One Pill Makes You Larger...

The recent contractual run-ins between the Vikings and Seahawks have caught the attention of the NFL and many of the owners gathered at the annual owners meetings in Orlando. Many seem to share the Barney Fife motto of "nip it in the bud" before the situation gets any further along.

The NFL is apparently taking the "we said, they said" argument between the Vikings and Seahawks seriously at the owners meetings in Orlando – from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on down.

In a press conference at the meetings, Tabliabue said that some bud-nipping is needed in this situation, which forced the Seahawks' hand a little more than a week ago with Steve Hutchinson and will likely force the Vikings to do the same later this week with Nate Burleson.

"I think these issues raised by offer sheets by Seattle and Minnesota need to be addressed," Tagliabue said. "I think it's not what is contemplated. ... We will be addressing it with the players' association. I will be talking to Gene (Upshaw) about it next week."

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, who has sat in the middle of the debate as head coach – but no longer general manager – of the Seahawks, didn't mince his words when asked his opinion on the matter by ESPN. He put more of the blame at the doorstep of agents that are looking for better deals for their players than he did with the Vikings front office, which devised the Hutchinson "poison pills" that made extremely difficult for the Seahawks to match the offer even if they wanted to.

"I think the poison pill business stinks," Holmgren said. "That's too bad in our opinion. I think something has to be done about it. To my way of thinking, you compete like crazy on the field and the rules are in place contractually. I don't like the idea of agents dictating to us what they are going to do."

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie spoke to the matter, siding with the conventional wisdom among many of the power brokers in the NFL that the Vikings overstepped the bounds of fair play by taking the transition tag and offer sheet language to a new level.

"I don't think it's good for football," Lurie said. "The Seahawks lose a terrific young player like Steve Hutchinson. That was not the spirit of restricted free agency at all and wasn't in the spirit of the designations. It's a shame. The whole idea of the designation system in a salary cap with unfettered free agency, you at least know there are one or two players internally that you will have."

Tagliabue said that he intends to speak to Upshaw about the issue in hopes of resolving the matter before more teams attempt the same strategy in future years. Some owners and general managers are convinced that what the Vikings did with the Hutchinson contract has effectively made the transition tag moot as long as they can create language like what the Vikings – and later the Seahawks – did to make matching virtually impossible. While the Vikings argued otherwise (and won in a ruling made by a league-appointed special master), Tagliabue believes that what was negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement didn't include the type of actions that have been taken over the last couple of weeks by either the Vikings or Seahawks.

"I think it's not what was contemplated (in the CBA)," Tagliabue said. "The minds of creative people know no limit. As time goes by, an unlimited mind creates new innovations. But it's not in the spirit of the deal. So we will address that."

* Zygi Wilf arrived at the owners meetings Tuesday.
* One of the priorities on Wilf's agenda is, at a minimum, to maintain the current G-3 program that provides low-interest loans to teams to build new stadiums. In a best-case scenario, Wilf would like to see the system expanded to provide more money to teams looking to build new stadiums. Under the current system, of the $280 million in private money that the Vikings would put into the proposed Anoka County stadium, $185 million of that would come from Wilf and his partners and $95 million would come from G-3 financing. Wilf would like to see the system expanded so that up to or even a little more than 50 percent of the private financing could be accessed from G-3 funds – citing the dramatic increase in the cost of building new stadiums. When the owners and players union were at an impasse in talks earlier this year, Upshaw threatened to insist that the G-3 program be scrapped completely.
* The league may announce the preseason schedule as early as today, but one game that is likely to be on the Vikings schedule is a home game vs. the Raiders on national TV. It would mark the Metrodome return of Randy Moss. Considering that Moss was traded and never asked out of Minnesota, it will be interesting to see how fans react to him when he is announced or catches a pass. Seeing as how many thrills he gave Vikings fans, it would be unfortunate to see him booed. He didn't ask to leave the Vikings. He was shipped out at Red McCombs' insistence.
* Vikings capmaster Rob Brzezinski said at the owners meetings that he was told that, even without the clauses put in Hutchinson's contract that, because of the high salary amount, the Seahawks weren't going to match anyway. That seems to smack in the face of the move the Seahawks attempted when they added a year to Walter Jones' contract to give them the potential to match the highest-paid lineman provision.

Viking Update Top Stories