Falcons take cap hit in release of Vick

Updated: June 13, 2009, 12:41 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Because of the acceleration of future salary cap prorations, the Atlanta Falcons will be charged more than $7 million in so-called "dead money" for Michael Vick against their 2009 salary cap, after releasing the quarterback on Friday morning.

"Dead money" is the term applied to the salary-cap charge for a player who is no longer with the franchise.

Vick
Vick

The club will have no further salary-cap ramifications for Vick beyond 2009, general manager Thomas Dimitroff confirmed.

Vick signed a 10-year, $130 million contract extension on Christmas Eve 2004. The deal was actually worth nine years at about $118 million, because Vick avoided the final season by reaching predetermined playing time levels in the first year of the contract.

Under terms of the extension, Vick received $37 million in total bonus money. He was paid a signing bonus of $7.5 million, and the contract also included roster bonuses of $22.5 million in 2005 and $7 million in 2006. The Falcons subsequently converted both roster bonuses to guaranteed signing bonuses for salary-cap purposes.

Vick, still under an indefinite suspension by the NFL, will forfeit more than $70 million in base salaries. With the extension, he was to have earned base salaries of $6 million (2007), $7.5 million (2008), $9 million (2009), $10.5 million (2010), $12 million (2011), $12.5 million (2012), and $13.5 million (2013). The contract, however, was "tolled" during Vick's absence from the team and the league, so in essence, it was frozen.

The one time Pro Bowl quarterback was convicted on federal dog-fighting charges in October of 2007, and sentenced to 23 years in jail. He was recently released from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., and is serving the final two months of his sentence while confined to his home in Virginia.

His sentence elapses on June 20.

The Falcons sought to have $20 million of the $37 million signing bonus total repaid by Vick, and an NFL special master arbitrator ruled in the team's favor. However, U.S. District Court Judge David Doty of Minneapolis, who oversees the workings of the league's collective bargaining agreement, later ruled that the team was due just $3.5 million.

In March, Vick reached a settlement with the Falcons, agreeing to repay the team $6.5 million to $7.5 million, depending on the ruling of the U.S. 8th District Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision in that case is still pending.

Because the Falcons are about $20 million under the league's $127 million salary cap limit for 2009, the team could afford to absorb the $7.11 million of acceleration in Vick's contract. Despite the contentions of owner Arthur Blank that Vick would not play again for the Falcons, the release on Friday all but makes that official, and brings a certain finality to the quarterback's tenure with the team.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.