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NFL Workout Bonuses: Aaron Rodgers And Eli Manning Get A Lot, Others Do Not

The CBA says the offseason workouts are voluntary, but virtually all teams want to have their players working out at team headquarters. And some teams are willing to pay to make sure attendance is high.

"Dude, check out my workout bonus this year!"
"Dude, check out my workout bonus this year!"
Al Bello

This week, every single NFL team will have started their offseason program. And with news that Ndamukong Suh once again decided to skip these voluntary workouts in Detroit, and that Kyle Orton went for a literal interpretation of the word "voluntary" in Dallas, we focus on an often neglected part of NFL player contracts: Workout Bonuses.

The CBA says the offseason workouts are voluntary, but virtually all teams want to have their players working out at team headquarters from now until the mandatory minicamps in June. And some teams are even willing to pay to make sure attendance is high.

For the Cowboys, attendance has historically never been much of an issue, as most of the players make their home in Dallas year round. In fact, their nearly 100 percent attendance record for their offseason program is a key reason why a first-day absence by a backup quarterback makes any kind of headlines in the first place.

There is no hard and fast rule about when, how and why to incentivize players to show up for the offseason program. Some teams use workout bonuses as a part of their regular contract structure, some use it mostly on rookies, some use it because their team headquarters are in out-of-the-way places where players don't normally live the full year, some don't use workout bonuses at all.

In 2014, 412 NFL Players have some type of financial remuneration built into their contracts to ensure their participation in the 2014 offseason program. Those players have a chance to earn up to $40.7 million combined in workout bonuses this year. That may sound like a lot, but with the cap set at $133 million per team, the workout bonuses make up only about 1% of the total available cap space in the NFL. Not much to get worked up about, but it's still worth looking at.

Workout bonuses are not a big part of the Cowboys' contract structure, and in total the Cowboy shell out only $365,000 to seven players still on their rookie contracts. Dez Bryant takes the bulk of that with $250,000, followed by Bruce Carter ($50,000), DeMarco Murray ($25,000) and four players with $10,000 each: Dwayne Harris, J.J. Wilcox, Terrance Williams, Tyrone Crawford.

Note that players without workout bonuses in their contracts get $175 per day for their participation in the offseason program, which covers both workouts and classroom instruction for a maximum of four days per week over nine weeks.

As a reference, here are the top 11 players in the league as ranked by their 2014 workout bonuses, all of whom receive more workout money than all the Cowboys combined:

Team Player Workout Bonus
NYJ D'Brickashaw Ferguson $750,000
BUF Mario Williams $500,000
GB Clay Matthews $500,000
GB Aaron Rodgers $500,000
GB Sam Shields $500,000
NYG Eli Manning $500,000
SF Patrick Willis $500,000
WAS DeSean Jackson $500,000
OAK Donald Penn $400,000
SF Frank Gore $400,000

It's a little odd to see QBs like Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers on this list, as you'd probably expect the QBs in particular to take a leadership role in this whole effort, even without the extra incentive. In addition to Manning and Rodgers, there are only six other QBs in the league with workout bonuses built into their contracts: Drew Brees ($250,000), Drew Stanton (ARI: $250,000) Jason Campbell (CIN: $100,000), Matt Cassel (MIN: $100,000), Colin Kaepernick (SF: $100,000), and Nick Foles (PHI: $20,000).

With three players in the top 11, it doesn't surprise that Green Bay has the highest amount of workout bonuses in its player contracts. The Packers lead the league with $4,325,000 in workout bonuses. The Giants lead the league with 34 players receiving workout bonuses, which is a little surprising given that the Giants are not in as remote a location as the Packers are.

At the other end of the scale, there are five teams that do not have a single player under contract with a workout bonus. The Falcons, Ravens, Broncos, Texans, and Steelers apparently do not feel the need to incentivize their players to show up at team headquarters.

Here's the full overview of how much each team could spend on how many players in workout bonuses this year. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).

Workout Bonuses 2014 per team
Team 2014 Value in $ million
2014 No. of Players
Green Bay Packers 4.325 21
Cincinnati Bengals 3.205 27
Buffalo Bills 2.960 28
Oakland Raiders 2.879 21
Kansas City Chiefs 2.791 31
San Francisco 49ers 2.695 20
Arizona Cardinals 2.085 18
New York Giants 1.983 34
New York Jets 1.803 10
Minnesota Vikings 1.795 24
Carolina Panthers 1.765 24
Chicago Bears 1.705 19
Washington Redskins 1.570 14
New England Patriots 1.495
New Orleans Saints 1.357 15
Tennessee Titans 0.985 10
Cleveland Browns 0.910 8
Philadelphia Eagles 0.890 11
Jacksonville Jaguars 0.822 19
Miami Dolphins 0.695 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0.525 4
Seattle Seahawks 0.500 3
Dallas Cowboys 0.365 7
Detroit Lions 0.255 8
San Diego Chargers 0.168 3
St. Louis Rams 0.100 1
Indianapolis Colts 0.030 1
Atlanta Falcons - -
Baltimore Ravens - -
Denver Broncos - -
Houston Texans - -
Pittsburgh Steelers - -

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