Who's To Blame?

With the hard feelings between the Vikings and Seahawks apparently over with the Vikings' refusal to match the offer on Nate Burleson, the aftermath has left the NFL looking to change the rules involved in both deals. But, it all could have simply been avoided if both teams hadn't low-balled their respective offers to each player.

The malaise between the Vikings and Seahawks over the contentious signings of Steve Hutchinson and Nate Burleson has experienced a ripple effect throughout the NFL – to the point that outgoing Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made a point to say that the rules surrounding "poison pills" in contracts need to be changed. Modifications of those rules will likely be in place prior to the next free agent period.

But one fact that shouldn't be lost on fans, the teams involved and the rest of the NFL is that, if either the Vikings or the Seahawks weren't playing "lawyer ball" they would both still have their players.

The difference between the Seahawks giving Hutchinson a one-year franchise tag or a transition tag was less than $600,000 – a franchise tag of $6.98 million as opposed to the $6.39 million he would have been paid had nobody stepped up and made him an offer. The Vikings could have kept Burleson simply by throwing a first-round tender offer on him – the difference being $1.55 million for a first-round tender as opposed to the $712,000 offered for a third-round tender. The Vikes were almost daring teams to take Burleson away … and someone did.

Rob Brzezinski referred to the Seahawks offer sheet to Burleson – a seven-year, $49 million deal that in actuality is a four-year, $14.5 million deal – as "a sham." That may be a tad disingenuous for the guy who was behind the initial poison pill deal that forced the hand of the Seahawks. But, the bottom line is that, with all the attention that has been brought to both deals, if either team had been serious about keeping either Hutchinson or Burleson, they would still be with their current teams.

The unfortunate aspect of this dust-up is that when the Vikings play in Seattle this year, Hutchinson will be booed lustily. He has been painted as a villain in the local media – which is unfortunate. Vikings fans likely blame the Vikings for making it so easy to take Burleson away. The same should be said for Hutchinson, but, because the Vikings struck first, Seahawks fans were dumbfounded by the stipulations and, from the local media perspective at least, Hutch has been painted as the bad guy.

By the time teams throw transition or restricted free agent offers in 2007, the parameters of how they are done will change. But, when the dust settles, the fact of the matter is this – if either team felt any obligation to Hutchinson or Burleson, they would still be with their former teams. They didn't. Game over. Get over it.

SATURDAY NOTES
* Local media types can take heart in knowing that eventually they will win Brad Childress over. He spoke to the Philadelphia Daily News about Donovan McNabb and the Vikings. Here's what he had to say about McNabb's return to form without him and Terrell Owens.

"He's a prideful guy," Childress said. "He's fully aware of all the things that were said about him last year, whether it was teammates or whether it was [newspaper] articles, whatever it was. He doesn't have his head in the sand. From that standpoint, I think he'll come in with a chip on his shoulder and know that he's got to re-establish himself on the field."

When asked about how the Vikings offense will differ from the Eagles, Childress was tounge-in-cheek with his response.

"About 60 times a game," Childress quipped. "I think you have to run it a lot in this division. That's how we've set up the offensive line. You've got to let those guys pound on people for a while before you ask them to step back [and pass-protect]. Take [the defensive players] and shake them. Knock them around and kind of take their will away a little bit."

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