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Monday, February 04, 2008

Mike Vick | Vick Keeps Signing Bonus; Judge David Doty Decision - Profootballtalk.com

This is a huge development as the Falcons believed the $20 million should have been returned, but there were many who disagreed and I personally thought the organization's move was vindictive.


Judge David Doty, who presided over the landmark litigation that resulted in free agency and still retains jurisdiction over certain aspects of the administration of the 15-year-old system, has ruled that Falcons quarterback Mike Vick may keep more than $20 million in bonuses paid to him as part of his December 2004 contract extension.

The decision reverses the ruling of Special Master Stephen Burbank, whose decision to allow the Falcons to pursue the money was regarded as a surprise in the wake of a prior decision from Burbank regarding former Broncos receiver Ashley Lelie.

The ruling arises from a conclusion that roster bonuses are money earned in the year in which they are paid. In contrast, a signing bonus is earned over the period of years in which the money is allocated under the salary cap.

The twist in the Vick case was that the team reserved the right to convert the roster bonus payments to guaranteed amounts, which then triggered proration. But the fact that the money was paid out as a roster bonus, according to Judge Doty, exempts it from forfeiture.

In the Lelie case, Burbank found that an option bonus was not subject to forfeiture, even though an option bonus is essentially a signing bonus that comes due at some date after signing. The second time around, Burbank focused on an argument that the league didn't make in the Lelie case in finding that a roster bonus is subject to forfeiture.

The Falcons have the ability to appeal the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days. Thereafter, the appellate court would set a briefing schedule, and argument would follow several months later. Ultimately, the losing party may attempt to persuade the United States Supreme Court to take up the issue. However, the Supreme Court takes up only a small percentage of proposed appeals.

Vick currently is serving a prison term for violation of federal conspiracy laws relating to gambling and dog fighting.


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