The threat of the Pittsburgh Steelers losing restricted free agent Mike Wallace to another team because of a poison pill included in an offer sheet seems to be no more as Mike Florio reports today that he has been informed that the ability of one team to sign another player to an offer sheet that includes language that would qualify as a poison pill to the team that possible could lose the free agent is no more. The most famous example of this of course was several years ago with Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson as Florio points out in the post.
I assume Florio is referring to Article 9 Section 3 (j) of the CBA which states:
Disputed Offer Sheet. In the event of any dispute regarding whether a term in an Offer Sheet is or is not a Principal Term that must be matched, including any dispute regarding whether a term is an impermissible poison pill designed to discourage or prohibit the Prior Club from exercising a Right of First Refusal, the dispute shall be presented to the Impartial Arbitrator for expedited resolution under Section 4 below. The Impartial Arbitrator shall identify all of the terms that would have to be matched by the Prior Club, and the Prior Club shall have two days after such decision in which to exercise its Right of First Refusal.
With the poison pill no longer a threat, the Steelers now have to just ask themselves if a first round restricted tender is enough to put a hold on Wallace until a long term deal can be worked out. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said on Monday that he had not ruled out placing the franchise tag on Wallace, which even if it was the non-exclusive variety, would mean that it would cost another team two first round picks and a lucrative contract to sign Wallace away. The franchise tag also carries with it a projected $9.4 million price tag and the Steelers would need to be able to fit that amount in their Rule of 51 salary cap number until a new deal is reached that would lower the 2012 cap hit on Wallace.
The remaining risk involved in exposing Wallace to free agency with just a first round restrictive tender, estimated to be about $2.75 million, is that the Steelers might not be able to match an offer sheet made by another team if they value him much higher than the Steelers do. The Steelers of course would still receive a first round draft pick as compensation, but by all accounts they would rather have Wallace stay instead. Art Rooney II said in his season recap press conference that getting Wallace signed to a new deal would be a priority for the Steelers. Placing the franchise tag on Wallace would almost certainly drive other teams away because of the two first round draft picks it would cost to sign him away. It would be the first time in team history that they would use the franchise tag on a restricted free agent however.
The good news out of all of this is that the league has gotten rid of the poison pill clauses.