The Seattle Seahawks are going into their seventh offseason under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. It sure doesn't feel like it's been that long, but then I remembered that the last time I shopped at a Blockbuster Video was in 2010 and realized that time doesn't really give a shit how long ago you think something was. Over the previous six offseasons, it would be hard to argue that they didn't do everything as near perfect as they could.
From taking over the worst team in the NFL after the 2009 season to making the playoffs in 2010, showing signs of actually being good in the second half of 2011, making the playoffs in 2012, winning the Super Bowl in 2013, being the first team to make repeat trips to the Super Bowl in ten years in 2014, and then ... well ... okay, maybe 2015 wasn't an improvement over the previous three years, but to do as well as they did to finish first in DVOA once again in the salary cap era, is a pretty remarkable achievement.
Now comes perhaps their biggest challenge yet.
Pete and John must now find a way to get back to winning the NFC West while also making very tough decisions on some of the most key guys who have been here since their beginnings in Seattle six years ago. They have to keep being the Seahawks we know while also probably getting rid of the Seahawks we know. They have to figure out a way to keep their identity while burning off their fingerprints in acid. Or at least, start crunching the numbers and find some extra room in the budget to buy that pool they've been promising the kids since last summer.
Seattle currently sits near the middle of the pack in cap space for next season, though these numbers and rankings will fluctuate wildly in the next two months. They have enough to keep the guys that they'll prioritize as being the most important to keep, but not enough to keep everybody.
Not that they need to keep everybody.
All of which is to say that the business side of football is both fascinating and infuriating. We take a sport and then we make it about accounting. That's like reading Playboy* for the articles ... no, like really reading Playboy for the articles.
*for the younger readers out there, Playboy was a magazine** that offered adult images***
**a magazine is a small, glossy, paper**** book that comes out monthly or biweekly usually
***like a jpeg*****
****paper is like cash****** but without any monetary value
*****a gif that doesn't move
******how old people used to buy things, or the stuff that gilbert arenas uses to denigrate women
I don't want sports to be about money, I want it to be about sports. The only time I want it to be about money is when I'm watching MTV Cribs in 2005. That being said, playing GM on your home computer can be kind of fun too. All I know is that now that we're into the offseason (teams have already begun to re-sign players -- thanks for nothing, Philadelphia), the idea of having to even make business decisions over certain Seahawks has really been upsetting me. Some more than others.
These are the top 10 upcoming contract situations for Seattle, ranked in order of how angry they make me.
10. Jimmy Graham (save $9 million by release)
It just upsets me that we're even talking about this. He was the Seahawks first round pick last year. They aren't going to release or trade him just because his career might be over. I mean, look at Peyton Manning ... the Broncos kept him last year even though his career was over and look how that worked out!
No decision on Graham will come earlier than 2017. Let's stop pretending like Graham isn't an elite player and stop trying to be laptop doctors diagnosing his injury. Most of us couldn't even point to our patellar tendon right now if quizzed.
The franchise record for catches and yards by a tight end in one season is 55 and 627. Graham nearly surpassed both of those totals in only 11 games.
9. Jeremy Lane (FA)
It's not important to ask what position Lane plays, or how he would fit on another secondary, or whether or not he compares favorably to other former Seahawks DBs that left the team like Maxwell, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, Ron Parker, Will Blackmon, and so on. None of that matters. This is what matters:
Lane has missed 19 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons. He has never been a full-time starter. He didn't record his first career interception until Super Bowl 49 and he has never actually proven that he's capable of playing on the field for 40-50 plays a game.
All we know is that he might be approaching the same curve that Maxwell was approaching in 2013 when he started to vault his stock to being a top-paid player. Lane will be 26 in July, so there's plenty of time left for him to get established and sign a huge deal -- yes, a huge deal -- at some point in his career.
Just not now.
For that reason, I believe Seattle will announce a one-year, $2 million deal for Lane sometime in the next month. Fans have been over-hyped about how good Lane could be without giving enough attention to what he hasn't done. When they sit down at the negotiating table with his agent, the Seahawks will point out how little he's produced in four seasons and also sell him on what a 16-game season will do for him financially if he can prove he's capable of doing that.
I'm not upset about Lane's situation because I think it will be one of the easiest to handle.
