“At certain points in any conflict, both sides think they’re losing. It’s true of wars and battles, lawsuits and strikes.” – Don Winslow, “The Cartel”
No one is winning.
Not the Seattle Seahawks, who are not only missing one of their very best players, but a guy who would be right in the middle of a secondary that did not dress 10 of its 20 players on Friday night in Kansas City.
But Kam Chancellor isn’t winning, either. He’ll be on the hook for as much as $1 million in fines if he sits out all of August, and when the regular season starts he’ll be missing $264,000 in salary for every game he misses.
At this point, the battle lines have been drawn, and for this to end, somebody has to blink.
Is it going to be Seattle? After all, there is perhaps no one on the roster that better embodies the punishingly physical style of play that the franchise spent years developing under Pete Carroll. Is Seattle really going to risk the trajectory of this season to insist that Chancellor be held to a contract that will pay him half what Earl Thomas is now making?
Over the weekend, a number of people were hearing that Seattle might be preparing to make concessions. Nothing official. No sources here. Just a lot of chatter among those who cover the league and the team who were being told that there might be movement on Seattle’s part.
That would be great news for this season, but bad news for this franchise.
Seattle can’t afford to make an exception by giving Chancellor a raise. Because while re-writing his contract doesn’t mean the Seahawks would be obligated to re-do the contract of other players unsatisfied with their pay, it does mean Seattle would have to tell those players they aren’t as important as Chancellor or as underpaid as him.
Viewed with a microscope, Chancellor has a very good case. He has done everything the Seahawks have asked him to do, from the way he plays on the field to the extension he signed off it in 2013, setting the tone for the players who followed like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Doug Baldwin.
And yes, Chancellor is THAT important to this team that you could justify changing his contract this season.
The trouble comes years down the line when you take off that microscope and look at the broader situation. To renegotiate Chancellor’s contract with three years left on it would say that Seattle is willing to rewrite deals to keep its best players happy.
It would allow players to ask for what is fair and what they deserve regardless of the number of years left on their contract, and while that might not sound all that problematic – being fair and equitable to employees – wait until you see the line of guys who want to talk about how much they’re supposed to make next year.
Top that off with the perception that a training-camp holdout had weakened Seattle’s resolve, and Seattle has a lot more to lose than just a few regular-season games.
General manager John Schneider has said this team has no finish line. Pete Carroll has titled a book, “Win Forever.” Both of those ideas require Seattle to set up a system of player development and payroll discipline that allows the Seahawks’ success to transcend this particular configuration of players.
If that’s the case, giving Chancellor what he wants sends the message that Seattle’s success depends on making the players on this current roster happy.
It won’t be easy for Seattle to dig in its heels, stand by its system and wait for the penalties imposed by the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement to force Chancellor back onto the team. But easy doesn’t always equal effective even if there’s the very distinct possibility that winning this staredown with Chancellor might result in the Seahawks losing something in the regular season.
This week is an important one for the trajectory of this story and this Seattle season. Chancellor’s absence has the potential to be personally expensive right now, but it hasn’t truly cost anyone anything yet. There are three weeks left before the games start to count, and Seattle’s secondary is only now getting up to full strength.
No one is winning right now, and for all the money Chancellor has potentially cost himself, it’s the Seahawks who have the most to lose in this situation.