The Poison Pill Strategy: Should the Bears Use It?

Poison-pill_mediumEver since the Bears decided to go "hog wild" in free agency there has been a lot of discussions on WCG about making a play for OJ Atogwe, free safety of the St. Louis Rams. Because the Rams have decided to place the lowest tender possible on Atogwe, many Bears fans, including myself, have become very interested in the prospect of the Bears making a play for the young and talented free safety. There has been a phrase that has been thrown around in discussions lately to help the Bears land Atogwe with little or no resistance from the St. Louis Rams, and that phrase is "poison pill."

According to wikipedia:

Poison pill is a term referring to any strategy, generally in business or politics, to increase the likelihood of negative results over positive ones for a party that attempts any kind of takeover. It derives from its original meaning of a literal poison pill carried by various spies throughout history, taken when discovered to eliminate the possibility of being interrogated for the enemy's gain.

This business strategy would give the Bears the upper hand in any contract negotiations with Atogwe over the Rams if used correctly. The Bears could basically use a poison pill clause or two in their offered contract that would make it impossible for the Rams to match the offer thus stealing him from right under their noses. A great example of poison pills used "properly" comes from dealings between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks for players Steve Hutchinson and Nate Burleson.

In professional sports, a poison pill is a component of a contract, which one team offers a player, that makes it difficult or impossible for another team (which has the right of first refusal) to match. While it can often refer to a salary structure or clause that would affect all teams equally, it has taken on a new specific meaning of a clause that has unbalanced impact. For example, in March 2006, the Minnesota Vikings offered Steve Hutchinson, an offensive guard with the Seattle Seahawks, a seven-year, $49 million contract of which $16 million was guaranteed. This contract offer had two poison pills in it. One was the salary structure, which would require the team to pay $13 million in the first year of the contract. That salary structure would apply to both teams equally, as the Seahawks would also have to pay $13 million in the first contract year, were they to match the offer. The second was a clause that required Hutchinson to be the highest paid player on the offensive line, or else the entire contract would be guaranteed. Since the Seahawks had another offensive lineman, Walter Jones, with a higher salary and the Vikings did not, this clause would have required the Seahawks to guarantee $49 million, and it effectively eliminated the Seahawks' opportunity to match the contract offer.

In the wake of this contract offer, similar clauses have appeared in other contract offers, including a contract offered to Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson by the Seahawks, which, with irony fully intended, was structured as a seven year, $49 million deal. The contract given to Burleson had two vengeful poison pill clauses in response to the contract offered to Hutchinson. Firstly, it stipulated that if Burleson were to play five or more games in the state of Minnesota during any single season over the life of the contract, the entire $49 million would become guaranteed. Secondly, if Burleson were to earn more per year on average than all of his team's running backs combined, the $49 million would be guaranteed. Since the Vikings play half of their games at home in Minnesota, and their running backs combined earned less per year than the $7 million in Burleson's contract, Minnesota was unable to match it.

As this example has shown, if used properly a poison pill can be a team's best friend in having the upper-hand in acquiring a highly regarded player but would the Bears use such a strategy? We do have one of the best contract negotiators in the league in Cliff Stein and I wouldn't put the possibility past them but does this strategy take on a set of morals beyond what Lovie and Angelo would regard as fair business? We know that Lovie has his ties with the St. Louis Rams organization and holds them in high regard so would he agree to such a move that would almost be taking a player away from them?

In my opinion, the Rams set themselves up for any sort of deviation from the norm with the lowest possible tender that they placed on Atogwe. I am for the Bears implimenting some sort of poison pill clause against the Rams if we have to in the hopes of landing Atogwe because I know how desperately this team needs stability in our secondary from the gaping hole that Mike Brown has left that has never been filled. I can see how this could be viewed as an unfair advantage swaying the way of the interested party but I cannot feel too much pity for a team that puts the lowest tender possible on one of their players. According to the Rams, they are doing this with the intent to sign Atogwe to a long term contract but he only has until June 1 to find an offer sheet elsewhere and if he doesn't, the Rams have to cut him or pay him nearly $7 million at that point. Whatever comes from their decision to put the lowest tender on Atogwe, they made their bed and now they have to lay in it.

So what terms do we throw at the Rams in regards to our posion pills if we choose to implement them? I am curious as to the ideas for the clauses that you all might have towards the Rams. Or maybe we don't throw any poison pills at them and instead offer picks for him in a trade format. Either way there will be other teams in the hunt for Atogwe that obviously haven't spent nearly the amount of money that we have already during this offseason so the Bears need to get ballsy and quick on this. Please share and let us take heed in hearty discussion.

Bear Down.

Link to Wikipedia Article

This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.