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Kam Chancellor's Holdout: Follow the money

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When I replaced incredulity and anger with facts and a generous reading of the situation, solving the riddle of Chancellor's holdout just came down to money, Weird, huh?

from some preseason game I think
from some preseason game I think
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For anyone who's covered or followed pro sports for decades, a truism is inescapable:

"Money = respect."

Most things come down to the money, in the end. Why should Kam's dispute be any different just because he's a Seahawk?

Preamble out of the way -- time to state the obvious: this Kam Chancellor holdout has felt weird.

It's weird because Kam's only completed two years of a five-year contract (and only one year of his four-year extension, which started in earnest in 2014). He's not even halfway through it. As John Schneider has stated publicly on many occasions, the team will consider a renegotiation with the player when one year remains on the deal. Not three years, one. Kam knows this. His teammates know this. It's how the Hawks do business. It's the model.

So the holdout has been weird. It's caused speculation, consternation, aggravation, basically all the -ations.

Because let's face it -- what are you expecting, Kam? You know the FO can't rework your deal, not right now, not significantly, maybe not at all. You know there's no immediate money anyway, not after the Wilson and Wagner deals got done. You know you signed a contract that paid you good guaranteed money, elite money at the time, and now it's dried up because... that's how NFL contracts work.

It's been so weird.

But it gets weirder. Pumping up the bizarro quotient is Kam's place on the team and in the fan pantheon (fantheon?) of current Hawks. Kam Chancellor is the soul of the defense; he is doubtless the physical incarnation of the team's physical identity. He is a team leader, a likeable guy on and off the field, and maybe the most popular Seahawk on a team full of impossibly popular players.

He is the archetype; the idol. He is the once and future mold of greatness; the Hammer among hammers; the soul-harvesting, ball-hawking Hawk King.

This has happened, in reality, in our shared universe even:

This happened IN THE SAME FLIPPIN GAME:

And this is practically the Field Gulls site logo:

So why did Kam Chancellor, Seahawk leader, defensive captain, not appear at 2015's training camp? Why is he still out this morning, five days before the opener? Why is he violating all three of Pete Carroll's top three rules, all at once? (Protect the team / No whining, no complaining, no excuses / Be early.)

Probably because of the money.

$everal Fact$: Number$, Dollar$, Li$t$, $tuff

Three strong safeties, at or near the top of their game, all make the same amount of money: $7 million a year. Behold Chart 1:

Big Strong Man Contract Years/Total $ AAV Reaches FA in
Reshad Jones (MIA) 4 / 28,012,000 7,003,000 2018
Kam Chancellor (SEA) 4 / 28,002,008 7.000,502 2018
Donte Whitner (WAS) 4 / 28,000,000 7,000,000 2018

I sincerely doubt that Kam cares about the extra $9,992 Jones will make over the life of the deal. All three of these guys seem to be respected equally by their teams, financially speaking. The deals match! Moving on. Chart 2:

(By the way, thanks to overthecap.com for contract information, linkety link is here.)

Same Men Signing Bonus Total Guaranteed $ % of Contract guaranteed
Reshad Jones 5,000,000 15,000,000 53.5
Kam Chancellor 5,000,000 7,825,000 27.9
Donte Whitner 9,000,000 11,000,000 39.3

Uh-oh.

Damning evidence above. If Kam wants to feel disrespected, he now has his first round of ammo. Should he hold out with three years left on his deal? Nah. That's a negotiating dead end. But the numbers are starting to bolster his case.

(EDIT, 2:42 p.m: There are rolling guarantees in Kam's contract. His entire 2014 salary became guaranteed in February 2014; same thing for 2015. Those early-activation guarantees have added approximately $9 million to Kam's guarantees along the way. Their timing is intentional. It's worth noting the 2015 money became guaranteed while Chancellor was rehabbing an MCL injury.

Whitner appears to have some rolling guarantees as well, though quite a bit smaller. Further details later after my paying job ends.)

