The importance of timing when it comes to contracts cannot be overestimated.
Anticipating when to agree terms is vital. It provides you with an opportunity to get ahead of the game. While the immediate reaction might be one of surprise depending on the size of the salary — foreseeing progression can provide extreme value.
Kam Chancellor is a good example of this early in the Pete Carroll era. He was made one of the highest paid safeties in the league in 2013 when he signed a four-year, $28m contract. Nobody doubted Chancellor was a fine player and a leader on the team. Yet many questioned the size of the contract. In the end, it was a perfectly justified deal that actually provoked a holdout down the line because it was so reasonable.
The most recent example is Tyler Lockett. There were a few eyebrows raised when he agreed a three-year, $31.8m extension in August 2018. By that point his best season, yardage wise, was his rookie effort of 664. He’d suffered a serious leg injury and in 2017 had only recorded 555 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s easy to forget now but at the time a lot of people questioned the deal. In hindsight, it’s been an absolute bargain.
Lockett has turned into a star. He has 2022 yards in the last two seasons and 18 touchdowns. It’s impossible to imagine the offense functioning without his connection to the quarterback. The trust, chemistry and sheer talent and ability to make the impossible happen is the focal point of the offense.
The $31.8m contract was worth an average of $10.25m a year. Two years later, Lockett is the joint 22nd highest paid receiver in the league. He’s earning less per year than Emmanuel Sanders and Tyler Boyd. His salary is on par with Sterling Shepard’s extension with the Giants.
He’s earning marginally more than Quincy Enunwa.
If I were Lockett’s representatives, I’d be pushing for another extension.
It might be worth Seattle trying to get ahead of the game again. They have an estimated $63m available in 2021 and $187m available in 2022. By tearing up his current contract they might be able to increase his $11.5m cap hit for next season but lower his cap hit this year (currently $12.25m) — then tack on a couple of years paying him in the same range as DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks ($16.2m).
That might seem like a lot of money to pay Lockett down the line — especially with the uncertainty about the NFL economy due to coronavirus. Assuming the league will recover — and it should — there’s little reason to think receivers are going to see a major regression in average salary at the top end. Thus — what might seem costly today ($16m) might actually be a bargain by the time we get to 2022. Even if it isn’t — Lockett is Seattle’s #1 target. And while a lot of his game is built around supreme athleticism and quickness which might fade slightly as he turns 30 — he’s still incredibly savvy and technically brilliant.
Lockett might not be interested in such a pact and might think it’s best to wait this out and perhaps eventually become a free agent. Yet he, more than most, seems to recognise the good thing he’s got in Seattle. He’s among the highest paid on the roster and gets to work with an elite quarterback at a well run organisation.
Securing an extra couple of years on his deal for a top amount could also benefit both parties. Lockett gets the extra security and doesn’t risk becoming a free agent after 2021 in a financially uncertain period for the NFL. The team can lock up one of its very best players while also creating cap room this year (which it badly needs considering there are still significant holes on the roster).
He only turns 28 in September. Getting ahead of the game with Lockett once before paid dividends. He’s also part of the clear definitive core group that they need to add to and commit to. A pay increase for the future would also be a welcome reward for a player who has been underpaid compared to his peers.
Lockett is one of the best receivers in the league and is clearly one of Seattle’s most important players. Their only long term contract commitments are Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. There’s no reason not to add Lockett’s name to that list. Rather than ask him to tweak his deal to create cap space this year — an extension and overall pay increase would be a just reward for a player who has quickly developed into a significant asset.
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