Prediction: 1 or 2 year deal before free agency
8. Kam Chancellor (save $4.1 million by release)
This one is more frustrating than upsetting. I just feel bad for Chancellor. He held out for more money because he wasn't being paid enough, so now that his value has been deflated, he can't reasonably ask for a raise. And the Seahawks have no reason to release or trade him either because we already knew he was underpaid. Now he's just being paid what he's worth, if not going back to being a huge bargain.
Chancellor carries a cap hit of $6.1 million next season, the 13th-biggest 2016 cap hit by a safety before upcoming releases and signings. Even if we believe he is a top-10 safety and even if it seems reasonable that he should be paid as such, he also looks like he's about 50.
He's out there delivering hits like Grave Digger, but you know they're not just using the same truck since 1981, right?
If the Seahawks decide they need to save the four mill and that Kelcie McCray is ready, then so be it. But Chancellor is only 27 and he knows that if he reverts back to being an All-Pro in 2016, he will have a lot more clout in asking for a raise or for Seattle to let him go find the money elsewhere. My biggest concern is actually if the retirements of players like Patrick Willis has him wondering if he's meant to play this game past his twenties.
Prediction: Stay on same deal
7. J.R. Sweezy (FA)
Sweezy's impending free agency doesn't upset me all that much right now because I think he is a replacement level guard, therefore by definition he is replaceable. Sweezy's cap hit was $1.5 million last year -- so if Seattle is able to replace him with someone on a rookie deal, they'll save $1 million off last year's cap and much more than that than if they re-signed Sweezy; The worst case scenario would be giving him a raise to $2.3 million, which is what James Carpenter made for the Jets last year in the first year of his four-year, $19.1 million contract.
The Seahawks got more than three full seasons of starts at guard from a seventh round defensive lineman. That's amazing and I don't need him to give the franchise anything more at this point.
Zack Martin, perhaps the best guard in football, will make $2.4 million next year. His brother Nick very likely could be available at the 26th overall pick in the draft. Nick Martin plays center right now, not guard, but overall the line just needs to get better and adding a surefire starting center in the draft would go a long way towards improving the unit as a whole. Sweezy has not been consistent enough to warrant a multi-year deal that would require ... consistency.
Sweezy being a free agent doesn't upset me, but re-signing him would.
Prediction: Let go in free agency
6. Doug Baldwin (final year of deal)
The only way I'll be upset about this situation is if it turns into a long holdout. Which ... I mean ... aren't these the kind of situations that do turn into holdouts? The player who seems to go from Jerry Porter to Jerry Rice overnight? Luckily Baldwin is not going to be a free agent, and maybe he's not worried about getting an extension before the season, but that would be kind of stupid.
Can he risk getting hurt or reverting back to an 800-yard, three touchdown player?
It's safe to argue that Baldwin was a top-10 receiver last season. But I'd also say that over his first four years in the league, he was a top-five talker who rarely cracked the top 25 as a
Next year, Baldwin's cap hit of $5.6 million ranks 30th (Calvin Johnson included.) If he doesn't get a new contract, it probably still won't end up in the top 25 after players are released and new ones signed. He's set to make less than Marques Colston, Danny Amendola, Kendall Wright, Dwayne Bowe, Victor Cruz, and Michael Crabtree. Sure, Bowe and others will get released, but Baldwin's agent could still argue that the market dictated at one point that Bowe was worth an $8 million salary.
So where does Baldwin fall? Should he be paid like a top-10 guy or should the Seahawks try to keep him out of the top 20?
Randall Cobb has the 11th-highest AAV at $10 million. He signed a four-year, $40 million deal last year with $13 million guaranteed. Around that time, Jeremy Maclin signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs but with $22.5 million guaranteed.
Will Cobb's season (51.8 YPG, 10.5 YPC) make the Seahawks more cautious about giving Baldwin $40 million, or will the fact that Doug was so much better than Cobb mean that he's not going to budge for less than that? That's why a holdout is possible, but with any luck, Baldwin will just be happy to cash in -- He's played five seasons and made only $9 million. Sign a new deal and he could get that in the bonus alone.
He can't risk going back to being a 700-yard receiver and hitting a flooded receiver market in 2017.
Prediction: Signs new deal before season, roughly four years and $42 million, $17 million guaranteed.
Coming up next: Counting down from 5 to 1