Bucs offer sheet to George Johnson has no “poison pill”

AP

The Lions have disputed the offer sheet signed in Tampa by defensive end George Johnson. The news sparked speculation of a poison pill in the package that makes it more expensive for the Lions to keep Johnson than it would be for the Buccaneers to swipe him.

Per a league source, the deal contains no poison pill. The Lions are simply exercising their right to obtain clarification as to the “principal terms” in the offer.

Article 9, Section 3(e) of the labor deal provides that “principal terms” include only: (1) base salary, signing bonuses, roster bonuses, and reporting bonuses that are fixed and specific; and (2) payments that are variable based on “likely to be earned” incentives tied on team achievements; and (3) payments that are league honors secured by the player.  Only truly “principal terms” must be matched.

The Johnson offer sheet contains salary de-escalators, and the Lions want to know whether they must match the three-year, $9 million offer that could shrink to $7 million or the three-year, $7 million offer after de-escalators apply. The move reflects a prudent reading of the CBA, since a de-escalator constitutes a variable payment — and since the terms of the labor deal don’t specifically state that a payment of this type must be matched in order to match the offer sheet.

In short, the Lions possibly can match the offer sheet by matching the lower figure. That’s what an arbitrator will decide within the next 10 days. The Lions then will have a fresh two days to make a decision.