Maybe now the Broncos-Ashley Lelie legal episode can have closure. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN reports that the Denver Broncos filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver against former Broncos wide receiver Ashley Lelie for repayment of previously paid bonus money. According to the suit, the money represents a prorated share of a signing bonus that Lelie received from the Broncos when he was drafted back in 2002. In addition, Lelie has neither challenged nor complied with an arbitrator’s ruling on the $660,000 awarded to the team.
Lelie told both the Rocky Mountain News and ESPN that thta he intends to repay the money in question but that tax considerations are slowing progress towards that end. He added, “It just seems a little petty. They’re definitely going to get their money. Obviously, it wasn’t fast enough for them, that multibillion dollar company over there. They want their 600 grand, we’ll give it to them.” The case does seem complicated at first glance.
Back in 2006, the Broncos filed an arbitration claim against Lelie when he skipped all of the team’s offseason workouts and training camp. As a result, the arbitrator in that claim ruled that Lelie did not have to pay nearly $400,000 in fines that accumulated during that time. Furthermore, in a separate ruling, an arbitrator said that Lelie did not owe the Broncos part of the option bonus he received as a part of his contract back in 2002. The option bonus was sealed by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty, who has jurisdiction over all matters involving involving the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players.
The option bonus ruling could have some ramifications now and into the future. A good example in this type of ruling are the Atlanta Falcons, who are attempting to recover $20 million of the $37 million in bonuses that currently suspended quarterback Michael Vick received as part of his 2004 contract extension. I’m pretty certain that player contracts tendered in the future in the NFL will be looked over even more carefully, thanks to the option ruling.