Contracts and a Hold Out

Seattle Seahawks fans can celebrate the fact that Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner signed contract extensions last week, but there may be reasons for caution in years ahead. The Seahawks 11 highest paid players now account for $113 million of the $143 million salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com. That $113 million is 80% of the total the team can spend. That is by far the most in the NFL. All this money, albeit to some very good players, puts more pressure on management to continuously produce quality drafts and to evaluate low-paid players cut by other teams. If either of these does not happen, the Seahawks might be in for a steep decline in quality of play by 2020. Let’s take a look at recent events and how they may affect the team moving forward.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson signed a contract extension worth $87 million over four years that includes a $31 million signing bonus, with $60 million guaranteed. The extension begins in 2016. Wilson has obviously produced at a high level, and has led the team to two straight Super Bowls, but now he is the second-highest paid player in the league on average, just below Aaron Rodgers. The Seahawks have been fortunate to not have Wilson be injured as he takes as much punishment as any quarterback in the league. At the end of his contract extension Wilson will be 31 years old, still young enough to have several seasons of productivity. But before the final year of his contract the Seahawks will need to find a quality backup as perennial Seahawk second-string Tarvaris Jackson will have moved on. The biggest concern about Wilson’s new contract is not that he won’t be a very good quarterback, it’s that he risks being injured due to the amount he runs and/or poor pass blocking by Seattle’s line. There is a lot of guaranteed money in the contract where, in the worst possible injury scenario, the Seahawks could be hindered for many years.

Bobby Wagner, inarguably one of the three best middle linebackers in football, signed an extension that will pay him $43 million over four years beginning in 2016. Wagner, like Wilson, will still be a fairly young player at the end of the extension. The risk with Wagner – besides injury, of course, which is always a risk in football – is that his contract limits the depth the Seahawks can build. We have already seen defensive tackle Tony McDaniel be cut as the Seahawks attempt to create space to stay under the cap. While Seattle has starters of high quality over the entire defense there is a lot of unknown depth after them. The team has not had as many players make an immediate and top level impact in the last two drafts versus Seattle’s drafts between 2010 and 2012. Noted that those three draft classes were uncommonly good, but the team will need more production from the players in the last three classes moving forward. Of course, it is almost always better to draft the majority of a team’s best players than to try to pick those players up from other teams, and because of a top heavy contract situation the Seahawks need to draft their better players becomes even more important than other teams.

chancellor

Kam Chancellor did the unexpected. He decided to hold out of training camp in hopes of reworking his contract more to his liking. This is disappointing because 1) it comes as a surprise as there seemed to be no issues before Chancellor chose to hold out, and 2) Chancellor has not seemed to be the type of player who would hold out. There is very little wiggle room for the Seahawks to try to rework any part of Chancellor’s contract; a contract that he just signed before last season. There is also no way for Chancellor to really “win” his dispute. If he does not show, he does not get paid. While the Seahawks defense is simply not the same without Chancellor, the team cannot afford to set the precedent of tearing up an existing contract because of a player’s unhappiness. The argument they did this for Marshawn Lynch this offseason is not a good one because the money that Lynch received from the Seahawks “reworking” his contract was already going to Lynch. All Seattle did was guarantee more of that amount. Maybe this is what Chancellor wants as well and the Seahawks will do this. If so, hopefully the hold out will be short-lived and everyone will come away happy. One can just hope that Chancellor is not setting a trend for other players. Leaders of a team, and Chancellor has been one for Seattle, should not do this. Chancellor may have lost some of the respect that he has earned from Seahawks fans over the last week. Hopefully, he will get that little bit lost back.

The positive, however, of a team having so few players take up so much of the team’s cap space is that the team has players valuable enough to do that. Those players for Seattle, Wilson, Wagner, Chancellor, Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright make a formidable group. Contracts may become an issue for the Seahawks, but in a way, it is a good problem to have.