When the NFL fined Earl Bennett $15,000 over two weeks in 2011 for wearing orange cleats that did not meet the team's uniform code, Jay Cutler offered to pick up the tab.

That gesture violated league rules but now Cutler can help Bennett make more money — $500,000 more.

The Bears reduced Bennett's base salary from $2.25 million to $1.25 million just before the start of the season. But the club gave Bennett, who missed nine games over the previous two seasons, a chance to earn back the $1 million difference in performance bonuses.

Bennett got $500,000 back Sunday when he made four catches in the 38-31 road victory over the Browns because it brought him to 30 receptions for the season, the first threshold in his re-worked deal, according to an NFL source. Now, Bennett needs 10 catches in the final two games to get to 40 and earn the other $500,000 that would restore him to his original $2.25 million, a good value for the club as he has remained on the field this season.

That gives Cutler a chance to put the ball in Bennett's hands and let him produce for the offense and for his own bottom line. Bennett has 16 catches in the last four games, including a career-high eight in the Nov. 24 loss at St. Louis when Josh McCown was quarterback. Bennett's 30 catches are the most he has had since his 46 in 2010. He had 29 a year ago and his career high is 54 in 2009 when he was a starter in Ron Turner's offense.

Bennett had a slow start to the season, making just 14 catches in the first 10 games, likely in part to a concussion suffered in training camp that kept him out of all the exhibitions. He has been on the field for 53.1 percent of the offensive snaps and his 501 plays is more than he received in 2012 (418) and 2011 (442) when minor injuries sidetracked him. The 16 catches in the last four games are his most in a four-game stretch since he had 17 from Weeks 12 through 15 in 2010.