NBA free agency is always a summer event. It has become more even significant since 2010 and seems like a show at this point. It has felt that way ever since every team decided that they need to follow the Miami Heat’s model of clearing the books and signing “superstar” players to max contracts.
A part of free agency that usually gets less publicity is the restricted free agents (RFA). For those who don’t know, those are players who have received a qualifying offer from their respective teams once their rookie contracts expire. While RFAs are able to talk with any team that they want to, their previous team can match any offer that they receive to retain them. It usually makes that part of free agency very uneventful. However, every once in awhile, RFAs are made offers that their previous teams cannot match. It is almost always from them being overpaid by an interested team.
One specific way how teams sometimes lost their RFAs is from the dreaded “poison pill” contract. This is when a contract becomes heavily back-loaded, usually to a player who clearly does not deserve it. A player could be scheduled to make $3 million in the first 2 years of their deal, but the deal could escalate to $15 million in the final years of the contract. This is generally done to try to get the player’s previous team to balk at wanting to go over the luxury tax down the line.
This seems like an instant success for teams to pry away players right? Not quite.
Here are three of those contracts from 2012 as we take a look back on the poison pill contract.