By Danny O’Neil
RENTON – Some statements are punctuated with an exclamation point.
This one concluded with a signature.
When Kam Chancellor agreed to a four-year extension, it did more than mint him a multi-millionaire. This was a vote of confidence in both Chancellor and the young nucleus of players behind him.
After an offseason full of additions for the Seahawks, there was a question of just how much of that young core the team would be able to retain down the road.
That’s what makes Monday’s announcement so important. Up until Monday, there was a lingering question of whether he would be rewarded or replaced down the road.
That’s not a knock on Chancellor. He was a veritable steal in the draft, a fifth-round pick in 2010 who became not only a starter his second season but a Pro Bowler. He was a big hitter in the middle of the lineup, someone who was tough and cheap and everything you could have hoped for in a fifth-round pick.
But was he the kind of player a contender keeps? That is the question that every team faces in today’s NFL, a cost-benefit analysis that requires a team to decide between truly unique difference-makers and men who can be replaced by similarly skilled – and significantly cheaper – players chosen in the draft.
There is no doubt about Seattle’s opinion of Chancellor now. Not after he signed a contract that added four years and $28 million to the final year of a rookie deal that was to pay him $1.3 million. It wasn’t quite the payday former Husky Dashon Goldson received as a free agent from Tampa Bay, but it’s a significant deal not just for the cash, but what it symbolized.
It showed that Seattle sees the second contract as a goal not only for the player, but for the team. The Seahawks aren’t just looking to find a bargain, milk all they can out of a player and watch him get paid elsewhere. They want to be the one to reward the player.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to see guys elevate their game and get to the top of their game and get paid accordingly,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Do it the right way and compete to earn it and get it done. We hope that it’s understood that in this program, that’s how we’re operating.”
This isn’t entirely new. It’s similar to what Seattle did with Chris Clemons a year ago when the defensive end had a year left on his deal and the team had just drafted Bruce Irvin, who played the same position. Not only did the Seahawks sign Clemons to a new deal, but this year – when they were negotiating with free agent Cliff Avril – Clemons’ contract remained a benchmark of sorts. Avril wasn’t going to get more than Clemons, who had totaled double-digit sacks for Seattle each of the past three seasons.
This year, Chancellor was the priority just as the Seahawks had told him a year ago that he would be.
“This whole offseason – from the get-go – has been about Kam,” general manager John Schneider said. “We would have never got into any other deals if we felt it was going to put his situation in jeopardy.”
You can debate the decision to re-sign a big-hitting safety who doesn’t necessarily fit in every defense in the league. You can wonder how Seattle plans to keep everyone with safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson all in line for new contracts over the next two years.
But you can’t doubt Seattle’s commitment to retaining as much of its young core as it can. Not after Chancellor’s extension. This was a statement that will echo throughout the Seahawks’ locker room.
“It just shows how much they appreciate the core guys,” Chancellor said. “The guys that laid down the foundation. Like I said, they promised me something and they did it. All I can do is just thank them.”
Seattle planted a flag by retaining Chancellor, making him the first of the team’s draft picks under Schneider to have his rookie contract extended, and it shows that the team’s intentions to build through the draft include retaining those building blocks it finds.