ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reports that the Falcons have are seeking to have Michael Vick return about $16 million in bonus money due to him pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges. A previous report by ESPN had that figure reported at $20 million.
University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Stephen Burbank will oversee a hearing that is scheduled for tomorrow. The NFL Players Association will argue against the Falcons claim indicating that because most of the Vick’s bonus money was paid as roster bonuses which cannot be recouped by teams. Vick signed a ten-year $130 million contract in December 2004, which included $37 million in bonuses. About $29.5 million of that was due as roster bonuses.
Last season, prior to his acquisition by the Falcons, wide receiver Ashley Lelie was involved in a dispute with the Denver Broncos involving his absence from training camp. It was resolved in that case that because Lelie’s bonuses were option bonuses and thus deemed already earned, the Broncos could not recoup that money. Based on the NFLPA’s interpretation of the rule and, roster bonuses are treated as option bonuses. Because of this rule, some experts have contended that the Falcons may receive as little as $3.75 million or up to $6 million instead of the $16-20 million they seek.
According to Paolantonio, the Falcons will argue that because of his involvement in dogfighting that according to federal charges began in 2001, Vick was already in defraud of the contract he signed in 2004 and that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the “Lelie rule” applies was not signed until 2006 and thus is not applicable to Vick’s contract.
Also the Falcons plan to file another separate grievance against Vick that will seek over $22 million from him in damages. That grievance is not expected to be heard until after the case that will be heard Thursday is resolved.