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“Poison pill” for offer sheets removed from CBA



With teams like the Steelers and the Texans facing the departure via restricted free agency of players like Mike Wallace and Arian Foster, respectively, in exchange for merely a first-round draft pick, the question becomes whether teams like the Steelers and the Texans would match an offer sheet signed with a new team by players like by Wallace or Foster, respectively, with a new team.

Embedded in that question is the question of whether the “poison pill” feature devised six years ago by the Vikings, guard Steve Hutchinson, and his agents still exists.

Per a source with intimate knowledge of the new CBA, it doesn’t. The ability of one team to sign a player to an offer sheet and include a term that would, for example, make the entire amount of the contract fully guaranteed if the player plays more than four games in the stadium where his current team plays, has disappeared.

In Hutchinson’s case, the entire amount of his March 2006 offer from the Vikings would have become fully guaranteed if at any point during the life of the deal he hadn’t been the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team. Since former Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones was making more per year than the Vikings had offered Hutchinson, Hutchinson’s full contract would have become guaranteed the moment the Seahawks matched the offer that Minnesota had made.

The so-called “poison pill” was never used again following a tit-for-tat that had the Seahawks take former Vikings receiver Nate Burleson via a similar device (and after, we were told at the time, Vikings and Seahawks executives were dressed down at the next set of league meetings). So, with most teams unwilling to use it, it made sense for the players to give it up in exchange for other concessions at the bargaining table.