BY Art Thiel 04:17PM 08/01/2015

Thiel: Seahawks holdouts futile, understandable

Michael Bennett threatened a holdout, but showed up. Soon, so will Kam Chancellor. The extensions they signed don’t look as good now, but it’s part of the price of success with the Seahawks.

Kam Chancellor, here picking off the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick, is looking for some financial love from the Seahawks he can’t get. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Kam Chancellor continued his holdout Saturday from Seahawks training camp. It is a largely futile protest, as teammate Michael Bennett could tell him. Bennett grumbled frequently this off-season about the deal he struck a year earlier. But he showed up for work Friday.

“To the last minute,” he said when asked how close he was to holding out. “For the rest of my life, I’ll always ask for more money. I’ll ask for more love from my wife, more love from my kids.”

Maybe that sounds greedy to some. Certainly the off-season talk around the Seahawks was mostly about money, and mostly about the now-resolved Russell Wilson contract extension. The talk rubbed some Seahawks fans the wrong way, because they’re so fond of their heroes that the crassness around money spoils the mythology.

However, there’s not much complaining about how much money the franchise makes. To cite one example, thanks to the disclosure requirements of the Green Bay Packers, the only publicly-owned franchise in sports, we learned recently that the NFL’s per-team disbursement of shared revenues (largely network TV money) was $226 million in 2014.

Keep in mind that the hard salary cap for each each team last season was $133 million. That means NFL teams paid for all player salaries with TV money and had $93 million left over. Obviously, clubs have other expenses (although the NCAA provides a farm system for free), but they also have revenues that are not shared with other teams.

That means that, for example, the teams can afford to build and populate their own TV network that probably has a bigger newsroom than the Wall Street Journal. And the network probably generates enough advertising revenue to pay for itself.

The league’s astounding wealth is worth keeping in mind before castigating players who are attempting to get as much as they can in small career windows, an average of less than four years.

Even coach Pete Carroll, the guy who has to manage the hurt feelings among players after they shared in all the football success, can’t be angry.

“More than anything, I’m compassionate,” he said about Bennett and Chancellor. “They’re trying to make the most of their opportunity; what’s best for them. It’s a difficult decision. These decisions are hard. Their hearts want to be here.

“Michael (Bennett) loves this game, he’s a great football player, we love to have him on our team. He made the decision to come. It’s a tough choice. Sometimes when they sign, they love what they sign, then it looks different after awhile.”

That’s what’s happening with Chancellor. A fifth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, he presumed he scored big when he signed an extension in 2013. He’s in the second of a four-year contract that will pay him $28.2 million, a handsome chunk of change until it’s realized that in terms of total value, his deal is now 10th-best among safeties in the NFL, according to spotrac.com. It’s about half of the value of the $54 million Jairus Byrd of the Saints gets. Chancellor’s fellow Seahawks safety, Earl Thomas, is sixth at $40 million.

For Chancellor, the annoying aspect of the deal is that only $7.8 million is guaranteed, none of it after this season. That 28 percent guarantee in the total value is the smallest among the top 13 safeties.

Bennett, whose $28.5 million contract value is tied for 25th with teammate Cliff Avril among defensive linemen, and Chancellor have talked. Bennett has his back.

“I support his decision,” he said. “Me and him are kinda going through the same thing. Obviously, Kam is asking for a high-performance contract. He’s the best safety in the NFL. You see that, game in and game out. He’s our enforcer.”

Carroll too, is cheerleading — a least, as best he can, being in management.

“He stands for exactly what we love about this game and being a Seahawk and playing for us,” he said. “Our hearts are with him. We want to make something happen. We want him back. We’re trying to figure it out.

“I see Kam as a champion warrior football player, one of the ultimate leaders of this team. Of course we need to get him back.”

But besides the obviousness of the inability to rework the deal of every player who out-performs his contract because of the chaos it brings to salary cap management, it’s happening here because the Seahawks are astute in finding under-valued talent and re-upping them as soon as is practical.

They seek players who are likeliest to out-perform their contracts.

Carroll cited SS Chancellor, WRs Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, LB K.J. Wright, TE Luke Willson and OG J.R. Sweezy as low- or no-round draftees who’ve had success and were affordable ahead of more expensive veterans.

“That’s why I’m so thrilled with the work that (GM John Schneider and staff have) done,” Carroll said. “I hope you recognize that there is a philosophy, an approach and a commitment to it.

“Here we are again. We’re able to get the quarterback done, and we’re still working. That’s a really good foundation (where) John really leads the charge. I’m thrilled that he gets to do his thing.”

