A $5.08 million boycott? Packers players would lose big if they skipped OTAs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The NFL Players Association wants a virtual offseason program for the second straight year and, according to reports last week, it wants players to boycott workouts if they’re not virtual.

That might work for some players and in some NFL cities, but what about in Green Bay, where more than a dozen veteran players on the Packers' roster have financial incentives to attend and participate in offseason workouts?

Try telling them to walk away from a combined $5.08 million dollars tied to participating in the offseason program.

NFLPA president JC Tretter has been pushing for a repeat of last year’s offseason, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to conduct everything online until training camps opened in August. The Cleveland Browns center recently wrote on the union’s website that “many of the changes this past year -- like no in-person offseason workouts/practices, the extended acclimation period before training camp and no preseason games -- gave us a year of data that demonstrates maintaining some of these changes long-term is in the best interest of the game.”

Last week, NFL Network reported Tretter told players on a conference call that if teams conduct in-person OTAs this spring, they should boycott them.

NFL offseason programs, which are voluntary except for one allotted minicamp, are scheduled to begin Monday.

The Packers for years have been using workout bonuses in contracts as a way to get veteran players to attend the offseason program. Few players live in Green Bay year round, so they use financial incentives to bring them back. Typically, players must participate in at least 80% to 90% of the offseason program in order to collect. Players were able to collect their workout bonuses last year as long as they were online for the virtual program.

In all, 19 Packers players have workout bonuses in their contracts, ranging from Za'Darius Smith's $750,000 all the way down to a $25,000 bonus for Oren Burks.

Some teams don’t use workout bonuses at all.

The Baltimore Ravens don’t have a single player with a workout bonus on their roster yet their offseason program is typically well attended. But there is an incentive to attend: coach John Harbaugh excuses those who attend from the pre-training camp conditioning test, a grueling exercise.

The Dallas Cowboys have only one player with a workout bonus, Randy Gregory ($180,000), but instead have contract de-escalators where players can have their base salaries reduced if they don’t attend the so-called voluntary workouts.

The Arizona Cardinals have just one player with a workout bonus, long-snapper Aaron Brewer ($50,000).

The Atlanta Falcons have only one player with a workout bonus, tight end Lee Smith. But his bonus was part of a contract the team inherited when they acquired him in a trade from the Buffalo Bills.

Like the Packers, the Bills rely heavily on offseason workout bonuses. The thinking is it’s harder to get players to come to places like Buffalo and Green Bay in the offseason than, say, Atlanta or Arizona. The Bills have more than 20 players with workout bonuses that total $3.8 million.

As for Tretter, he has a $100,000 workout bonus that would be jeopardized if he boycotted the Browns' offseason program should it include in-person activities.

Here are the Packers’ offseason workout bonuses: