Safety deals show Seahawks not beholden to positions

May 1, 2014, 8:58 AM | Updated: 9:16 am
...

By Danny O’Neil

Safety first.

That’s not a motto for these Seahawks so much as a blueprint for the future of their defense. That’s the position where Seattle is secure for years to come, extending Kam Chancellor’s contract last offseason and Earl Thomas’ deal just this week.

Super Bowl Football KIRO AP 30 6
With Kam Chancellor making a $7 million a season and Earl Thomas’ new extension averaging $10 million, Seattle has two of the league’s highest-paid safeties. (AP)

This was a big deal. Well, actually two of them, Chancellor signing a four-year, $28 million contract and Thomas setting the bar for safeties with a four-year, $40 million deal.

This is significant not just because of the dollars involved, but because it shows that Seattle’s long-term investments won’t be determined by location. Not exclusively, at least.

In today’s NFL there is a pecking order in terms of salary, and it all revolves around the quarterback. He’s the guy who makes most money, of course. The guy who makes the second-most money on offense? Well, that’s usually the left tackle, whose primary job is protecting the quarterback’s butt or his blindside, depending on the play. Sometimes, it’s the receiver charged with catching the money-man quarterback’s throws.

As for the defensive salary-structure, well, that revolves around the quarterback, too. The most valuable players on that side of the ball tend to be the guys who sack the quarterback (defensive ends) or the ones who defend his passes (cornerbacks).

Safety tends to be a few rungs down on the food chain. It’s why fewer of them tend to be first-round choices and the reason Thomas’ extension is the first contract for any safety that will average $10 million.

Chancellor isn’t all that far behind in the paycheck pecking order at that position. His extension ranks eighth among safeties, averaging just over $7 million annually. It’s a hair more than Tennessee’s Michael Griffin and a tad below Miami’s Reshad Jones.

More instructive: Of the top eight safeties in the league in terms of annual pay, Seattle employs two of them. No other team has more than two of the safeties in the league who rank among the top 20 in terms of pay at that position.

The fact that Seattle would pour so much money into its safeties demonstrates the Seahawks base value on the player, not the position. That may sound kind of elementary, but it’s actually not. Many teams budget strictly according to position, deeming some less valuable than others.

But what if your best players occupy a position that is not typically among the league’s highest paid? Does that dilute the player’s importance or lessen his value?

The Seahawks have decided it doesn’t. Not when you have one safety like Chancellor, whose big-bodied, hard-hitting approach best embodies Seattle’s unrelenting style of defense while Thomas’ speed provides back-end coverage unlike anyone in the league.

The Seahawks didn’t go and find two safeties to fit their system nearly so much as they’ve shaped their defense around the talents and skills of those two players. And now that they’ve each signed extensions, the Seahawks have shown that they don’t view their football team like a real-estate investment because location isn’t everything.

Safeties don’t tend to be among the league’s highest-paid players, but on Seattle’s team, they are. The Seahawks are not afraid of putting safety first.

Brock and Salk podcast

Brock and Salk

Seahawks Rams...
Brent Stecker

K.J. Wright: How Seahawks fixed early run D issue vs Rams

Former Seahawks Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright breaks down the change Seattle made after a shaky first defensive series in their win over the Rams.
1 day ago
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
Brent Stecker

ESPN’s Riddick thinks Seahawks’ Carroll knew all along they were good

ESPN analyst and former NFL safety Louis Riddick was around the Seahawks in the preseason, and he saw a "twinkle in the eye" of Pete Carroll at the time.
2 days ago
Seahawks Tariq Woolen...
Brandon Gustafson

Seahawks’ Carroll: Tariq Woolen has ‘legitimate chance’ to be dominant

Seahawks rookie CB Tariq Woolen came away with his sixth interception on Sunday. Pete Carroll discussed Woolen's play and sky-high potential.
2 days ago
Mariners offseason Tyler O'Neill...
Mike Salk

Salk: 10 options for the Mariners to complete their outfield

The Mariners have made three notable additions, and the fourth should be an outfielder. Mike Salk breaks down who the targets could be.
3 days ago
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Brandon Gustafson

Carroll: Importance of Seahawks’ win over Rams, Geno’s big finish

On the latest Pete Carroll Show, the Seahawks coach discussed his team's win over the Rams and the play and mentality of QB Geno Smith.
3 days ago
UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr...
Brandon Gustafson

Huard: Why UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. is returning for 1 more year

UW Huskies QB Michael Penix Jr. surprised many with the news he's returning to school for 2023. Brock Huard explains why that's happening.
3 days ago
Safety deals show Seahawks not beholden to positions