Adrian Clayborn was miles away from fulfilling the performance incentive in his contract, but that changed after he had the best game of his career.
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn had a historic game on Sunday, and by the time it was over, he had also provided a significant boost to his bank account.
Clayborn is making a base salary of $3.75 million this season, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, his contract includes a performance incentive: an additional $750,000 for recording at least eight sacks in a season. The Iowa product entered Sunday with just two on the year, but he quadrupled that total with some help from the Cowboys, downing Dak Prescott in the backfield a whopping six times.
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Clayborn's total of six sacks was not only a Falcons franchise record, but also just the fourth such performance in the history of the league. It was the first six-sack game in more than a decade — the last one came courtesy of Osi Umenyiora of the Giants on September 30, 2007. Kansas City Chiefs great Derrick Thomas holds the single-game record with seven.
While one teammate described Clayborn's performance as "video game-like," the St. Louis native said he stuck with his normal approach in the 27-7 win.
"I play the same way every game and it lucked out for me today," Clayborn said, according to Alex Makrides of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You always envision [a game like this], doesn’t mean it is going to happen. I am just blessed I am finally in my groove."
The Cowboys played the game without their starting left tackle, four-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith, who was sidelined due to back and groin injuries. Smith's backup, Chaz Green, came out of the game after he gave up four sacks; Green's replacement, Byron Bell, wasn't much better, surrendering two more. Clayborn made great use of his speed to consistently navigate around both linemen.
"I only have one move and it worked," he said.
Fresh off the high from his historic performance, Clayborn will soon have a chance to make even more money. Schefter reported that his contract has an another clause guaranteeing him $1.25 million for reaching 10 sacks in a season, which would bring his total pay to $5.75 million. Both bonuses stipulate that Clayborn must be on the 53-man roster at the end of the season, which seems more than likely.
Clayborn and the Falcons will play their next game next Monday against the Seattle Seahawks.