One of the questions during Wednesday’s edition of “Blue 42” was whether it’s time for the Seahawks to give Justin Britt a contract extension now that he’s eligible for one as he enters the final year of his four-year rookie deal.
Brock Huard doesn’t think so. Nor do I.
The simple explanation is that as well as Britt played last year following his move to center, there doesn’t need to be any rush on Seattle’s end to make a long-term commitment to him at what will likely be significant cost.
The five highest-paid centers in the NFL, based on annual average, make around $9 million per year. For the next five, the annual averages are between roughly $5.5 million and $8.5 million, per the website Spotrac.com.
If I’m Britt, I would want – and would feel justified in asking for – a contract that at least puts me somewhere in the bottom end of that top 10. And if I’m the Seahawks, I would want to see another season of Britt at center before paying him that kind of money.
Remember, last year was his first one there after starting at right tackle as a rookie in 2014 then left guard in 2015. What type of leap will he make in 2017 with a year at center under his belt? How will he develop into the leader of Seattle’s offensive line, a role he can now start to grab hold of in a way he couldn’t last year while he was still learning the position on the fly?
There are obvious benefits to extending players a year before their deals expire. It eliminates the risk of losing them in free agency as well as the bidding war that can drive up prices when multiple teams get involved.
That’s the tradeoff the Seahawks have used to – somewhat improbably – keep so many of their star players, extending them with a season left on their deals as opposed to waiting until free agency. The player may leave some money on the table compared to what he could make on the open market, but he gets to cash in a year earlier.
That was the case with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and others. But those players all had much longer track records of production than Britt has with his one year at center.
If the Seahawks like what they see from Britt, they could get a head start on extending him by doing it before the end of the season, well before he hits free agency. Seattle did that in 2014 with K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril and also last year with Michael Bennett, giving them extensions in December.
And if they can’t work out a deal or if Britt doesn’t make whatever strides the Seahawks want to see, they just drafted a potential replacement in Ethan Pocic, a second-round pick who primarily played center in college.
The Seahawks should have much more salary-cap flexibility next offseason with so many contracts scheduled to come off their books, including those of Chancellor, Jimmy Graham and all the free agents Seattle has signed to one-year deals. But the case for waiting to extend Britt isn’t really based on this year’s cap space compared to next year’s. His current deal is scheduled to count a little over $1 million this year. If the Seahawks really wanted to give Britt an extension now, they could clear space elsewhere and/or structure it in a way that would keep his 2017 cap cost manageable.
But what’s the rush?