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Hawks give Vikings taste of own medicine

Seattle’s ‘poison-pill’ offer to Burleson is intended to dissuade Minnesota from matching

MIKE SANDO; The News Tribune

Published: March 25th, 2006 01:00 AM

The Seattle Seahawks offered to trade their third-round draft choice to Minnesota for receiver Nate Burleson.

The Vikings demanded a second-round pick for the restricted free agent. That’s when things got out of hand.

The Seahawks, still smarting from the disputed tactics Minnesota used in luring away Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson, offered Burleson a deal the Vikings almost certainly will not match.

As a result, the 24-year-old Burleson is expected to become a Seahawk within the week. Minnesota has seven days to match an offer that includes a double dose of the “poison-pill” medicine that dissuaded Seattle from matching the Hutchinson offer.

Burleson’s contract, all seven years and $49 million of it, will become guaranteed if he plays a certain number of games, believed to be five, within the borders of Minnesota.

A second clause guarantees the deal if Burleson’s per-year compensation exceeds what his team pays its running backs; Seattle’s Shaun Alexander possesses a higher per-year average, while the Vikings have no running backs close to that pay scale.

The Seahawks had sought to sign Burleson to a five-year, nearly $15 million deal contingent on the Vikings trading him to Seattle.

But when Minnesota demanded a second-round pick in return, the Seahawks exacted poetic justice by slipping the poisonous clauses into an offer sheet they backloaded to match Hutchinson’s in length and total value, if not substance.

The offer Minnesota made to Hutchinson included a clause guaranteeing the contract if he wasn’t the highest-paid offensive lineman on his team in 2006. The offer put the Seahawks in a tough position because Walter Jones, their six-time Pro Bowl tackle, was earning $7.5 million per year. The Vikings had no offensive lineman near that level, meaning only Seattle would have had to guarantee the deal.

The Seahawks joined the NFL Management Council in contesting the unusual clause, but an impartial “special master” ruled in favor of the Vikings and the NFL Players Association. Hutchinson became a Viking.

Two important differences separate the Hutchinson contract from the offer Seattle made to Burleson.

Hutchinson was a transition player, meaning the Seahawks received no compensation for his departure.

Burleson is a restricted free agent tendered by the Vikings at the minimum level required to retain rights of first refusal. That means Seattle must compensate Minnesota with a 2006 draft choice in the round Burleson was selected (third) if the Vikings let him become a Seahawk.

Hutchinson’s deal included $16 million in first-year bonuses and a realistic chance of earning much of the total value. It’s a seven-year, $49 million deal in name and fact.

Not so with the Burleson offer. The former standout at O’Dea High School in Seattle is guaranteed $5.25 million in a deal that will be terminated or reworked after a few seasons.

The deal appealed to Burleson because he would have received as little as $712,000 from the Vikings in 2006. Instead he’ll pocket at least $5.25 million and probably quite a bit more, and he’ll still be well shy of his 30th birthday when it’s time to rework the deal.

If he performs well in Seattle, his next contract will swell in front-end value.

Burleson also is joining one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses.

He caught 68 passes for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns as a second-year pro in 2004. All-Pro Randy Moss was starting on the other side of the field that season, although Burleson did catch 11 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in one of three games Moss missed.

Burleson’s numbers dropped to 30 catches, 328 yards and one score last season as a knee injury trimmed four games from his season and the Vikings struggled without Moss and other key players.

The Seahawks presumably expect Burleson to start opposite Darrell Jackson, perhaps allowing veteran Bobby Engram to re-emerge as one of the NFL’s most dangerous third-down threats.

Burleson might also provide insurance given that Jackson (10) and Engram (three) missed a combined 13 games last season.

Jackson needed knee surgery last season and a second, less serious procedure this week. The knee could require considerable rest in the coming months, and his long-term prognosis appears uncertain.

Burleson, 6 feet and 192 pounds, has 127 catches for 1,789 yards and 12 touchdowns in 44 regular-season games, including 33 starts.

The Vikings selected Burleson from Nevada with the 71st overall pick, making him the ninth receiver chosen in 2003. Seattle drafted offensive lineman Wayne Hunter two spots later.

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Oh my god...Seahawks offer to Burleson 7yrs 49mil 5.25 S.B.

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