Steve Hutchinson: Career Cap Hits and the “Poison Pill” Contract


A little while ago, Jay Glazer reported that Steve Hutchinson of the Tennessee Titans will announce his retirement tomorrow. Hutchinson was a seven-time All Pro guard and seven-time Pro Bowler among his time with the Seahawks and Vikings, and played the final year of his stellar career last season in Tennessee. Of course, what many fans will remember Hutchinson for is the famous “Poison Pill” contract that Minnesota used to lure him away from Seattle.

The poison pill contract worked essentially like this. After the 2005 season, Hutchinson was an unrestricted free agent but was slapped with the transition tag by the Seahawks which gave the team the right of first refusal on any offer sheet Hutchinson may sign. The Vikings subsequently signed Hutchinson to an offer sheet for seven years and $49 million. The controversial part, however, was a provision included in the offer sheet that stated Hutchinson’s entire salary over the life of the contract would be guaranteed if he was not the highest paid offensive lineman on the team. In a normal scenario, this likely wouldn’t be a tough issue for a team to handle when the player is one of Steve Hutchinson’s caliber. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this was not a normal scenario. In the previous offseason, Seattle had resigned Walter Jones, one of the greatest left tackles of all-time, to a contract that would pay him more than what the Vikings offered Hutchinson. Thus, if the Seahawks had matched the Vikings’ offer sheet, the poison pill would have automatically kicked in from the very beginning and Hutchinson’s entire seven-year deal would be guaranteed. This would have given Seattle incredible salary cap issues as two extremely high-paid offensive lineman would be on the roster, one of which would have every dollar guaranteed. The Seahawks obviously did not match this deal, but gained a bit of retribution against Minnesota by signing Vikings receiver Nate Burleson to a similarly structured poison pill contract that same offseason.

I wasn’t going to get into the famous poison pill contract in Hutchinson’s career, but seeing as this is a site designed to explain contract and salary cap issues, once I started I figured it was a necessity. The original reason I started writing this post was to recap Hutchinson’s career cap hits. Usually when a player retires, an article here and there will recap how much money that player has made over the course of his career. When an NFL player retires, it’s a little more fun not to look at how much total money they pulled in, but instead to see just what that player’s cap hits were every year. As such, as best as I could find, here are Hutchinson’s cap hits over the course of his amazing career:

Seattle Seahawks

2001: $1.2 million

2002: $1.310 million

2003: $1.399 million

2004: $1.465 million

2005: $3.510 million

Minnesota Vikings

2006: $13.335 million

2007: $7.135 million

2008: $6.5 million

2009: $7.5 million

2010: $8.6 million

2011: $6.730 million

Tennessee Titans

2012: $3.5 million

2013 (if he didn’t retire): $6.75 million (Titans save $3.75 million against cap this year).

Over 12 seasons, Hutchinson’s cap hits totaled $62.184 million. This averages out to a charge of $5.182 million per year. Not bad for a potential Hall of Famer.



Recapping Todays AFC Salary Cap News


Today was quite the day of activity as teams look to gain as much cap space as possible before the beginning of free agency tomorrow. I am going to break things down by conference in two posts to keep things from getting too long. As for the salary cap charts please note that I will be doing my best to keep them updated and current over the next week but I’ll be playing catchup on some days so bear with me on it. Also the league has made more adjustments to the cap that I am unaware of for most teams so if you have any information please email me.

Miami Dolphins– While they did not do anything noteworthy the contract information for Brian Hartline and Matt Moore was reported by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. It’s a great deal for Miami with Hartline. They got him at below top level number 2 money and have an easy out in year 3 of the contract. Moore’s contract is essentially a 1 year $4 million dollar deal as the high cap hit in 2014 makes him a likely release. This may have been a situation where they surveyed the landscape and thought his was he best fit and to approach it again next year. Miami went with extremely low year 1 cap charges for the two players all things considered, taking up just $4.615 million in cap space. Considering Miami’s cap situation it might mean that they will spend heavily in free agency.

New York Jets– The Jets tendered RT Austin Howard at the 2nd round level, which may be a bit shortsighted considering their salary cap space, or lack thereof. They may have been worried about a team signing him to a high cap charge year 1 contract that the Jets would be unable to match. No chance that he would draw any interest with a 2nd round price tag. The Jets also signed QB David Garrard to come in and join the QB carousel. The Jets are getting dangerously low in cap room where they may not have the room necessary to trade CB Darrelle Revis. The Jets need $3 million in cap space to trade Revis. They have a number of contracts that they can rework which would seem to be a priority if they want to sign anyone in the next few days. The Jets are asking WR Santonio Holmes to take a paycut.

Baltimore Ravens– The Ravens have tried for some time to get WR Anquan Boldin to accept a paycut which he refused to do, leading to his trade from the team. Boldin had been somewhat of disappointment since leaving the Arizona Cardinals but then made up for it with a great playoff run that culminated in the Super Bowl.  The trade will be made official once Boldin passes a physical with the 49’ers. The Ravens will clear $6 million in cap room once the trade is official. The Ravens also tendered Ed Dickson today.

Tennessee Titans– Jay Glazer announced that G Steve Hutchinson will announce his retirement tomorrow. Hutchinson will save the Titans $3.75 million in cap room.

Denver BroncosAndrew already covered of what went on in Denver as they are creating enough cap room to go out and do something big if they want to. I would imagine a lot of Revis speculation in the coming days. He is a perfect fit and they have a cap system that can absorb him if they desire. The Broncos continue to try to get DE Elvis Dumervil to take a paycut. Both sides have their own leverage here. The Broncos have no reason to keep the inconsistent player and could look for a cheaper veteran such as Dwight Freeney to replace him. Dumervil, as a young pass rusher, can likely get his full $12 million salary from another team if he hits free agency. My guess is Denver will not do anything with him until they are assured of a replacement.