The Green Bay Packers are expected to file a grievance against New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett to recoup some of the signing bonus due to their claims that the tight end failed to disclose an injury.
“Sources say the Packers do intend to go after Bennett's signing bonus, a move they telegraphed by waiving him with the failure to disclose designation,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports. “It's unclear if they would seek repayment of the entire $6.3 million signing bonus or the $4.2 million prorated portion in the three-year, $21-million contract. Rules allow a team to battle for the signing bonus if a player had a pre-existing condition before a signing, assuming the club did not know about it.”
The Packers are going to argue that Bennett had a previously existing shoulder injury and didn’t make a full disclosure of his physical ailments.
Bennett will counter that he went through all the team examinations and was cleared before his shoulder injury was exacerbated in his game against the Dallas Cowboys under the team’s watch.
We’ll find out what the injury documentation says over the course of this grievance dispute.
The Patriots aren’t strangers to the “failure to disclose an injury” distinction after they signed and released defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene in a window of five months back in 2012. The two sides settled in 2013 with Fanene able to keep his first signing bonus payment, but the Patriots keeping the second payment that was due in 2013.
It’s not rare for teams to split up signing bonus payments across multiple years so they’re not paying out such large chunks in one bank check; if Bennett were to receive anything in 2018, then perhaps that is what the Packers might have a chance to reclaim.
It’s worth noting that the Patriots received additional cap space in 2013 equal to the the signing bonus amount that Fanene was no longer set to receive, which raises a question for salary cap gurus: if the Packers win their grievance, who gets the cap relief?
The Packers is the easy answer, but it’s possible that the Packers get the cash, but the Patriots get the cap space because the contract is still existing and belongs to New England.
One thing to remember if claimed, and he suddenly retires...new Team can go after SB money not GB.— TexansCap (@TexansCap) November 9, 2017
GB doesn’t own the contract anymore. All rights transfer to NE after claiming the contract.— TexansCap (@TexansCap) November 15, 2017
Now the Patriots only get the extra cap space if the Packers win their grievance, which means that the money will be coming out of Bennett’s pocket, so it’s not a perfect situation. But if the Patriots end up getting a quality tight end and additional cap space, then that just shows that Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams are simply wizards from another dimension.