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Seahawks sue Malik McDowell for a portion of his signing bonus

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday morning word came down that the Seattle Seahawks had brought suit in federal court in Michigan in an attempt to recover a portion of the signing bonus Malik McDowell received when signing his contract with the Hawks. McDowell, of course, never played a snap for the team after being selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and was released from the roster earlier this spring.

According to reports, the Seahawks took McDowell to arbitration earlier this year, and the arbitration resulted in McDowell being ordered to repay $1,599,238. Of that amount, the team reportedly withheld $800,000 in payments that were due in 2018, resulting in the amount of $799,238 for which the team is seeking recovery in the case brought in Michigan.

The amount which the arbitrator ordered McDowell to repay, $1,599,238, is half of his signing bonus. Specifically, it’s the portions of the signing bonus which were pro rated on the 2018 and 2019 portions of the salary cap. Based on the recovery of the $800,000 during the 2018 season, the Seahawks should have received that portion in credit on the 2019 salary cap. Any of the remaining $799,238 which the team recovers, would go onto the cap for the season which takes place after the June 1 which occurs after the repayment.

If that wording is a little confusing, it simply means that if McDowell somehow repays the money today or tomorrow, then the Seahawks would get that credit back on the 2019 cap. If he were to repay it anytime between Saturday (June 1, 2019) and May 31, 2020, then the Seahawks would get the credit back on the 2020 salary cap.

Further, the team has no ability to recover the $1,599,238 which was to be pro rated over the 2019 and 2020 seasons. In order for the team to have had a claim for the signing bonuses attributable to those seasons, the team would have been required to keep McDowell on the roster through the first day of training camp of the respective seasons. By releasing him earlier this spring, they forfeited that claim, and thus there is absolutely nothing the team can do to recoup those portions of the signing bonus going forward.

In any case, the suit in Michigan simply allows the Seahawks to obtain a judgment against McDowell, which they can then use to garnish any future earnings he may have. Those earnings could be from book or movie rights, or even potentially from a contract with another NFL team, should McDowell ever be cleared medically by the team doctors of another franchise. Now, whether or not that actually happens, we won’t know, but it certainly remains a possibility, and one which, with a judgment in hand, would be beneficial to the Seahawks.

So, at this point, here’s to wishing the best of luck to McDowell in continuing his career with another team, in order to benefit the Seahawks and the salary cap of the team in future seasons.