In 2011, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson had franchise-best seasons, statistically speaking. Each player put up some ridiculous numbers, and each player also triggered contract bonuses as a result.
We already knew about Johnson's $4.5 million contract bonus, which was achieved because he finished at the top of several receiving categories. It turns out Stafford got a bonus of his own after triggering a salary escalator worth $1 million by finishing in the top five of some passing categories. From Mac's Football Blog (via the Free Press):
From 2010-13, Stafford has $1 million in base salary escalation available if he makes certain Pro Bowl/All-NFL teams, or is named league MVP, or if ranks in the Top 5 in either passing yards, passing touchdowns or passing rating. In his first full season in the NFL, Stafford ranked in the Top 5 in all three of those categories, which will increase his base salary to $11.5 million and cap number to just over $17 million.
Part of the reason Stafford's cap number is so high is because he restructured his deal this past season to free up some cap space. Brian McIntyre speculates that Ndamukong Suh could free up $6.5 million of cap space if he restructures his deal this year, so that will be something to keep an eye on, as will if Stafford's deal is once again restructured.