DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks’ $46M extension with Doug Baldwin follows a pattern

Jun 30, 2016, 12:42 PM | Updated: 1:01 pm
The $46 million extesion the Seahawks gave to Doug Baldwin is another reminder that they'll spend big to keep their best players regardless of position. (AP)
(AP)

The deal was bigger than many expected.

That’s fitting, though. This is Doug Baldwin we’re talking about, the guy who went undrafted out of Stanford and arrived in Seattle with one change of clothes and an absolutely bottomless desire to prove an entire league wrong.

Baldwin has done that about three times over now from leading the Seahawks in receptions in 2011 – becoming the first undrafted rookie to do so since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970 – to setting a franchise record with 14 touchdown catches last season.

And if the size of Baldwin’s four-year, $46 million contract extension came as a surprise, well, you haven’t been paying attention to the way the Seahawks have been doing business.

They don’t pinch pennies. Not when it comes to keeping their best players.

They didn’t do it with Kam Chancellor in 2013 nor did they do it with fellow defensive backs Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman after Seattle won the Super Bowl the following season. Last year it was quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner who signed top-shelf extensions within days of each other.

And when you look at the paychecks receivers are cashing these days, Baldwin’s $46 million extension seems exorbitant only if you expected Seattle to undervalue him because he catches passes and the Seahawks are a team unapologetic about prioritizing the run game.

But Baldwin is one of Seattle’s best football players. He’s also a leader. And so the Seahawks did exactly what they’ve done with other players who fit that criteria. They signed him to an extension that recognized the recent landmarks at his position. The Seahawks didn’t overpay to keep Baldwin. They offered him a contract that was in line with other recent deals for receivers.

Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns signed a four-year, $40 million extension after catching 115 passes over his first two seasons. Baldwin caught 144 in the same time frame.

San Diego’s Keenan Allen got a four-year, $45 million extension after catching 16 touchdown passes over his first three seasons. Baldwin caught 14 last year alone.

Baldwin reflects on path to NFL, looks ahead after signing $46M extension

In a league where fair and reasonable are seldom used adjectives when it comes to contracts, it’s important to note what the Seahawks did not do. Specifically, they did not hold their leading receiver over a barrel.

Seattle could have taken a more hardball approach with Baldwin. The Seahawks could have told him they expected him to play out the final year of his previous deal at $4 million for 2016 and revisit the contract after the season, knowing that if worst came to worst they could always keep him by applying the franchise tag.

Extending Baldwin’s deal doesn’t mean coach Pete Carroll will be any less insistent about running the ball. It doesn’t mean the Seahawks will feel obligated to throw more often than they did a year ago, either, and the deal certainly doesn’t mean Seattle is more willing to pay a receiver than it is an offensive lineman.

In fact, for all the scrutiny over Seattle’s perceived unwillingness to pay offensive linemen top-shelf contracts, it’s worth remembering that center Max Unger signed an extension in 2012 that put him near the top of the pay scale at his position.

It was the start of a blueprint the Seahawks have followed ever since, locking up their best players a year before their deals expire with market-rate extensions. That’s what they did with Wilson, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor and Wagner, and now it’s true with Baldwin.

What the Seahawks haven’t been willing to do is stack up money to keep a player simply because he’s at a position that is perceived to be more important to their offense, which explains why a procession of veteran offensive linemen have signed elsewhere as free agents over the past three years.

Baldwin’s extension wasn’t about the importance of his position. It was much more personal than that. This was about Baldwin and how he fits both within the offense and the team and the fact that he is one of Seattle’s best players regardless of position. In other words, he’s the kind of player Seattle has made a habit of keeping.

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Seahawks’ $46M extension with Doug Baldwin follows a pattern