Veteran wideout Andre Johnson already has forfeited a $1 million roster bonus by not participating in the offseason program. It’s a no-brainer that he’ll risk another $70,000 in fines by not reporting for mandatory minicamp.
The far more important question: What comes next?
If Johnson stays away from training camp, he’ll risk $30,000 per day in fines and, eventually, the loss of bonus money he previously received. If Johnson retires (and he might), he faces no fines — but he may have to surrender $8.694 in previously paid bonus money that was prorated for cap purposes.
That’s the biggest difference between Johnson’s potential retirement and former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s decision to call it quits in Cincinnati three years ago. With all previously paid bonus money earned, the Bengals were unable to recover any cash from Palmer. If Johnson retires, the Texans could play hardball.
At a certain point, it would be unfair to make Johnson pay back money. Last September, he agreed to convert $5.5 million of his base salary to signing bonus for cap purposes. That created $4.125 million in space that the team needed, at a time when Johnson could have insisted on his full salary.
Unless his contract exempts the unearned portion of the bonus from forfeiture, Johnson could be required to give back $4.125 million.
In hindsight, Johnson possibly wishes he had. For now, his gratuity gives the team extra leverage, if his commitment to his position ends in a retirement.