What is a roster bonus, exactly?  I know what you’re sayin’, “why the hell are you talking about roster bonuses, Alvin?”  Well, for two reasons… 1) because the start of the 2011 League Year will be upon us soon (you’ll understand the importance of that shortly), and 2) because in my opinion, the first time most NFL rookies hear some of these terms is when their agent mentions it to them during or after a contract negotiation.

This post for guys that wanna get educated, so if you care, read on. If not, well, don’t.

Anyways, back on topic. What’s a roster bonus? It’s basically just like a signing bonus, the big difference being that a signing bonus is

The Chiefs' Chris Chambers will be due a $500,000 roster bonus if he's still on the team two days after the league year starts. (ICON Sports)

guaranteed, whereas a roster bonus is conditional. To get your roster bonus, you have to be on the team’s active roster at a specified point in time in the future.

As a player, whether or not you actually get your roster bonus is really beyond your control. If a team chose to cut you just a day before the bonus was to become due, guess what? You can kiss that roster bonus money goodbye.

Under the new CBA, roster bonuses become due to the player two days after the league year begins. This means that teams have to decide whether to keep or cut the player by day two of the league year. Teams used to have until the 10th day after the league year starts. I’m sure the Titans hate this new rule right about now.

To reduce the salary cap hit of a roster bonus, a team can choose to “guarantee” it before they pay it out. Guaranteeing the roster bonus allows the team to spread the cap hit over the remaining years on the player’s contract.

So let’s say I’m a player who’s owed a $3 Million signing bonus today, and I have three years left on my contract… If the team I played for guaranteed the roster bonus, the team takes a cap hit of $1 million for each of the next three years, instead of a $3 million hit for the 2011 season.

Oftentimes, teams try to use roster bonuses as motivation to get a player to play well over the course of his contract. They’re also commonly used to help teams fit a player’s salary into their salary cap.

Chris Chambers, of the Kansas City Chiefs, signed a 3-year deal back in 2010 that guaranteed him $5.9 million. $4 million came in the form of a roster bonus, and the remaining $1.9 million was paid-out in the form of salary for the 2010 season.

Chris didn’t play much in 2010, and the Chief’s drafted Jonathan Baldwin in the first round, which means the writing is on the wall that Chambers is going to join the ranks of  veterans that are going to get cut now that the lockout is over.

With his lack of production, it’s highly unlikely that the Chiefs are going to want to cough-up the $500,000 roster bonus he’s due on the 2nd day of the new league year if he’s still on their roster.

Who on your favorite team is due a roster bonus?  Did you already know what a roster bonus was before you checked out this article?

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