Falcons Might Not Be Able to Get More Than $6 Million Back From Vick

Here are the ins and outs of the Atlanta Falcons' attempt to try to force quarterback Michael Vick to return a portion of the $37 million in bonuses in his 10-year, $130 million contract:

Vick's contract, signed in December 2004, contained a $7.5 million signing bonus and two roster bonuses totaling $29.5 million. Assuming that Vick is found to be in default of his contract because of his guilty plea in a federal dogfighting case and indefinite suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Falcons perhaps could attempt to force him to return 80 percent of the $37 million (since he has eight seasons remaining on a 10-year contract). That would be $29.6 million. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Falcons would seek $22 million.

But last year's extension of the labor deal between the league and the NFL Players Association says that only certain bonuses in a player's contract are subject to such "forfeitures." In a grievance filed last year by the Denver Broncos against wide receiver Ashley Lelie, the NFL special master--University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen Burbank, who's in charge of resolving disputes between the league and players' union arising from the labor deal--ruled that an option bonus couldn't be retrieved. So in the Vick case, if a roster bonus is found to be similarly exempt, Vick's $29.5 million would be safe and the Falcons could get back only 80 percent of the $7.5 million signing bonus, or $6 million.

So Vick could get to keep $31 million of his $37 million in bonuses, plus the $2 million in salaries that the contract paid him in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. That's $33 million. But he still would be missing out on $97 million--the $6 million in bonuses that he might have to return, plus $91 million in salaries for the 2007 through 2014 seasons contained in the deal.

By Mark Maske |  August 27, 2007; 10:05 PM ET  | Category:  Falcons , League
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