While the NFL is trying to keep everyone’s focus on the playoff race, the specter of the 2011 lockout still looms large over proceedings. The league issued a ticket refund policy a couple weeks ago — something it probably wouldn’t do if it wasn’t planning on canceling the season. The NFL Players Association is starting to us the C-word in negotiations — that word, of course, being collusion. An organization called the Sports Fans Coalition popped up and started talking about “representing the fans’ interests” in this ordeal, though it appears to be little more than an anti-cable lobbying group. Meanwhile, one player turned down an offer to join the New York Jets to keep a steady job as a train conductor. Clearly, NFL employment looks even more tenuous than usual when there’s a chance that nobody will be playing next season.
Of course, players who are out of contract after this season could presumably play in either the UFL or the CFL in 2011, though most of the bigger name free agents would be more likely to sit out the season and give themselves a rest until the smoke clears.
One potential free agent, however, might be far more hurt financially by a lockout than most — our old pal Ron Mexico.
Nobody doubts the value of Michael Vick to the Philadelphia Eagles these days. He has the second-highest passer rating in the league. He’s leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards, but its his pocket passing skills that seem much improved from his time with the Atlanta Falcons. As Shutdown Corner uncovered last week, however, Vick can’t cash in on his on-field success, as he’s still dealing with the massive debts resulting from his conviction for running an illegal dogfighting ring.
Thanks to a court-ordered bankruptcy settlement detailed here, Vick is currently living on a tightly controlled budget. He is allowed $4,250 a month for rent, utilities and “miscellaneous” expenses. His car allowance is a mere $472 a month. He pays a $3,712-a-month mortgage on a house where his fiancée and two children live, and he gives a monthly $2,500 support check to his mother and another $3,000 monthly check to his baby momma.
Nearly all of the rest of Vick’s salary goes toward his massive legal fees and a wide variety of outstanding creditors, among them a former agent, three banks, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Falcons, who won back portion of Vick’s signing bonus. It is estimated that if Vick continues to play in the NFL, he will pay back a total of more than $12 million in debts between now and 2015.
What happens, though, if Vick finds himself out of contract when the lockout hits? Will the court recognize his successes on the field and be sympathetic enough to let him ride out the work stoppage? Or would Vick be forced to find another job to fulfill his financial obligations?
The mere notion of Michael Vick working construction again after the best season of his NFL career seems ludicrous, but it also seems far more likely than him playing football in another league. Even if the CFL could afford Vick, he probably wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country. The notion of Vick playing for the Virginia Destroyers, a UFL expansion team just down the road from his hometown of Newport News, also seems like a non-starter. Such a deal would practically require a shoe company willing to underwrite a one-year deal for several million, and shoe companies generally don’t get behind convicted felons playing in minor leagues — even if they are leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl voting right now.
No, if Vick wants to get through this lockout unscathed, he has only one worthwhile option: sign a multi-year contract with a seven-figure signing bonus within the next two months – and more importantly, make sure the check clears on that bonus before the lockout. That way, Vick can still have a big chunk of change to offer to his debtors and continue receiving his allowances while the NFL and NFLPA sort out the next labor agreement.
Given his play this year, Vick does seem likely to get such a deal, and the Eagles would certainly be fools to leave him hanging now. If that new contract doesn’t materialize, though, Vick could find himself in quite a bind. He may have served his time for that dogfighting ring, but he’s far from done paying for it.