The Martellus Bennett saga took another step forward today as the Green Bay Packers filed the necessary paperwork to seek to reclaim a portion of his signing bonus, per ESPN’s Rob Demovksy. The NFL Player’s Association said they were monitoring the situation, but had no additional comment.
This is not a surprise, as Bennett’s departure was extremely unusual and the NFL’s policy on unusual departures, such as retirement, or an undisclosed injury designation almost always involves arbitration of some point. NFL signing bonuses are guaranteed, however that guarantee is not absolute, and anything that is essentially a breach of the contract can bring the bonus back into play.
In this matter, the Packers contended during his release that Bennett did not properly disclose an injury, and his open discussions of wanting to retire at season’s end fed into the idea that he simply did not want to be there. That was especially so after Aaron Rodgers was lost with a broken collarbone. Bennett later accused Packers’ doctor Pat McKenzie of pressuring him to play while injured, even though he was told he needed immediate shoulder surgery. That statement was met with opposition from former and current Packers, and was also undercut by Bennett’s own actions as he signed and played for the New England Patriots upon his release.
Bennett signed a 3-year, $21 million contract before the 2017 season, with a $6.3 million signing bonus. The remaining pro-rated portion would be about $4.2 million, and recouping that money would have significant salary cap implications for the team in 2018. The breakup has been acrimonious, and while the Packers would seem to have the facts on their side given Bennett’s statements and actions, Bennett is not one to go away quietly.
(Unless the starting quarterback gets hurt, of course.)