Steelers linebacker James Harrison cashed in on his incredible 2008 season by agreeing to a new contract Monday that is worth $51.175 million over the next six seasons.
Harrison was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year last season and had a 100-yard interception return before the half in the Steelers' Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He was scheduled to make $1.4 million this season, the final year of his contract.
Included in the contract, which will be officially announced Tuesday, is about $20 million in bonuses.
"James is pleased he will be a Steeler for the rest of his NFL career, in all probability, which is what he wanted," Bill Parise, Harrison's agent, told The Associated Press. "The contract is reflective of him being the defensive player of the year."
According to Parise, the contract is the largest signed by an NFL linebacker, although the total value of the contract is not guaranteed.
Harrison rose from being an undrafted player cut a few times into one of the best defensive players in professional football. The 30-year-old Harrison had 16 sacks in 15 regular-season games last year and he had 8˝ sacks in 2007. He took over a starting job after the departure of Joey Porter following the 2006 season and has 199 tackles during his two seasons as a starter.
The contract extension for Harrison was considered one of the main goals for the Steelers during the offseason. The team wanted to reward him for last season and prevent him from hitting the free-agent market in 2010.
He played his college ball at Kent State University, which also produced Hall of Fame Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert.
Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.