Understanding the Seahawks’ biggest contract situations in 2018
Of the twenty-one Seahawks entering the final year of their deals, five will be dominating the conversation about potential contract extensions. Any of those five players – Earl Thomas, Duane Brown, K.J. Wright, Frank Clark, and Tyler Lockett – could be offered a new deal as early as this summer. Here, with some valuable insight from 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton, we’ll take a look at each player’s current contract situation and how much it could cost Seattle to retain him for the future.
• Age: 29, Position: Free safety
• Entering final year of 4-year, $40 million deal.
• Six-time Pro Bowler and one of Seattle’s most accomplished players.
• Announced a holdout in June.
Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas announced June 10 he plans to hold out from all team activities until his contract situation is resolved. It certainly makes his contract situation with Seattle the most pressing. But what is that situation, exactly?
The unhappiness on Thomas’ part likely predates the actual announcement of his holdout. Thomas initially hinted at a potential holdout months ago at January’s Pro Bowl, telling ESPN, “I gotta protect myself at the end of the day, me and my family, that’s the first thing. Like I said, I don’t feel comfortable just going out there without signing a long-term deal.”
Those comments made clear his desire for a third contract – something the Seahawks had done for his teammates, safety Kam Chancellor, defensive end Michael Bennett, and running back Marshawn Lynch.
Thomas, 29, is in the final year of a four-year, $40 million deal. He initially signed that extension in April 2014. At the time, it made him the league’s highest-paid safety in terms of average salary ($10 million per year). As with any position in the league, though, that number has since been surpassed. In February 2017, Chiefs’ safety Eric Berry, 29, became the owner of the biggest safety deal: a five-year, $78 million contract that comes out to about $13 million per year. Today, Thomas is the fifth-highest paid safety in terms of contract value, following Berry, Miami’s Reshad Jones ($60 million), Minnesota’s Harrison Smith ($51.3 million), and New England’s Devin McCourty ($47.5 million).
710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil says Thomas isn’t wrong to want a new contract. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler who has spent the entirety of his eight-year career in Seattle, starting 121 games. He’s been one of the most consistent and top-performing safeties in the league, recording 25 interceptions, 66 passes defended, 11 forced fumbles, 463 tackles and one touchdown since 2010.
But the star safety is also a bit unlucky with his timing. O’Neil notes that three of Seattle’s last four major contract extensions didn’t quite pan out (more on that here) so a now-due-up Thomas faces a tough precedence.
So where is it all going? ESPN’s Brady Henderson believes Seattle and Thomas could be heading toward a stalemate.
“I’ll say this,” Henderson told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Groz and Tom. “In 2015 they did not capitulate to Kam Chancellor when you could’ve argued they had more to gain by giving him an extension. This was a team that was coming off its second straight Super Bowl appearance, they were legitimate contenders to go to another Super Bowl, and they didn’t give into Kam Chancellor, even if it meant him missing two games. Well, I don’t know if the Seahawks are in that same shape as far as (being) contenders now, so I would think there would be even less incentive for them. It’s not like they’re trying to keep this legitimate Super Bowl contender intact. I think their priority is going to be protecting the longterm, and I don’t think giving into Earl Thomas would accomplish that.”
As for how much it would cost to extend Thomas, John Clayton says the All-Pro could command a contract closer to $13 million per year, which would match Berry’s. It’s worth noting that extending Thomas could actually lower his $10 million cap hit for this season, though it remains to be seen whether or not Seattle will budge there.
Read more: Making a case for extending Earl Thomas
• Age: 32, Position: Left tackle.
• Entering final year of six-year, $53.4 million deal signed with Texans.
• The four-time Pro Bowler landed in Seattle last year as part of a midseason trade.
Left tackle Duane Brown, 32, will get his first full offseason with the Seahawks after being acquired by Seattle via trade in October 2017. Already, though, he’s due for a contract extension – and there’s good reason to make the move.
Brown is in the final year of a six-year, $53.4 million deal he originally signed with the Texans in 2012. That deal currently ranks eighth league-wide in terms of contract value.
He’s expressed issues with the contract before, but that was while he was still with Houston. In 2017, Brown held out for the first seven weeks of the season (he reportedly wanted to renegotiate his contract with Houston to allow for guaranteed money in 2017 and ’18, of which he had none). It’s worth noting Brown had other issues with his old team that likely contributed to his holdout; he has not expressed similar sentiment about his relationship with the Seahawks.
