Thoughts On Chris Clemons' Mini-Camp Holdout & Contract Negotiations

CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 16: Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears attempts to avoid a sack by Chris Clemons #91 of the Seattle Seahawks in the second half of the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16 2011 in Chicago Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

John Schneider was on SportsRadioKJR Saturday with Doug Farrar and Rob Rang on their weekly must-listen Chalk Talk program, and he talked briefly about Chris Clemons and the Seahawks' desire to get something worked out in terms of an extension. Schneider talked about 'taking care' of Clemons and, of course, about also being mindful of future of the organization. He mentioned Clemons' effectiveness playing at home, in front of the 12th Man, and offered a few more "GM-speak" type comments in praise.

Now, if Chris Clemons suits up for the 2012 season opener, he will be 31 years old. He has been consistent for the Seahawks; he's had back-to-back seasons boasting 16 games started and 11 sacks each. Clemons has been durable and effective. Interestingly, in 2011 he had nine sacks on the road and only two at Century Link. Go figure.

Not long after Schneider appeared on Farrar and Rang's Chalk Talk (or maybe even slightly before), a report by the SportsXchange's Len Pasquarelli surfaced claiming the Seahawks had offered Clemons a raise from his current $4m base salary, but had been rebuffed. Most outlets claim the $4m figure for Clemons' 2012 salary and I have seen reports claiming a $4.5m base - but regardless, this particular report was said to offer a pay-raise to $8m in 2012, as well as salaries of $4.5m in 2013 and $5.5m in 2014.

That sounds like a realistic initial offer from what we, as fans, know of the organization's current front office - John Schneider, John Idzik, and Pete Carroll.

If I was Chris Clemons, as a negotiator, I would probably reject that initial offer. Even so, personally, I don't think the Seahawks and Clemons are worlds apart. Here's why.

ROBERT MATHIS - I imagine the deal Clemons would love to get, and perhaps his agent is using this deal as a point of reference, is Robert Mathis' deal with the Colts, which, earlier in 2012, was for 4 years, $36M total ($9M per year). The Robert Mathis deal was structured something close to this:

$15M signing bonus, 2012 base of $4m, 2013 base of $5m, 2014 base of $6m, 2015 base of $6m.

All that really matters is that he receives $24M in the first two years of the deal. I don't know how much of the deal was guaranteed.

I don't think the Seahawks will offer anything close to that. Mathis and Clemons are similar in age (31 when the season starts) but Mathis has been productive for a longer stretch. The Colts spent eight of their ten 2012 draft picks on the offensive side of the ball - they drafted the top two tight ends and spent a 4th round pick on a wide receiver.

When the Draft was concluded, the Colts had drafted two WR, one RB (Vick Ballard), one offensive tackle, and two quarterbacks (Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish). The Colts drafted two young offensive tackles with high picks in 2011. They clearly want to go young on offense, and expect this young core to grow up together around Andrew Luck. Good plan. They let go of older offensive talent like Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai and of course, Peyton Manning.

The point is - the Colts wanted to drastically change over the offense in 2012, and wanted to keep some continuity and veteran leadership on defense. They also kept Dwight Freeney, even though he is scheduled to make significant dollars in 2012. All these factors helped Mathis land a market deal with his hometown team, without taking a hometown discount.

FRANCHISE TAG - As a point of reference, the franchise tag in 2012 for a defensive lineman was $10.6M. Would the Seahawks use the franchise tag in 2013 on Chris Clemons? Probably not, but it does provide a framework in negotiations and when thinking about this extension. I will detail why below.

JOHN CLAYTON & THE MAGIC NUMBER 7- John Clayton has been mentioning a number on the airwaves that I agree with -- $7M per year. $7M is more than DE John Abraham's recent deal and less than Robert Mathis' recent deal. In my business - I call that "bracketing." I think the highest the outside market would pay Clemons would be $8M per year, especially when you fast-forward a year and Clemons is 32 years old. I don't quite see $8M happening, in all honesty. I think his true market value would actually be closer to $7M per year.

SCENARIO A - The Seahawks could pay Clemons $4M in 2012, knowing they could franchise him at $10.6M (franchise number will change, but this is the best number we have - the 2012 figure). Over a two-year time period, the Seahawks would be paying Clemons about $14-15m total. This equates to a bit above $7M per year.

SCENARIO B - The Seahawks could pay Clemons $4M in 2012, and then sign him to another 3 year deal once the season is over, and avoid the franchise tag. Here is what that type of contract could look like:

$10M signing bonus, $3M base salary in 2013, $4M base salary in 2014, $4M base salary in 2015.

In all likelihood, the 2015 salary would not be guaranteed.

So, in review, the deal, ignoring 2015, would be $4M in 2012, $13M (signing bonus plus base) in 2013, $4M in 2014 = $21M Total.

Basically, $7M per year over three years.

SCENARIO C - If we take the Pasquarelli report at face value, the Seahawks current extension offer is:

$8M for 2012, $4.5M for 2013, and $5.5M for 2014. $18M Total. It sounds like this was just the first offer - and Eric Williams reports his source is saying there has been no "formal rejection on any deal, and the two sides continue to negotiate." I don't know. Perhaps the Seahawks stick to their guns. Or, perhaps the Seahawks have some room in this negotiation and this is not a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

Personally, I can see the Seahawks ceiling be somewhere close to: $8M in 2012, $6.5M in 2013 and $6.5M in 2014. Again, this equates to $7M per year. I don't see the Seahawks paying more than that, and I could see the final extension being done for a bit less than that.

Under this "$8M, $6.5M, $6.5M" scenario above, the Seahawks would be paying out $14.5M total for the combined 2012 and 2013 seasons. This $14.5 would be roughly the same amount they would spend if they kept the 2012 contract at the existing $4M and franchised Clemons at $10.6M in 2013.

LEVERAGE -

The Seahawks have some leverage in this scenario. Points of leverage include:

*Bruce Irvin.
*The idea (whether true or not) that Clemons thrived in Seattle and may not be as valuable and productive in another system.
*The fact that Clemons will be 31 soon.
*the Franchise Tag.

Chris Clemons has some leverage as well. His side of the argument:

*I am good.
*Look at the market for defensive ends - they aren't exactly cheap.
*The Seahawks need two outside pash rushers, not just one.
*You need to save the 2013 Franchise Tag for other, younger players coming due in 2013 such as Max Unger or Jason Jones.

CONCLUSION - I, slightly, lean toward the opinion the Seahawks and Chris Clemons will work an extension that runs through 2014, and I think it will be to the tune of around $7M per year. I would see the three-year base salaries being $8M, $6.5M, $6.5M, or perhaps $8M, $7M, $6M, and I think the key sticking point will be whether the 2014 base salary will be guaranteed.

And, if the two sides do fall apart, I think that could be the reason. The Seahawks may refuse to guarantee 2014, and Clemons may feel very strongly that some other NFL team would. The 2013 salary, whether it's one of $5M, $6M, or $7M, is less of an issue in my mind.

In the end though - I think the extension does get done. We will see.

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