More? Here's the list of safeties with more guaranteed money in their existing contract than Kam.

Eric Berry, Chiefs

Devin McCourty, Patriots

Eric Weddle, Chargers

Jairus Byrd, Saints

Dashon Goldson, Skins

Reshad Jones, Dolphins

Mark Barron, Rams

Earl Thomas, Betelgeuse-29

William Moore, Falcons

Michael Griffin, Titans

LaRon Landry, Colts

Donte Whitner, Browns

Kenny Vaccaro, Saints

Aaron Williams, Bills

Calvin Pryor, Jets

Eric Reid, Niners

Morgan Burnett, Packers

Many of the names above are free safeties, whose salaries are typically greater than those of strong safeties. There's a pay gap that is real. But are you comfortable defending All-Pro Kam Chancellor's guaranteed money as 18th best among all safeties? If so, explain in the comments below, and if not, then why should he be satisfied with it?

It's an honest question.

More? I did bring one more set of data, now that you ask. Here's the pile of Seahawks who currently enjoy, or who have enjoyed, more guaranteed money than Kam in their existing contract:

Russell Wilson, 61.5M

Richard Sherman, 40M

Earl Thomas, 25.7M

Bobby Wagner, 22M

Jimmy Graham, 20.9M

Cliff Avril, 16M

Michael Bennett, 16M

Marshawn Lynch, 12M

Bruce Irvin, 9.3M

Brandon Mebane, 9M

K.J. Wright, 8.7M

Doug Baldwin, 8.5M

Russell Okung, 8.4M

Disclaimer: Graham's guarantees came from the Saints. And Irvin, Mebane and Okung are all in the final year of old deals. But still. Those guys got their big paydays, they got their entire contracts paid. With three years left on his deal, Kam has no assurance that he'll see all the money promised him.

Same question as before. Are you comfortable telling Kam that he's the 14th most valuable player on the team?

Now guaranteed money isn't everything. Some of those guys make less by AAV than Chancellor.

But in a way, guaranteed money is the best metric -- it offers security. The non-guaranteed portion is an ACL tear away from vanishing, two concussions from floating away. And if there's anything chaos theory, no, probability, no, the 2014 postseason has taught us, it's that the injury demon-sprite can manifest at any time.

(This time the money info was courtesy of sportrac.com, linkety link here.)

So Show Him The...

Rrrrhhho no, I don't think the Hawks should redo Kam's deal; I don't think it's in the team's long-term interest. There's a reason the Hawks' decision-makers wait until the final year to tear up deals -- they need to stagger contracts, minimize their risk, and structure paydays strategically to keep the maximum amount of elite players.

If money is indeed respect, then Kam's probably got a case, but he probably doesn't have a prayer.

Without pretending to know Kam's mind, I'd like to extend to him four benefits of the doubt.

A) He's not stupid. He's doing this for a reason. It's the money. It's the respect. It's the principle.

B) He's not stupid. He's going to come back this season, rather than lose 10 game checks.

C) He's not stupid. He knows the team's up against the cap.

D) He's not stupid. He can see that forcing a trade is unlikely. Even if he Hawks wanted to trade him, they'd have to find a partner willing to match their price and willing to negotiate the highest strong safety deal for a guy with an imperfect injury history. Days before the season opener.

At the same time, Kam's also not totally in the wrong. So when I assure you he'll be back in uniform shortly, it's because this holdout, to me, feels plenty like a play for 2016. If he reports soon and proceeds to ball out like only he can, then next summer he can ask again for an increase in guarantees, or an acceleration of payment, or conversion of some regular pay to bonus, or some other tomfoolery that pays him better without increasing his pay. And it won't sound quite so ridiculous as it does now. Especially if other players leapfrog him again in guaranteed dough.

All conclusion-like, I still believe Kam will be in navy blue and action green for Week 1. And if not then, for Week 2.

(After that, though, all bets are off.)