Deflategate Legal Fees Reportedly Could Cost Nearly $20 Million

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2016

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves federal court Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in New York. Goodell left the courthouse after a full day of talks with a federal judge in the dispute over a four-game suspension with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Legal fees racked up by the National Football League, the NFL Players Association and the New England Patriots for the Deflategate court battle could reportedly reach $20 million.

Darren Rovell of ESPN reported the NFL is projected to have spent the most on the case at around $12.5 million, followed by the NFLPA ($5 million) and the Patriots ($500,000). The additional $2 million comes from predictions for the unknown costs, such as document production and expert witnesses.  

The case relates to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's ability to punish Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with a four-game suspension for his alleged role in the use of underinflated footballs during the 2014-15 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

ESPN's estimate of the total cost of the case comes on the eve of the latest appeal. In September, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman vacated the league's suspension of Brady, which allowed him to take part in the entire 2015 season.

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated reported the sides will be in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday to argue about whether to overturn Berman's decision. If the three-judge panel does reverse the ruling, Brady would miss the first four games next season, pending further appeals:

Instead of continued litigation into 2017, it is also possible the NFL could drop the case or reach a settlement with the NFLPA and Brady. Neither scenario, however, seems likely with both sides so dug in. Watch for Brady and the NFL to remain in court for a while. Neither Brady nor Goodell is going anywhere anytime soon. With Brady's new two-year contract extension, Brady and Goodell are both under contract into 2019. For their sake, let’s hope they’re not still in court by then.

Rovell agreed the appeal process is likely to continue regardless of the outcome. Either the NFL will continue to fight for its right to implement disciplinary action, or Brady will once again try to prevent the suspension from being imposed at the start of next season.

In turn, with each passing appeal, those projected legal costs continue to rise. And there's no sign of a final resolution as both sides dig in their heels almost 14 months after the game in question and with an entire new season complete.

Even though it's highly unlikely the NFL or the NFLPA will back down at this point in the process, it's fair to wonder whether either side will ultimately consider it money well spent. That probably depends on which side comes out on top in the end.