Malik McDowell’s NFL career never started and the team that drafted him wants its money back.
The Seattle Seahawks filed suit in federal court on Wednesday, stating the former Michigan State defensive lineman has failed to pay back the $799,238 an arbitrator ordered him to after McDowell suffered a head injury in an ATV accident in July 2017, keeping him from ever playing a single snap in the NFL after being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Seahawks doctors never cleared McDowell to play and after the 2018 season, the team released McDowell.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, McDowell was ruled to be in breach of his contract when he suffered the non-football injury and that he would need to forfeit his signing bonus totaling $1,599,238. The Seahawks withheld payment of $800,000 for the 2018 season, leading to the amount of $799,238 that was ruled McDowell must pay back.
The arbitrator ruling was made on Feb. 27, 2019, and to date, McDowell hasn’t repaid the bonus. Court documents indicate McDowell did not dispute the ruling and did not appeal within the 10-day window.
McDowell was a second-team All-American according to CBS Sports and SI.com as a junior at Michigan State in 2016, despite missing the final three games with an ankle injury. The former Southfield star opted to forgo his final season of eligibility and was taken with the 35th overall pick by Seattle in the 2017 Draft.
But McDowell suffered the injury back in Michigan and despite repeated efforts, the Seahawks doctors never cleared him to play. At the NFL league meetings in March, McDowell’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said McDowell has been cleared by independent doctors.
“His doctors believe he’s ready to go,” said Rosenhaus, according to Yahoo Sports. “We’ve got experts that are saying he will be cleared. So hopefully he will be able to continue his career, possibly (in Dallas). He has been cleared independently. But the Seahawks tried their best to work with him and unfortunately they didn’t feel he could continue to play.”
McDowell reportedly visited with the Cowboys but he still has not signed with an NFL team.
“The biggest question with him, is the medical question — making sure we’re comfortable with that,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in March. “As a young player, there’s some uncertainty about him because he hasn’t played but when you go back to the evaluation coming out of school, you say, ‘Boy, there was a lot to like about him.’ We’re just in the process of trying to find out more about him.”