With Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor landing on injured reserve this year for the first time in his career following a neck injury, many have already written him off for 2018. However, due to the structure, or rather the poor structure one might say, of Kam’s contract from the team’s perspective, there is a very good chance Kam will be a Seahawk next season. Because of the way the contract was set up, combined with the unexpected severity of the injury suffered against the Arizona Cardinals, Kam Chancellor is effectively guaranteed to be on the Seahawks roster, whether on the active 53 or riding the PUP list, for the 2018 season.
At issue is that five days after the Super Bowl Kam’s entire 2018 base salary of $6.8M becomes fully guaranteed. That would be February 10th, and once February 10th arrives and that money is fully guaranteed, there is absolutely nothing the Seahawks can do to avoid paying Chancellor. Add that $6.8M base salary on top of the $7.5M in dead money from the prorated portion of his signing bonus, and all of a sudden the 2018 cap hit to release Chancellor would become a cap crippling $14.3M, which would be devastating for a team already dealing with a tight cap situation for 2018. Here is former agent Joel Corry summarizing the issue.
The key language in Kam Chancellor's injury guarantee is his ability to pass the preseason physical in the team doctor's sole discretion. Time isn't on Seattle's side because the skill & salary cap guarantees for the $6.8M in 2018 kick in 5 days after 2018 waivers begin (2/10). https://t.co/IkCUY8Pvze— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) November 28, 2017
So, obviously, the simple solution seems to be to cut Chancellor on or before February 9th, except for one pesky detail: they can’t. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, NFL teams are forbidden from cutting injured players during the league year in which the injury is sustained. This means the earliest the Hawks could cut Chancellor, assuming his neck injury is still an issue, would be when the 2018 NFL League Year starts in March. Here is Corry discussing what would likely happen if the Seahawks tried to cut Chancellor on or before February 9th:
Not necessarily. Kam Chancellor would probably file a grievance for the $12M. $4.8M of the $12M (40% of the disputed amount) would count on Seattle's cap until a resolution in addition to the $7.5M of signing proration from his 2018 through 2020 contract years, https://t.co/XlB8hS8Ul9— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) November 28, 2017
And that’s the chicken and egg issue here.
Because of his injury, Chancellor likely cannot be cut prior to the deadline by which his salary becomes fully guaranteed. The only way the team could conceivably cut Chancellor before those full guarantees kick in in early February would be if he were to pass a physical and be cleared to play football before February 9th. Now, if that were the case, then there is no need to cut him because he’s cleared to play and can presumably be a contributor in 2018 and potentially beyond.
What this means is that for those fans expecting the team to clear a small amount of cap room by cutting Chancellor, it might be wise to stop expecting that and start anticipating Kam to be a part of the Seahawks in 2018.
Even if Kam does not play, riding out the 2018 season on the PUP list could give his injury time to heal sufficiently in order to be able to play in 2019. In any case, there is likely to be exactly zero salary cap benefit to getting rid of Chancellor for 2018, and at this juncture the odds seem extremely high that he will be a Seattle Seahawk in 2018, even if it means nothing more than spending the entirety of 2018 on the PUP list.
Now, 2019 is a different story, but that's a long way off.