We thought Vick would beat this or pay very little back, primarily because Atlanta would need to prove that Vick knew he was in violation of his contract when he signed it. And some legal experts thought Vick wouldn't get hit hard either. Plus an arbitrator had previously stipulated in the Ashley Lelie case that teams cannot recover option bonuses or prorated shares of option bonuses, and this appeared to severely limit the money that teams could recoup if a player defaulted on his contract.
Well that didn't happen. From Yahoo! News:
The Falcons argued that Vick, who pleaded guilty to federal charges for his role in a long-running dogfighting operation, knew he was in violation of the contract when he signed a $130 million deal in December 2004.
The team said he used proceeds from the contract to fund his illicit activities and sought the repayment of $19,970,000 in bonuses he was paid over the last three years.There are completely different interpretations on why this happened, mainly because the papers decided not to completely fill us in. Some people think this was simply an issue of prorated bonuses. That's likely, but the arbitrator also wrote that his ruling in the bonus dispute involving Ashley Lelie did not apply in Vick's case - which seems odd. And there's no explanation about why Vick's case is different.
However, after Vick's indictment we know he bought the house in 2001 and began sponsoring dogfights in 2002, so that might have actually played a bigger role in this ruling than anyone originally thought it would.
A good friend of ours who has been in Atlanta for a while also said that rumors about Vick and dogfighting have been swirling around down there for years - long before Vick signed the contract.
So maybe the Falcons used Vick's indictment against him. Or maybe it is just prorated salary junk. Or maybe its both. Regardless, Vick could probably use some extra money right about now.