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Bulger, Kerney, Jones and retirement

Matt Bowen's item on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger got me thinking about the retirement rumors that have come and gone this offseason.

Various reports have cast Bulger and Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney as potentially leaning toward retirement.

Both could have incentive to hang around until their teams release them, however. Retiring partway through a lucrative contract can invite teams to recoup some of the bonus money. Jake Plummer reportedly paid back $3.5 million in bonus money after retiring. Barry Sanders reportedly paid back $1.8 million to the Lions.

I don't know if the Rams or Seahawks would try to recoup bonus money if Bulger and Kerney retired, but precedent might be on their side. Bulger's contract still carries $6 million in prorated signing bonus money scheduled to count against future salary caps, should they exist. The total for Kerney is more than $9 million.

Both players could receive their releases this offseason if they do not retire. If that happens, neither would have to worry about repaying bonus money under any circumstances. That could provide disincentive for retirement even if both players were leaning against playing (and Kerney has subsequently said he wants to play).

Walter Jones' situation with the Seahawks is a bit different. While his salary is $7.3 million in 2010, his deal carries only $400,000 in outstanding bonus proration.