Miles Austin’s Future in Dallas and the “Poison Pill” Contract
After the Cowboys signed players to free agent tenders, we briefly discussed here why the Cowboys will not let Miles Austin get away. Austin signed a first and third round tender, but he is free to sign with another squad. If Dallas does not match that offer within seven days, Austin would be gone and the Cowboys would receive a first and third round pick from the team that signed him.
The Cowboys, though, are expected to match any potential offer Austin might sign.
But what if they can’t? What if the nature of the contract is such that it is impossible (not just economically speaking) for Dallas to match it?
This sort of contract would contain what is referred to as a “poison pill.” A “poison pill” contract contains characteristics with which one team is able to comply but another is not. The concept began in 1996 when San Francisco signed running back Rodney Hampton to an offer sheet which mandated he must be on the field for 70 percent of the offensive plays the next two seasons.
Hampton’s current team, the Giants, had just drafted Tyrone Wheatley and would be unable to meet the clause without significantly stunting Wheatley’s growth.
That contract offer was never completed, but another “poison pill” offer sheet did go through in 2005 when Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson signed with Minnesota. Hutchinson’s offer sheet stated he must be the highest paid offensive lineman on the team. Minnesota knew Seattle left tackle Walter Jones’ contract would make it impossible for Seattle to match their offer.
Despite the inherent lack of fairness in these deals, the current CBA states that they are still legal.
So, is it possible that Miles Austin could sign an offer sheet containing such a “poison pill”? Jerry Jones recently addressed the subject, claiming:
That’s always a concern and that’s one of the things that needs to be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement. Those are called unintended consequences there. What turns into trying to be competitive among clubs and what turns into trying to be fair for a player turns into being a disadvantage for the clubs.
Thus, Jones is aware of the possibility of losing Austin.
Still, the chances of it coming to fruition are extremely low. First, teams are simply not eager to create such discontent and animosity around the league. They may win the battle in securing the player for which they yearn, but could end up losing the war because teams may become less willing to deal with them in the future.
Second, despite Austin’s tremendous season, there are still a limited number of organizations willing to part with two high picks for a player who has yet to start a full season.
Lastly, and most important, the future of Austin is really up to him. He (or more likely his agent) will be very aware of any “poison pill”-containing offers. Miles seems to enjoy playing in Dallas, and we doubt he is chomping at the bit to pack up and buy a ticket out of here. While he is undoubtedly seeking a long-term deal, Austin would likely come back to the Cowboys and allow them to match any offer before putting the Cowboys in a no-win situation.
Thus, while it is theoretically possible that Austin may be wearing something other than the silver and blue this fall, it just is not a realistic scenario. Cowboys fans can rejoice in the fact that, barring a catastrophe, Miles Austin will be the team’s number one wide receiver now and in the future.