Seahawks reportedly sue Malik McDowell for repayment of signing bonus

Seahawks reportedly sue Malik McDowell for repayment of signing bonus

Malik McDowell #4 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. — The Seahawks want reimbursed for what they lost by drafting Malik McDowell.

The team has sued their former top draft choice who never played nor practiced beyond a minicamp with Seattle after his head injuries from a mysterious ATV accident in the summer of 2017. The Detroit News reported the Seahawks filed their lawsuit in federal court in Michigan, where McDowell is from and played college football, and where the accident is believed to have occurred.

The Seahawks released McDowell in March. He left as the most unusual and unfortunate draft-pick case the team has ever had. Seahawks doctors do not believe he should play football again. McDowell believes he can, and his agent Drew Rosenhaus said at NFL owners meetings in March independent doctors have cleared McDowell to play. That was news to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

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McDowell is seeking another NFL team to give him that chance. Dallas tried him out this offseason but did not sign him.

The Detroit News stated the team asserts in its suit McDowell has failed to repay the team $799,238, the amount an arbitrator ordered the defensive lineman to give back to the Seahawks.

Seattle has sought to have McDowell repay the two years proration on his $3.2 million signing bonus he got on his $6.96 million rookie contract. He signed that weeks before his accident left him unable to play for the team. Teams are allowed by the NFL’s rules for its salary cap to prorate signing bonuses over the life of contracts, up to five years. The two years proration on McDowelll’s signing bonus was $1,599,238. Two years is how long he was under contract to the Seahawks. They released him with two years remaining on his rookie deal he was found to have breached.

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The Detroit News reported McDowell was ruled to be in breach of his contract when he suffered the non-football injury. Thus he was required to forfeit the two years proration of his signing bonus. The suit states the Seahawks withheld payment of $800,000 for 2018. That remaining balance of the signing bonus proration, $799,238, is what the arbitrator ruled McDowell must repay the team.

That balance is the amount the Seahawks’ suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is seeking.

The breach-of-contract ruling suggests there was explicit language in McDowell’s contract which prohibited him from engaging in the kind of activity that led to his head injuries. Those injuries ended his Seahawks career before it began.

McDowell’s family and those around him have suppressed all details of the accident and all but the general understanding of his injuries, in hopes he would would avoid being found to have breached his contract. Protecting his money from the Seahawks’ contract is why there is no apparent public record of his accident, with his family protecting his privacy and prognosis.

The Seahawks are allowed, per NFL rules for the non-football injury list, to withhold parts of McDowell’s salary.

McDowell’s accident was believed to be in Michigan, and the suit being filed there indicates it occurred there. But there are no public records of one involving him in that state. That is according to a series of searches of and calls to agencies across Michigan by The News Tribune last year. The accident occurred weeks after the former Michigan State University star turned 21.

From his accident in July 2017 into the fall of 2018, all doctors allowed him to do physically was walk. His prospects on returning to the field were so far out of the team's plans the Seahawks allowed him to fly back home to heal in Michigan throughout all of training camp and their 2017 preseason. McDowell was not a part of the Seahawks' daily functions. He came to team headquarters only later in the season. In November, Carroll announced McDowell would not play for the team in 2017.

In December 2017, while the Seahawks were in Jacksonville to play the Jaguars without him, McDowell was arrested in Atlanta for disorderly conduct at a nightclub. McDowell went on a profanity-filled tirade against two officers in Atlanta that early Sunday morning, including about taxes he pays. The arresting officer reported she felt she almost had to use pepper spray and a stun gun to subdue McDowell, but ultimately did not. He was booked for disorderly conduct and released on $325 bail, a report stated.

The accident could have escaped public documentation under McDowell’s name for several reasons, Michigan officials told The News Tribune last year. If he was injured on private property, he could have gone to a hospital on his own. Even if a 911 call was placed for emergency transport, some counties only record the name of the caller, not all injured parties.

Continuing to honor the requests of his family, the Seahawks and Carroll did not disclose all they knew about the accident and McDowell’s injuries.

Click here to read the story from Gregg Bell on the News Tribune.