I’ve long struggled with Seattle’s approach to contract negotiations.
Their modus operandi is to refuse to do anything before the draft — often kicking the can down the road.
I’m sure the team would argue the merits for such an approach. Yet it’s not abundantly clear to outsiders why they do what they do.
Waiting on negotiations has seemingly ended up costing them money and talent.
Seattle could’ve negotiated hard with Frank Clark after the 2017 season — preempting his breakout season in 2018. The Vikings did just that with Danielle Hunter — giving him a contract worth $14.4m a year in June 2018 after a seven-sack season the year before (his first as a true starter).
Hunter had accumulated 19.5 sacks in 2016 and 2017 and Minnesota had the good sense to recognise his talent and project ahead.
Clark had 19 sacks in the same two-year span so he was on a similar trajectory. Yet Seattle, despite being gifted a starting point in negotiations, didn’t act. They let Clark go into a contract year. He registered 13 sacks in 2018.
They were forced to use the franchise tag to retain him — worth $17.1m. Pete Carroll then spoke at the combine about not imagining life without ‘Franky’ in Seattle.
Yet when Demarcus Lawrence signed a new contract worth $21m a year in Dallas, they were caught off guard. Suddenly the defensive end market had been re-set. Now they were having to negotiate from $21m instead of $17.1m or $14.4m. They decided to trade Clark to Kansas City.
Whatever your view on Clark’s time with the Chiefs — it’s indisputable that losing him and failing to replace him properly set the Seahawks back. They spent three years trying to cobble together a pass rush, failing badly to find anyone who could offer Clark’s impact. Rather than adding and building, they were replacing.
You could argue this is hindsight, admittedly. Although I don’t think it’s so much of a stretch to anticipate the way things were going. Clark wasn’t some raw, untested talent and had as many sacks as Hunter when he signed his deal. The franchise tag provided protection but at a greater cost to the $14.4m that was the benchmark for negotiations. And with the way NFL salaries were starting to climb — a deal in the +$20m range for someone like Lawrence wasn’t exactly unpredictable — especially because he’d already been franchise tagged twice and the Cowboys had no choice but to pay him aggressively or trade him.
The Seahawks haven’t fallen into this trap with other players. They skilfully handled Tyler Lockett’s negotiations — paying him a little bit more than people expected at the time, before benefitting from getting ahead of a market explosion on both occasions.
Yet they have fallen foul with other players, not just Clark.
It’s baffling why they allowed the Jamal Adams trade to be concluded without a new deal agreed. They ceded all leverage to Adams the minute they paid New York a kings ransom to acquire him.
Having committed so much to bring him in, a contract extension was always inevitable. So why wait? It speaks to the desperation Seattle had at the time to bring someone (anyone) in to bolster what looked like a pretty horrendous defense prior to the 2020 season.
‘Just get the trade done’ appears to have been the mentality, not getting the right price arranged or fixing a contract for Adams.
They then watched Arizona re-set the market with Budda Baker. Then Justin Simmons re-set it again.
By the time they’d actually got round to having serious talks — Adams was holding out of training camp and his realistic price range was far beyond what it realistically would’ve been had they agreed a contract upon completion of a trade.
Baker blew up the safety market exactly a month after the Adams trade was completed. He earns $14.75m a year. By waiting 12 months, the Seahawks ended up forking out a $17.6m a year deal to Adams — a contract that feels like a lead weight around Seattle’s neck at this point and one, with hindsight, they’d probably rather live without.
They badly misjudged and mishandled the Adams contract situation.
This brings us on to D.K. Metcalf.
For most of this year Metcalf has spoken very positively about his future in Seattle. He even appeared at voluntary OTA’s. However — reportedly he’s skipping minicamp this week and is unauthorised to do so. He’s essentially holding out.
It speaks to a situation that seemingly could’ve been handled better.
Ever since Christian Kirk signed his obscene contract in Jacksonville, the receiver market has exploded. Several players have received whopping extensions — including Chris Godwin ($20m), Mike Williams ($20m), D.J. Moore ($20m), Stefon Diggs ($24m), A.J. Brown ($25m), Davante Adams ($28m) and Tyreek Hill ($30m).
The numbers in brackets are recorded average salary amounts per Spotrac.
It’s been well established for some time what Seattle was going to have to pay Metcalf to keep him. They’ve known the situation for ages.
So what are they waiting for?
Metcalf is well within his rights to expect a similar amount to good friend A.J. Brown — $25m a year — if not more.
So what’s the delay? Why isn’t this done?
Presumably, if they didn’t want to pay market value, they would’ve dealt Metcalf prior to the draft and moved on?
They now face the prospect of Deebo Samuel (who is attending San Francisco’s minicamp) having an about-turn and extending his contract with the 49ers to further promote the receiver market. Cooper Kupp is also talking to the Rams about an improved contract.
(Edit — Kupp has signed a three-year extension worth $80m)
And if they wait until next off-season to negotiate with Metcalf on the franchise tag, they face the prospect of Justin Jefferson re-setting the market again.
It just seems like an avoidable drama is brewing. This really should’ve been sorted pre-draft. Sit down with Metcalf, thrash things out based on the clearly established receiver market — then make a call. Either do a deal or trade him.
The fact Metcalf has been so upbeat about his future in Seattle, only to now be holding out of minicamp, feels like a turn for the worse has occurred. It suggests he’s become frustrated with talks and wants to make a point.
Unless the Seahawks get this sorted — it’s likely he’ll not be involved in training camp either. And then they face the prospect of a protracted saga that dominates (and distracts) during camp, just as we saw with Adams a year ago.
The Seahawks and Metcalf had all the information they needed to get this done weeks ago, just before or after the draft. Why it’s still not sorted is a mystery and frankly, a disappointing faux pas for the team when they need to be trying to move forward without distraction into a new era.
There’s simply no justification for this not being sorted. If you weren’t willing to pay Metcalf what the market dictates, he should’ve been dealt. Just as Marquise and A.J. Brown both were during the draft.
You committed to Metcalf by holding onto him. Now you simply have to pay him. You have no choice.
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