One of the lingering questions regarding the decision of linebacker Chris Borland to retire is one of the only questions that Borland has not been asked in any of his TV interviews: Does the team expect him to reimburse the franchise for 3/4ths of his signing bonus?
Last year, Borland received $617,436 up front on a four-year deal. It reflects $154,359 per year in advance compensation for each year of the deal.
Technically, Borland earned only 25 percent of that money. The 49ers have the right to ask him to pay back the remaining $463,077.
The Lions didn’t hesitate to do that 16 years ago, when Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders abruptly retired. The Buccaneers once recovered $3.5 million from quarterback Jake Plummer after trading for Plummer, who retired in lieu of reporting — and who had never been paid a penny by Tampa Bay.
The 49ers still aren’t saying whether they’ll seek $463,077 from Borland, and Borland has not yet addressed in interviews on ESPN and CBS This Morning whether he plans to pay the money back.
It’s a little odd that the topic hasn’t come up. With the networks understandably seizing on the unusual and courageous decision of a pro football player to stop playing pro football after only one season, the notion that he also had to pay $463,077 for the privilege of not playing makes Borland’s story even more compelling.
Just as it was Borland’s call to end his career after only one season, it’s also the team’s call to request repayment for money given to Borland under the assumption that he’d play for at least four. For the same reason Borland shouldn’t be criticized for choosing not to play, the 49ers shouldn’t be criticized for choosing to do that which the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Borland’s signed contract give them the absolute right to do.