In something has probably been some time coming NFL players are beginning to collectively opt out of their offseason workout programs. Thus far today the Broncos and Seahawks have said they will not attend the offseason programs and I would expect many more to follow suit.
The concept of the workout program has always been something that was very hit or miss with veteran players. It is often a trivial amount of money relative to the NFL contract for attendance in an offseason program. To encourage participation teams devised the contract mechanism called a workout bonus in which a player was paid a reasonable sum of money for attending most of the offseason program.
Through the years, however, teams started to seemingly get good participation regardless of offseason money and they used them less and less in their contracts. Those who did keep them never really adjusted with the times as salaries increased workout bonuses stayed pretty much the same- anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 for the biggest players and $25,000 to $75,000 for the others.
The question is what will the NFL’s reaction be to this. My guess would be that they will up the amount of money that is tied to workouts similar to what was done in the past. While I don’t think teams see the value in the workout program the way they used to they clearly like having the players around the facility during the offseason. Workouts are also beneficial to the non veteran who is more of a fringe player. He can often use more time with the staff and getting prep work for the season. Those players are the ones who have probably been hurt the most by reductions in non gameday related activities over the years.
Overall we have a record of 212 players with a workout bonus with the largest being $750,000 (Za’Darius Smith). 16 players have a bonus of at least $500,000 and 102 between $100,000 and $500,000. The remainder have under $100,000 tied to workouts. If you do not have a contracted bonus for workouts you will earn $275 for each day you attend.
It is also important to know that sometimes workout participation is tied to other salary in your contract. Teams such as the Cowboys, Texans, and Football Team often have what are called workout de-escalators that reduce a players in season salary if they fail to attend the workout program. Usually these range from $250,000 to $500,000 per player and apply to every veteran with a major contract. These teams often have no workout bonuses but the salary tied to the workout is actually among the highest in the NFL. Sometimes teams will also have fine print language tying a portion of a bonus to offseason participation.
Of actual workout bonuses we have records of 25 teams that utilize them this year. Here is the list.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.