The Seattle Seahawks might have jumped the gun when they signed Kam Chancellor to a contract extension in August. Had they waited until December, as they have with many soon-to-be-free agents that they prioritize, then it’s possible the Seahawks could be looking at a cheap one-year deal for Chancellor in 2018. Or no deal at all. That’s because Kam is out for the rest of the season with a neck injury and the question of whether or not he’ll ever play again has come into play.
But if Kam Chancellor retires, he’ll end up costing himself millions of dollars. And if the Seahawks release him or handle his exit a certain way, they could end up with a $19 million cap hit on Kam next season. So in all likelihood, it seems as though Kam will be on the roster next year, even if he can’t play, because Seattle has no financial incentive to part ways due to the deal he signed this year. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com detailed everything about Kam’s deal and what his injury guarantees really mean:
What are the Salary Cap Ramifications of Cutting vs Keeping?
Chancellor will count about $9.58 million on the cap next year if he remains on the team in some capacity. If he was released and no disputing the injury the cap charge would be $19.5 million. The reason it is so high is because $7.5 million of his signing bonus would accelerate plus the full $12 million guarantee would kick in.
If Kam can’t pass a physical by the vesting date in 2018, then his 2018 salary becomes guaranteed. That’s all. Okay, it’s not ideal if Kam can’t play at all, but it’s not as though it means he will never play again. It just means that the Seahawks lose most of their incentive to release an injured player. As Fitzgerald notes, it may be best for Seattle to keep Kam and put him on PUP if he is not able to start next season on the 53-man roster. Then again, he could also pass the physical, be okay, and the team would likely keep him around and then evaluate his health going into the year because there’s still little financial incentive to release him at that point.
But there’s basically no incentive for Kam to retire.
How Do Things Change if Chancellor Retires?
The first thing to understand here is that there is no reason for Chancellor to retire. In general a player who voluntarily walks away from the NFL is breaching his contract. That means the player would be walking away from his guaranteed salary.
In addition a player who breaches their contract that received a signing bonus may be forced to repay all the remaining bonus money that has yet to be accounted for on the contract. While the Seahawks did not enforce this with Marshawn Lynch they did force Chancellor to forfeit some money on his prior contract when he held out. Regardless it’s a risk the player should not take until it is done in writing that the team will not recover the $7.5 million in bonus money.
If he retired officially and let the team off the hook for $12 million his cap charge next year would be $7.5 million. I can’t see any reason why he would do that so I would be stunned if he said he was walking away.
It’s $7.5 million (and up) that could have been avoided if Seattle had waited to extend a 29-year-old safety with an injury history, but it does line up with how the Seahawks tend to do business, such as in the case of Lynch. Let’s not forget that Kam held out for two games in 2015 and the team may have made him some handshake agreements about taking care of him before 2016 began.
Kam’s future is definitely still in doubt, but his place on the team is virtually guaranteed.