Lockout could hit workout bonuses

Now that all the NFC South teams are out of the playoffs, it’s time to start looking ahead. We’ll be talking a lot in the coming months about the 2011 draft, mainly because that’s the only thing we know for sure that will happen this offseason. We’ll also talk about free agency, although that could be delayed slightly or greatly by whatever happens with the league’s labor situation.

Speaking of that, I decided to take a look at some contract stuff to see what a potential protracted lockout would do to workout bonuses around the NFC South. In general terms, some players have contracts that call for bonuses to be paid for participating in a specified amount of offseason workouts.

The number of workouts varies from contract to contract. But, generally speaking, most contracts call for a player to participate in a majority of offseason workouts and many contracts require the player to participate in at least 75 percent of the workouts.

If there is a lockout, it would take hold March 3. Most teams have offseason programs that are scheduled to begin later in March. If the lockout is lengthy, like many expect, there will be no offseason programs. In most cases, that would mean players with workout bonuses would not be able to earn them and players collect their base salaries only during the regular season.

I talked to one agent this morning who represents an NFC South player who is scheduled to collect a significant workout bonus in 2011. This player came into the league recently, when the possibility of a lockout was already on the horizon. Due to that fact, this player’s contract includes some language where he could recoup the lost workout bonus down the road if a new labor agreement is reached after the window for this year's offseason programs. But the agent said this player is one of the few exceptions and most players would lose their workout bonuses if all or most of the offseason workouts are canceled.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the workout bonus situation for each NFC South team.

New Orleans. This is a much bigger deal for the Saints than any other NFC South team. They have a division-high 12 players with workout bonuses in their contracts and eleven of them are well into six figures. Malcolm Jenkins has a team-high $350,000 workout bonus and Sedrick Ellis has a $250,000 workout bonus. Drew Brees and Jahri Evans each are scheduled to receive $200,000 bonuses and Will Smith has one for $150,000, while Robert Meachem is scheduled for a $147,000 bonus. Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, Jon Stinchcomb and Devery Henderson each have a $100,000 bonus and Marques Colston has a $75,000 bonus. Tracy Porter is scheduled for a $7,280 workout bonus.

Atlanta. All general managers are different in how they spread out money in contracts. Atlanta’s Thomas Dimitroff isn’t a big fan of workout bonuses. In the past, he’s included some very small ones. But the Falcons don’t have a single true workout bonus for any of their players in 2011. Receiver Roddy White can earn up to $5 million in escalators based on Pro Bowl selections and participation in offseason workouts that would kick in later in his contract.

Carolina. General manager Marty Hurney used to include some workout bonuses in contracts and that was especially prevalent when defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins were in town because the Panthers felt they had to keep Peppers interested and Jenkins interested and in shape. But Hurney has steered clear of workout bonuses in recent years. There is not a single true workout bonus for any Carolina player this year. In fact, most of the contracts for the 2010 draft class include clauses where future salaries can de-escalate if players don’t participate in offseason workouts.

Tampa Bay. Donald Penn is scheduled to receive a division-high $400,000 workout bonus and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has a $300,000 bonus. The only other Tampa Bay player with a workout bonus in his contract is Ted Larsen and that’s for $7,280.