The four-time Pro Bowler offers stability and a veteran presence to a fairly young unit that has ranked near the bottom of the league for the last three years. Another reason to extend Brown? Outside of his talent and savvy (critical now to a unit with a brand new offensive line coach), the Seahawks gave up quite a bit in the trade. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made bold moves and swallowed their pride when it comes to admitting a mistake – and it’s doubtful this tops their list of reasons to extend Brown – but getting a Pro Bowl tackle who remains in Seattle for more than a year-and-a-half would certainly lessen the sting of lost draft picks.
“Duane Brown should get a short extension around $10 million or $11 million a year, but they might be slow in getting something done. The Seahawks would need to see how much other players cost in this year’s cap before doing something with Brown. On the other hand, a deal with Brown would open up more cap room this year.”
• Age: 28, Position: Linebacker.
• Entering final year of four-year, $27 million extension.
• Has spent his career in Seattle, appearing in 107 of a possible 113 games over seven years.
• Pro Bowl linebacker with 465 career tackles who played the second-most defensive snaps for Seahawks last season (87%).
Linebacker K.J. Wright is entering the final year of a four-year, $27 million deal. His situation has been overlooked with Thomas’ holdout looming over offseason activities, but it was nonetheless addressed during minicamp.
“I want to be here, of course,” Wright said when asked whether his representatives were in salary talks with Seattle and whether he was concerned about his contract situation. “The Seahawks know that. Whatever they want to do, they’ll do. It’s my job to be the best that I could be, to make sure that K.J. and this defense is good. They know what it is and let’s get something done.”
Like Thomas, Wright has been a stalwart of Seattle’s defense. He has spent the entirety of his seven-year career with Seattle, where he’s recorded 465 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, 11.5 sacks and two interceptions. John Clayton explains that Wright and Thomas are interesting cases because they’ll be entering their third deals with Seattle – and it “could be hard for Seattle to extend both players.” Clayton estimates that Wright’s extension would command around $10 million per year, while Thomas’ would be closer to $13-$14 million.
• Age: 25, Position: Wide receiver/Kick return specialist.
• Entering final year of rookie contract (4 years, $3.3 million).
• Has been Seattle’s primary returner and No. 2 wide receiver. Holds franchise records for longest kick return (105), most kick return yards by a rookie (1,231), most punt return yards in a single game (139) and most all-purpose yards in a rookie season (1,915).
Tyler Lockett was perhaps Seattle’s best-performing rookie from the 2015 draft class, setting multiple records on special teams as the starting kick returner. The speedy 25-year-old enters 2018 as the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Doug Baldwin.
Lockett told reporters during the team’s mandatory minicamp that he was playing at around 75-80 percent last season (his first year back from a badly-broken leg). Unsurprisingly, the biggest question heading into this season will be whether, now more than a year removed from the injury, he can recapture the same burst that made him a special teams star in 2015.
For his part, Lockett has looked great so far in offseason drills; however, his biggest tests will come in training camp and, of course, when the regular season kicks off.
John Clayton hinted that Lockett wouldn’t be an especially expensive player to extend. At 25, he has plenty of playing time ahead of him and would be entering just his second deal with Seattle. Lockett is also a veteran presence and trusted target in a relatively young receiver room.
• Age: 25, Position: Defensive end
• Entering final year of rookie contract (4 years, $3.7 million).
• Started 12 games last year, finished with 9.0 sacks and 19 tackles.
Frank Clark took over as a regular starter on Seattle’s defensive line after Cliff Avril suffered a neck injury in Week 4 of last season. There, he played out the final 12 games of the season, finishing with nine sacks and 19 tackles.
After an offseason that saw the departure of defensive ends Avril and Michael Bennett, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Clark has quickly become one of the most valuable returning veterans on defense. He’s also entering the final year of his $3.7 million rookie contract, and according to Clayton, could be Seattle’s biggest contract priority this offseason.
Clayton says Clark has a strong case to command a salary closer to $14 million per year (a welcome jump from his rookie base salary). And it could benefit Seattle to pay him now. If Clark were to have a breakout season, with 12 or more sacks, he could stand to earn much more later. Here’s Clayton’s explanation of Clark’s comparison to other top-paid defensive ends.