MINNEAPOLIS (March 31, 2006) -- A unique fight over restricted free agents between Seattle and Minnesota ended when the Vikings chose not to match the Seahawks' contract offer to receiver Nate Burleson.
Vikings vice president for football operations Rob Brzezinski confirmed the decision, which allowed Burleson to join his hometown team.
"This is a dream come true for Nate," his agent, Ken Sarnoff, said. "That seven years after being named the Seattle High School athlete of the year, he now plays for the Seahawks."
Burleson signed an offer sheet last week for a seven-year contract worth up to $49 million, including $5.25 million guaranteed. In response to a similar tactic Minnesota used to sign All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet earlier this month, Seattle put a pair of provisions in the deal that would make it impractical for the Vikings to match.
If Burleson plays at least five games in the state of Minnesota or if his annual salary average is more than the average of his team's highest-paid running back, then the entire $49 million would be guaranteed.
The Vikings signed Hutchinson to an offer sheet that the Seahawks didn't match, after an arbitrator ruled that their contract didn't violate the collective bargaining agreement. Hutchinson's seven-year, $49 million deal becomes guaranteed if he's not his team's highest-paid offensive lineman. He had previously been named Seattle's transition player.
These poison pills caused some consternation at the league meetings this week, and outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue said such loopholes were "not in the spirit" of the NFL's agreement with the players' union.
But Burleson, who caught 30 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown last season while bothered by multiple injuries, is moving on.
Minnesota is left with Koren Robinson, Troy Williamson, Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor at receiver, after nobody emerged as a top target in 2005 following the trade of Randy Moss to Oakland. Burleson was expected to be that, after accumulating 1,006 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2004.
The Seahawks owe the Vikings a third-round pick, based on Burleson's draft position in 2003. Minnesota now has two third-rounders and two second-rounders.