Arrington's Knee: The Waiver

The Denver Broncos’ marriage to running back J.J. Arrington appeared doomed from the start. Although it appeared a deal was struck on the first day of free agency, it was held up at the league level due to issues with the contract. Those issues may have revolved around injury protection for the Broncos, and the delay in working out the issues may have been fortuitous for them.

The Broncos have now waived Arrington, a player they targeted on the first day of free agency in February. Although the money is relatively small, the fact that a player who signed in the first week of March is now being terminated – failed physical or not – is highly unusual.

The Broncos did protect themselves. Arrington’s contract had $1.8 million of bonuses staggered throughout the offseason, written in a way to gauge Arrington’s progress with his knee and see how it responded during offseason workouts and minicamps. And, of course, it did not.

The contract bonuses were set up this way:

$100,000 upon signing

$300,000 on June 15

$600,000 on Aug. 10

$800,000 at the start of the season

Thus, the Broncos had three flashpoints past the signing of the contract to check on Arrington’s knee and determine if he would be kept around. Arrington did not make it to the first snapshot date of June 15 and his contract was terminated, failed physical.

With these bonuses now turning to dust, what about a potential injury grievance against the team? That argument is a non-starter, as Arrington agreed to an injury waiver written into the contract, protecting the team from grievance liability in the event his contract was terminated because of the pre-existing medical condition he had at signing. And what was that pre-existing condition? According to his contract, it was the following:

Right Knee Partial Lateral Meniscectomy and Lateral Femoral Chondyle Osteochondral Lesion and Related Pathologies

Teams and agents often spar about the language in these injury waivers. In the past, I’ve used very similar language to the above. The team, of course, wants it as broad as possible to include all directly or indirectly related injuries to the pre-existing one. The agent wants to limit the scope of the waiver with as much specificity as possible, especially with knees. The language above shows the Broncos were able to have a fairly broad waiver to protect their risk.

So Arrington walks away from his three months with the Broncos with a parting gift of $100,000 and appreciation for his time spent. The Broncos, who signed two other running backs – Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan – in free agency and drafted a running back – Knowshon Moreno – in the first round, appear content to move on from this failed union.

Time will tell if another club takes a similar calculated risk on that knee.

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