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Saturday, March 25, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks

Hawks fight back, go after Burleson

Seattle Times staff reporter

Call it mind games. Call it a message to the NFL about how contracts can be worded. Or simply call it payback.

The Seahawks fired back at the Minnesota Vikings on Friday with an enormous — and not coincidentally familiar — contract offer for wide receiver Nate Burleson, a restricted free agent.

The O'Dea High School graduate signed an offer sheet for seven years and $49 million, the same financial terms in a deal the Vikings offered left guard Steve Hutchinson to leave Seattle almost two weeks ago. The offer carries with it two "poison pills," or provisions that guarantee the entire contact if they occur, just as Hutchinson's contract contained the provision that he be the highest-paid offensive lineman on his team in 2006.

Sources close to the situation confirmed that Burleson's entire deal would be guaranteed if he plays five games in the state of Minnesota during any one year of the deal. Another unrealistic provision is that if Burleson is paid more per year than all of the team's running backs combined in 2006, all of the deal is guaranteed.

Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, by himself, averages just under $8 million under his recently signed contract, already more than the $7 million Burleson would average. For Minnesota, however, the highest-paid running back is free-agent acquisition Chester Taylor, who averages $3.5 million, and their other backs' salaries wouldn't add up to Burleson's $7 million.

In that case, the Vikings would have to pay Burleson all $49 million. Even without such language, the Vikings would still have to guarantee Burleson's entire contract because they play more than five games in Minnesota every season.

The Seahawks tried taking their case to an independent arbiter to keep Hutchinson, even re-working left tackle Walter Jones' contract to put him under the annual average salary for Hutchinson. The special master ruled in favor of the Vikings, the Seahawks did not match the offer and Hutchinson was gone.

Simply put, Burleson will become a Seahawk in no more than seven days, which is the amount of time the Vikings have to match any offer for him. And that seems impossible given the contract stipulations.

"Nate's excited about the potential of coming home to Seattle and playing for his hometown team," said Ken Sarnoff, Burleson's agent.

"Any kid that plays football would appreciate playing the sport in the town where he grew up," Burleson told The Times last week.

Burleson, a three-year pro, had his best season in 2004 when he caught 68 passes for 1,006 yards. The 24-year-old is guaranteed $5.25 million in the first year of the contract, which is quite a bit less than the $16 million the Vikings guaranteed Hutchinson.

Burleson visited with the Seahawks last week, then flew back to Seattle from Minnesota and went to Kirkland to sign the offer sheet. In accordance with the guidelines of restricted free agency, the Seahawks must compensate the Vikings with their third-round draft choice in this year's draft, which is one of the last picks of the round.

Burleson, 6 feet and 192 pounds, is set to join a receiving corps that includes Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, D.J. Hackett and Peter Warrick. He figures to be in the mix to be a starter this season on the opposite side of Jackson.

Seattle plays the Vikings at Qwest Field during the 2006 regular season.

Strong returns

The Seahawks and fullback Mack Strong agreed to terms of a multiyear contract Friday.

The deal is believed to be three years at a total of $3.16 million. It includes a signing bonus of $500,000.

Strong, 34, made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 13-year NFL career last season. He has been instrumental to the success of Alexander with his lead blocking.

Strong is the sixth Seahawks unrestricted free agent to re-sign with the team since free agency began.

Notes

• DT Russell Davis signed his three-year contract Friday, and Seattle also signed free agent TE Will Heller to a multiyear deal.

• The Seahawks and the agent for free-agent S Lance Schulters are talking about a contract for Schulters after the eight-year pro made a visit to team headquarters that concluded Thursday. Negotiations will pick up next week.

• DE Bryce Fisher is one of three NFL players who will travel to Eastern Europe and the Persian Gulf region to visit military personnel this offseason. The tour is a partnership between the NFL and the USO (United Service Organizations) to boost troops' morale abroad.

• Free-agent CB Charles Woodson could be in town for a visit as soon as this weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday.

Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Comings, goings:
Free agents signed
Pos Player Ex-team
DT Russell Davis Arizona
LB Julian Peterson San Francisco
OL Tom Ashworth New England
TE Will Heller Tampa Bay
WR Nate Burleson* Minnesota
Own free agents lost
Pos Player Team
WR Joe Jurevicius Cleveland
FS Marquand Manuel Green Bay
TE Ryan Hannam Dallas
DE Rodney Bailey Pittsburgh
LG Steve Hutchinson Minnesota

Own free agents retained
Pos Player
DT Rocky Bernard
WR Peter Warrick
CB Jimmy Williams
LB Kevin Bentley
DE Joe Tafoya
FB Mack Strong
*if offer sheet not matched

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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