I'm working in the IT industry with a fairly niche technology (to the point that there are only three local major employers using this technology and "everyone knows everyone"). I'm content with my current workplace (one of the above mentioned employers), so I'm not actively looking for other opportunities. There's also a gentlemen's agreement between me and my employer that if I want to leave, I tell him, so he can make arrangements (a year ago I was unhappy, ready to leave, told him, then things improved). Anyway, from time to time I'm approached on LinkedIn, this time by one of the other above mentioned major employers.
I admit I wasn't clear enough with the recruiter that I'm not looking for a job change, so she organized an interview. I made it clear during my interview that I wasn't actively looking for a new job, I'm just exploring this opportunity, but anyway, at the end of the interview they asked me what my salary expectation is - I answered with a 10% higher value than my current salary (and expected that's way too much for them). However, they answered with a salary offer that's 10% more than even my expectation. Now this offer is quite tempting (the family budget is quite tight while my wife is between jobs) - but the hiring manager said there's a gentlemen's agreement between my current employer and him that they don't "poach" each other's employees, don't try to recruit directly. He's willing to take me nevertheless, but I had to pretend I'm switching jobs on my own.
At this point I'm not quite sure what to do. I presume the recruiter did not know about that gentlemen's agreement, so she acted in good faith, but it will look like one of the gentlemen's agreement can't hold if I'm leaving. I'm leaning towards declining this offer even though the money would be really good. I'd like to avoid any bad blood between everyone involved - as there are only these few employers in this niche, it could hinder my future employment. I know this is up to me to decide, but I'd like to ask: have you ever been in similar situation? How did you decide? Is there an angle that I haven't considered yet?