NFL CBA Series: Other Bonuses
Though a player’s signing bonus is the most covered part of a player compensation package, a player can also earn other types of bonuses. Any bonus that is guaranteed for skill, cap, and injury is subject to proration rules like a signing bonus.
The roster bonus is another of the more publicized bonuses. The end of the Peyton Manning Era in Indianapolis came due to a $28 million roster bonus the Colts would have owed Manning had he still been on the team March 8, 2012.
Roster bonuses come in different forms. Some are considered earned when a player is on the roster early in a given League Year. Manning’s roster bonus was due early, as is the one in Darrelle Revis’ new contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. $1.5 million roster bonus is due on the third day of the League Year in every season of his 6-year deal.
These early roster bonuses are considered player friendly. They force teams to make a decision on a player early in the free agency period. This gives a player a larger window to negotiate a free agent contract.
The alternative to this roster bonus is one that favors the team. When a roster bonus is considered earned for making a team’s opening-day roster, for being on the active 46-man roster, or for being on the team at some later point in the season, the player stands to lose much more.
For example, if a player has a roster bonus for making his team’s opening-day roster, the team can ponder its decision all the way through training camp. A team can evaluate the talent it has on its roster and determine if the player is worth the bonus or if there is another player can fill his spot.
If the team deems the player with the Week One roster bonus expendable, the player will be released far after teams have used most of their cap space, limiting that player’s opportunity to maximize the value of his services.
Active roster bonuses are even better for teams. The bonus is pretty simple: if you don’t suit up on game day, you don’t receive your bonus. Teams can also use this type of roster bonus to circumvent the salary cap for players who were injured in the previous year. Since only “Likely To Be Earned” LTBE incentives count against the salary cap during the current year, a team can award a player for staying healthy and count the incentive against the following year’s salary cap.
Basically, the later a roster bonus is awarded the more it serves the team.
An option bonus is similar to a roster bonus, except that, rather than awarding a player for remaining on the team, the front office has the option to terminate the contract or keep the player on the roster and his contract on the books.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco has two option bonuses in his contract: one in 2014 for $15 million and one in 2015 for $7 million. These bonus are guaranteed for injury only, so if Flacco is injured during the season before the option bonus is due, the team can’t cut him due to his injury without paying the bonus.
An option bonus that is fully guaranteed for skill, cap, and injury or one that has been paid is subject to proration (Art. 13, Sec. 6, iii, 94). Because this bonus is a guaranteed (once the option is exercised) lump sum, the bonus will be spread over the term of the contract up to five years.
All players are awarded minimum per diems for going to offseason workouts. The per diem is $175 per day (increases by $20 every two years of the new CBA), though the player must complete an allotted amount of workouts over the period to receive such payments (Art. 21, Sec 3, 133).
Since this workouts are voluntary (Art. 21, Sec. 1, 131), this per diem is not enough for some players to even entertain attending offseason workouts. Therefore, teams will typically give star players workout bonuses as added incentive to show up to these team activities.
Revis leads the way with the highest workout bonus in the NFL at $1.5 million. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is second at $500,000. Minnesota’s future Hall of Fame running back, Adrian Peterson, receives $250,000 every offseason for participating.
If a reporting bonus is agreed to in a Player Contract, it is considered earned when a player reports to training camp on time. Though a “completion bonus” is another incentive for a player to report to camp, the reporting bonus offers the same deterrent to players holding out.