The Seahawks are masters at finding more unrecognized talents, coaching them up, playing them young and getting high performance early in careers, than perhaps any team in the league. Inevitably, some move on, but those who stay probably aren’t going to be as happy with long-term extensions that looked good at the time, yet fade with each year’s marketplace.

Schneider and Carroll have figured a path to sustaining quality under a hard salary cap. Not everyone will be happy with the consequences. For the Seahawks and their fans, it has to be considered a good problem to have.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    For college graduates (or maybe I should say college students in some cases) NFL players can make some pretty questionable decisions. I’d think at least family members and their agents can argue their logic in deciding to hold out while under contract but the ego that makes them successful players seems to always spill over into their personal lives. Whenever they here from a former player on the pratfalls they had in their careers they seem to think “that won’t happen to me” and plow ahead. Isn’t this when an agent steps in? Or are they too blind to reason and simply see their client as a means to an end? If they make more money, I make more money?

    There’s an opportunity for this team to make history, something that you can’t place value on. The two common explanations I hear is that it’s about respect and they’ll never have an opportunity at this kind of money again. That’s just an excuse and Pope John Paul II once said that an excuse is worse than a lie, because it’s a lie that’s guarded. Money should not be your legacy. No one remembers how much money Joe Montana, Bret Favre or Peyton Manning made or what they did with it. Even Howard Hughes is remembered more for his accomplishments than his wealth. If they are the kind of people who will have few skills other than football to take care of themselves when their NFL careers are over they shouldn’t be playing football.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think most of these guys are oblivious to your point, certainly not Kam. But the time to make a point about compensation can be only at the start of camp. Any other time and you’re stealing from your teammates. He has no leverage, and will be in shortly.

      The Seahawks may guarantee next season, but it will have to be a handshake until next season gets here. Don’t know if that will satisfy Kam.

      • jafabian

        I’m confident that Kam only wants to send a message to the club (Walter Jones used to do this but IIRC wasn’t nearly as public with his grievances) but simply saying so IMO would be just as effective at this point and assuming he’s fined he won’t make that money up. All he’s really accomplishing is getting fined and getting on the bad side of his bosses.

        On a side note, I’ve always wondered if former Sonic Gus Williams has had second thoughts over the years about his year long holdout. What would he say to today’s athlete?

  • Matt712

    “I hope you recognize that there is a philosophy, an approach and a commitment to it….”
    – Pete Carroll

    There was more to that quote, I read in an earlier piece. There was also more to that quote in Pete’s intention, I think.

    Players will come and go, their levels of play will rise and fall. But a ‘program’ can endure with results. It would hurt to lose Kam and others. But what PC implies in his comments (and Art in this editorial) is that the next Kam Chancellor is sitting there waiting in some future NFL draft. And the Seahawks will find him.

    That said, I hope Kam gets some structure help with his contract, however unlikely.

  • PokeyPuffy

    great piece, thanks for putting this in context Art. Great comments also. I would only add that Cam, as the hardest hitter on the team, has also to factor in his own physical well being. Like Lynch, he probably wonders how much longer he can go at full tilt. So it amounts to getting as much as you can while you’re still in your prime, or risk eventually being displaced by younger cheaper talent. I don’t blame him at all for asking, too bad he has no leverage

    • art thiel

      Thanks. These guys all understand how easily careers end. And Kam has had his share already of injuries. All teams gamble with guarantees in the face of injury, and the Seahawks are acutely aware of how hard Kam plays.

  • Sub 4.0

    “it has to be considered a good problem to have.” Truer words have never been written. It sure as hell beats the days of Seahawks past when many players were underperforming their contracts.

  • Jamo57

    “The Seahawks are masters at finding more unrecognized talents, coaching them up, playing them young and getting high performance early in careers, than perhaps any team in the league.”

    And across the street, and at the other end of the player development spectrum, is the Mariners……

    (sigh)

  • John M

    I think Kam is an exceptional player and person, and I hope he comes out of this with some guaranteed money, but what is not being factored into all this talk about “what he got and what I should get” is the misjudgements involved and skewed numbers when players get overpaid. To bring it home, may we say Harvin? We all want appreciation and fair compensation for our work, but players and agents too often use salaries for players that are obviously overpaid to use as a measuring stick. Kam would probably be happy with a couple million more, but it would probably cost somebody their job and they would be replaced by a less worthy rookie, etc. Ultimately the front office has to look at the overall health of the team. That’s what they get paid for. It’s still millions of dollars guys, use it wisely and it will last longer than you need it . . .