For NFL contracts, bonuses play a significant role in how much money players earn. Roster bonuses are awarded when a player is an active member of the roster on a specific date. Workout bonuses call for a player to attend the majority of the team's offseason workouts – usually at least 75 percent.
NFL teams handle contracts differently, with some paying out bonuses in March and others paying them in the summer. The Bears are one of many teams that pay out bonuses in June.
Yet for as long as there is a work stoppage, players will not be paid either of these bonuses. The offseason conditioning programs typically begin in March. Players earn a minimum of $7,280 by fully participating in these programs – 28 current Bears have these payouts in place. Fourteen Chicago players will lose at least $25,000 from these bonuses. Ten of those players -- receiver Devin Hester, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, quarterback Jay Cutler, defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, safety Chris Harris, tackle Frank Omiyale and cornerback Tim Jennings – will lose more than $100,000.
Potential cumulative losses to Bears players – if the lockout lasts the entirety of the offseason-conditioning period, which ends in June – would total nearly $2.7 million. Additionally, losses from June roster bonuses would total more than $4 million. All told, Chicago players could lose a combined $7 million during the work stoppage.
If the lockout drags on, the following Bears will stand to lose the most:
(Player – roster bonus – workout bonus)
Lance Briggs – $0 – $250,000
Jay Cutler – $0 – $500,000
Roberto Garza – $455,000 – $75,000
Robbie Gould – $500,000 – $0
Chris Harris – $500,000 – $100,000
Devin Hester – $0 – $250,000
Israel Idonije – $0 – $100,000
Tim Jennings – $0 – $100,000
Brandon Manumaleuna – $1M – $100,000
Greg Olsen – $125,732 – $8,120
Frank Omiyale – $0 – $250,000
Julius Peppers – $0 – $100,000
Chester Taylor – $0 – $25,000
Charles Tillman – $0 – $50,000
Matt Toeaina – $0 – $55,000
Brian Urlacher – $1.6M – $500,000
Yet, as players know full well, no one feels sorry for them. Most fans already feel football players are overpaid. And forfeiting these bonuses will not force any of them to get a second job at White Castle.
What is of interest though, is the fact Maumaleuna has a $1 million roster bonus. Has there been a precedent set anywhere in the NFL that qualifies a backup tight end to earn this type of bonus? It seems odd Chicago's front office would put so much stock in a player of his caliber … unless they knew he'd never earn that bonus.
The Bears foresaw this current situation. And really, who didn't? Was this a sly move on the front office's part to sweeten the deal from Manumaleuna's perspective – while in the back of their minds they knew they'd never have to pay out the bonus? Say what you will about the ethics of doing business in that fashion, but if this conjecture is true, then it was a smart move – Manumaleuna earned nowhere near a $1 million bonus last season.
Ted Phillips, Bears president and CEO, feels the lockout is necessary but has confidence football will be played this season. Whether he's right on either account is still up for debate. Shortly after the lockout was made official, the Bears released the following statement from Phillips.
"We're disappointed in the need to take this step, but it is necessary for the long- term health of our league. Ultimately we believe an agreement will be reached at the bargaining table. As an individual club, our team focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season and we want Bears fans to know we are going to continue to do everything we can within the League rules to prepare for a championship season. Our immediate focus is on preparing for the draft. We also continue to evaluate our team and will be ready to take advantage of all avenues to improve our team once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
"Some aspects of this offseason may look different, but our commitment to winning remains the same. We need to build off the success we had in 2010. We are committed to our fan base and appreciate their patience throughout this process. We will do our best to create opportunities for Bears fans to ask questions and keep them informed of what is happening with their team and the labor discussions. We still plan to host fan events this offseason starting with our "Ultimate Weekend" which includes our Draft Party and Bears Expo at Soldier Field.
"A deal will get done and we expect to play football in 2011. Our goal remains the same as we prepare to play, bringing a Super Bowl title back to Chicago."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.