportunity and means. And with a win, he could remove any alibis remaining for a Bears organization that so far has paid him for potential and would prefer to further reward him for production.

Remember the cheesy old television show "Bowling for Dollars," in which the contestants earned a dollar for every bowling pin toppled? Well, Grossman, 26, is definitely Super Bowling for dollars this week.

Considerable coverage has been paid, as the Bears continued to ring up victories this season, to the contract status of coach Lovie Smith, who in 2007 will enter the final year of his original contract with the club, a deal that paid him just $1.35 million for 2006. What hasn't been much reported is that Grossman, too, has only one more season left on the five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2003.

That deal paid Grossman, the 22nd overall choice in the 2003 draft, a signing bonus of $2.05 million and a roster bonus of $390,000 as a rookie. He earned a $1.98 million option bonus in the spring of 2004, but his base salaries have been modest: $250,000 (for 2003), $305,000 (2004), $465,000 (2005) and $625,000 (2006).

His scheduled base salary for next season, $785,000, could be augmented by an "escalator" that has yet to be determined but would boost its value. And Grossman also will earn a bonus based on several performance factors, including how far Chicago advances in the playoffs. But the fact remains that, in his first four NFL seasons, Grossman has banked only about $6.07 million total.

There are at least two quarterbacks in the league who had bigger base salaries alone, exclusive of any bonuses, for the 2006 season.

The really big bucks in Grossman's contract were tied to playing time and performance. His potential for earning much of that money was scuttled by injuries -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2004 and a broken ankle in 2005 -- that limited Grossman to just eight appearances and seven starts in his first three seasons.

Finally healthy in 2006, and able to start all 16 games in the regular season and both the playoff contests, Grossman has an opportunity now to recoup much of that money.

How much? That's hard to say, but not many NFL franchises ever allow their starting quarterback to reach the final year of his contract. And a Super Bowl victory on Grossman's résumé would doubtless be a pretty effective bargaining tool in any negotiations. There is precedent in recent history, with the Carolina Panthers having rewarded Jake Delhomme with a fat new deal after he guided the club to a Super Bowl XXXVIII berth in 2003. Of course, a disappointing performance Sunday could make the Bears decide to let Grossman play out the final year of his deal without an extension.

Not surprisingly, Grossman is loathe to discuss the financial ramifications of what could be a $uper Bowl bonanza for him.

"That's the last thing on my mind right now," Grossman said last week.

Word is, though, that Grossman has suggested to friends he would expect to be paid like a top-10 quarterback if he ends up hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on Sunday night. To date, there haven't been even preliminary discussions between Bears officials and Grossman's agent, Eugene Parker, about a new contract.

"Not a word," Parker confirmed. "But that's to be expected. I mean, right now, everyone is preoccupied with winning the Super Bowl. That's the overriding priority."

The offseason offers an eternity for dealing with contract matters and, if Grossman plays well on Sunday, he can enter any contract talks with momentum and leverage. As demonstrated in its dealings with Lovie Smith, whose 2006 salary is less than that of roughly 10 assistant coaches in the league, Chicago management is very deliberate in granting contract extensions. And there is some justifiable cause for that, particularly on the coaching front.

In early 1996, after Dave Wannstedt posted a 25-23 record and earned one playoff berth in his first three seasons as coach, the Bears upgraded his contract. Over the ensuing three seasons, the Bears averaged just five victories and twice finished last in the division, and Wannstedt was fired. After a 13-3 record in 2001 and the franchise's first division title in 11 years, the Bears gave Dick Jauron a new deal. Chicago stumbled to 4-12 in 2002, was 7-9 in '03, and Jauron was gone.

Twice bitten, apparently thrice shy, and the Bears have been beyond deliberate in their approach with Smith. That reluctance, understandably, has carried over to Grossman's situation.

General manager Jerry Angelo, who along with Smith has staunchly supported Grossman through a series of tribulations, has said he wants to see more of a "body of work" from the quarterback. And since his body didn't work very well in his first three seasons, when he registered just 195 pass attempts, or about five games' worth for Grossman's Super Bowl XLI counterpart, Peyton Manning, it has been difficult to assess the progress of the young quarterback.

Even this season, when he became the first Chicago quarterback since Erik Kramer to start all 16 games, Grossman was a textbook study in inconsistency. Clearly, the intangibles that Angelo saw in him before the 2003 draft, the feistiness and grit and leadership, were obvious. But on the field, Grossman suffered a roller-coaster existence.

He finished second in the NFL in games with a passer rating of 100.0 or better (seven), but he also had a league-high five outings in which he posted an efficiency mark of less than 40.0. That included games with microscopic ratings of 10.2, 1.3, and 0.0.

A victory on Sunday night, though, and those disparate figures will be forgotten. And make no mistake, Grossman intends to win Super Bowl XLI and maybe a few more, too.

"When it's all over," Grossman said, "I see myself with multiple [Super Bowl wins]."

If that's the case, Grossman will have earned himself several rings. And, perhaps starting next season, will have earned himself a healthy raise.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer at ESPN.com.