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.