The Packers signed tight end Martellus Bennett last year as a free agent, a rare acquisition by Green Bay of a veteran with name recognition. The experiment failed, the Packers waved him, and the team thereafter attempted to recover signing-bonus money under the argument that he had not disclosed a pre-existing shoulder injury.
On Tuesday, System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank dismissed the team’s effort, allowing Bennett to keep all of his $6.3 million signing bonus.
The NFL pursued the case on behalf of the Packers, claiming that “Bennett affirmatively misrepresented, and failed to provide full and truthful information concerning, his physical condition in connection with a March 2017 physical examination prior to the execution of a Player Contract with the Packers.” The Packers specifically alleged that Bennett concealed a rotator cuff injury.
The grievance failed because the Packers waived Bennett — and because the Patriots claimed the contract on waivers. Burbank determined that allowing the Packers to recover any portion of a signing bonus paid under a contract now held by another team would be inconsistent with the league’s waiver system. Put simply, if the Packers had wanted to pursue a recover of Bennett’s signing bonus, the Packers should not have waived Bennett.
Once they did, and once the Patriots claimed the contract on waivers, the Packers lost the ability to recover any of his signing bonus.