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.