Arbitrator tells Lelie to repay $600,000 in bonus money

An arbitrator has ruled that wide receiver Ashley Lelie must repay the Denver Broncos, the team which brought him into the NFL as a first-round draft choice in 2002, about $600,000 in prorated signing bonus money from his original contract.

League sources confirmed the ruling, first reported by the Denver Post. Both the Broncos and the NFL Players Association, which represented Lelie in the arbitration case, were informed of the ruling earlier this week.

The $600,000 represents a share of the $3.3 million signing bonus that Lelie received as a rookie in 2002.

The arbitrator also ruled that Lelie is not liable for more than $300,000 in fines he amassed last spring and summer by boycotting Denver's offseason conditioning program and 23 days of training camp. In the ruling on that segment of the grievance, the arbitrator said that franchises cannot collect fine money from players they have traded.

Last November, the Broncos lost a related grievance in which the team was attempting to recoup a $220,000 roster bonus.

Lelie, 27, was traded by the Broncos to the Atlanta Falcons last August as part of a three-team deal that also involved the Washington Redskins. The five-year veteran was largely a disappointed in Atlanta, starting in 10 of his 15 appearances and catching only 28 passes for 430 yards and one touchdown.

The former University of Hawaii star signed a two-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers this spring as an unrestricted free agent.

During his five-year career, Lelie has suffered through inconsistencies and his career has been an uneven one. He twice led the league in average yards per reception, but is mostly a one-dimensional receiver with questionable hands. In 79 games, including 50 starts, Lelie has 196 catches for 3,437 yards and 13 touchdowns.