It’s Monday, which means it’s back to work for most people, which is not something most look forward to. However, for fans of the Seattle Seahawks, Monday is the last day of the offseason, with players reporting to training camp Tuesday. Those players won’t actually take the field until Wednesday, and then actual padded practices commence in a few more days. That said, with the arrival of training camp comes actual news, and here are some items of note that fans can start to look for on Tuesday.
Who lands on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Nonfootball Injury (NFI) lists?
The Seahawks have a handful of players who either finished their 2020 season on injured reserve, or who underwent surgery at some point in the offseason and could start out on the PUP list.
Marquise Blair, who suffered a knee injury in Week 2, but was sufficiently recovered to participate in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp during the summer, so the expectation should be that he is fully cleared for camp. Blair has been known as a highly athletic playmaker who was not always assignment sound all the way back to his time at Dodge City Community College, so his return to the field will be just the first obstacle in earning playing time during the 2021 season.
A name seemingly far more likely to land on the PUP list is 2018 first round pick Rashaad Penny. Penny had offseason surgery to “get something cleaned up” and what and how exactly that something was cleaned up is what will determine his availability for camp. If it was nothing more than the removal of scar tissue, he should be good to go. If, however, he had a revision to the ACL reconstruction or a meniscus repair, even if those were done early in the offseason it would not be unrealistic for the timeline for his recovery to extend into training camp or early in the season.
Keeping all that in mind, even if Penny starts training camp on the PUP list, it’s no need for alarm. Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls both started training camp in 2016 on the PUP list, but both were cleared in advance of Week 1 (though a second broken leg landed Rawls on injured reserve after the Seahawks Week 2 loss to Case Keenum and the Jeff Fisher coached Los Angeles Rams). Tyler Lockett spent the first few days of training camp on the PUP list in 2017, but has appeared in all 70 regular and postseason games since. In short, it’s better to get Penny healthy than attempt to rush him back and have a repeat of how he looked in limited playing time at the end of the 2020 season.
Even if Penny does not start camp on the PUP, the signing of Cameron Scarlett to the roster on Friday could be an indication the team is taking a cautious approach to the running back position. In seasons where the Hawks have entered training camp with the starter at the position known (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2020) the team has entered camp with no more than six running backs on the roster. Yet, in spite of having brought back Chris Carson and his unquestioned role as the starter, the Hawks are set to report Tuesday with seven at the position. Thus, the question is whether the extra body is to limit the workload of players like Carson and Penny during camp, or whether the team is anticipating being short at the position. The fact that the team waited more than three weeks to fill their open roster spot and then on the eve of camp filled it with a running back could certainly lead one to believe it’s more likely the latter than the former.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, one other key name to watch for here is rookie D’Wayne Eskridge. The second round pick was limited during minicamp in June due to an injury to one of his big toes, and the Seahawks reported interest in Dede Westbrook prior to Westbrook’s signing with the Minnesota Vikings could indicate continuing issues for Eskridge’s toe. Hopefully the toe issue is better now, because Seattle fans have dealt with the team’s top overall pick missing time during camp several seasons in a row, including:
2020: Jordyn Brooks (groin injury)
2019: L.J. Collier (ankle/foot injury)
2018: Rashaad Penny (broken finger)
2017: Malik McDowell (lol)
2016: Germain Ifedi (ankle injury)
There could easily be surprises as well, with 91 players reporting to camp it wouldn’t be a shock for one of them to have suffered some sort of injury that lands them on the NFI list while training on their own this summer, but that won’t be known until late Tuesday.
The biggest contract matter that will draw the most questions is, of course, Jamal Adams. The Hawks sent two first round picks to the New York Jets last season to acquire Adams, and while those picks are a sunk cost from the team’s standpoint, they are negotiating leverage for Adams. The Seahawks are certainly open to ignoring the picks that they sent, but from the perspective of Adams and his agent, the Seattle front office didn’t send two first round picks to New York to rent a player for two years.
Thus, from Adams’ standpoint, the negotiation effectively boils down to “pay me what I want or I walk”, which is why multiple independent analysts this offseason have looked at players traded for significant draft capital and found the same thing: They get what they want in contract negotiations. Specifically, while the sample size is small, players acquired for either a first round pick or two first round picks tend to land contracts that come in above the market.
Not a huge sample size of recent big trades where extensions followed (n=8), but the acquiring team generally paid about 20% above our projected contract valuation https://t.co/ffEXENRDUv— Brad Spielberger (@PFF_Brad) June 15, 2021
The big question, of course, is whether or not Adams will hold out. Both of the last two collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) have worked to make holding out very unattractive financially for the players, but if there are players for whom it might still make sense it is the players set to play on their fifth year option.
Specifically, there are four main deterrents to holdouts in the current CBA:
- Article 8, Section 1(b)
- Article 4, Section 9(a)(i) and Article 4, Section 9(a)(ii)
- Article 7, Section 7(h)
Article 8, Section 1(b) dictates that a player who fails to report to training camp on the required date will not be eligible to earn an accrued season. This prevents extension eligible players in the final year of their rookie contract from holding out because if they don’t show up for camp they wind up a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent when their contract expires. This is largely irrelevant for Adams because he already has four accrued seasons, so would be eligible for free agency next spring one way or the other.
Next, Article 4, Section 9(a)(i) and (ii) provide for penalties for failing to report for missing six days of training camp. These penalties include the repayment of the player’s signing bonus for the season in which they are holding out. These penalties are irrelevant to Adams because since he is playing on the fifth year option, the entirety of the signing bonus he received when he signed his rookie contract has already been amortized. That means the maximum penalty assessed to Adams under these portions of the CBA is $0.
Moving on to Article 7, Section 7(h), this portion of the CBA penalizes a player who holds out two different ways. The first of these is a fine of up to $40,000 per day for each day of training camp missed. Certainly costly, but if a player potentially stands to make several million extra through hardball negotiations, even the fines for missing all of camp could be financially beneficial in the long run. Now, before commenters jump in and point out that the team can simply forgive these fines, this is no longer the case.
That said, this section also fines players one regular season game check for each preseason game the player misses. At first glance this would appear to carry significant ramifications for Adams, who is scheduled to have game checks in the amount of $547,778 in 2021. However, Adams can mitigate the impact of this through savvy negotiations. In particular, Adams simply need demand that his 2021 base salary be reduced to league minimum ($990,000), with the remainder of his earnings ($8,870,000) paid as signing and/or roster bonuses. This reduces the per game fine to a costly, but far more palatable, $55,000, or a maximum of $165,000 for skipping the entire preseason.
The biggest risk to Adams in holding out is likely best seen in the difference in how the team handled two veterans looking for new contracts in 2018. All Pro safety Earl Thomas and All Pro left tackle Duane Brown were both looking for contract extensions that year. Thomas, of course, held out, and was rewarded with a second broken leg. Brown, in contrast, reported to camp and just days later the team announced a three year extension. With All Pro Brown again looking for a contract extension at the same time as an All Pro safety, some fans might wonder if it’s deja vu, which could indicate a glitch in the matrix.