John Schneider’s extension shows how market is lagging for NFL GMs

Jul 27, 2016, 10:18 AM

Deals for top GMs like John Schneider pale in comparison to those of some coaches, including Pete C...

Deals for top GMs like John Schneider pale in comparison to those of some coaches, including Pete Carroll. (AP)


Seahawks owner Paul Allen secured the future of the organization by reaching a five-year deal with general manager John Schneider on Sunday night.

That lead to a new deal Tuesday for head coach Pete Carroll, who, like Schneider, would have been a free agent after this coming season. With the Seahawks in the middle of whatever you want to call their recent success streak, not locking up Carroll and Schneider would have been as big a mistake as turning the Cowboys over from Jimmy Johnson to Barry Switzer in the 1990s.

Studying what was happening on the Schneider negotiations led me to understand how undervalued the market is for general managers in the NFL and maybe for sports in general. Before Schneider’s deal, the league’s highest-paid general manager was believed to Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens. He makes about $3.75 million a year.

Carroll’s deal is likely in excess of $10 million a year. No one knows the exact salary of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but it’s probably more than what Carroll is now making. No problem, Pete did well on this contract.

But think about the plight of the NFL general manager. For Schneider to get a little more than Newsome, you are still taking about a contract averaging less than $4 million a year. Newsome just gave $4.2 million a year to his franchise kicker, Justin Tucker, who didn’t have a great season in 2015.

For whatever reason, the salaries of NFL general managers climb in small increments. That’s surprising. This comes at a time in which deals are going to explode for MLB general managers. The Dodgers’ Farhan Zaidi recently got $6 million a year. Theo Epstein of the Cubs is finishing up a contract averaging $3.5 million a year and is a free agent at the end of the season. Imagine what the Cubs are going to pay him for putting together a potential World Series team in Chicago.

On Tuesday, I did a SiriusXM NFL Radio show with former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominic and we talked about how NFL GMs are underappreciated. The average general manager may make $1.2 million to $1.5 million a year, but some make less than $1 million.

To be a top-paid general manager, you have to find the franchise quarterback in a tough market. You have to manage the salary cap in order to keep funds available to sign core-group players to contract extensions. Plus, you have to win.

Schneider checked all of the boxes. He drafted Russell Wilson. He hit on core-group players in the middle and later rounds. After two Super Bowl appearances and three other trips to the playoffs in six seasons, the Seahawks head into 2016 with great optimism for another championship run.

Every starter is signed at least through next year. The Seahawks have $8.4 million of cap room. Schneider believes the team’s rookie class is loaded with potential starters and quality undrafted free agents. Plus, Carroll is on board as coach for four more seasons, and the two have an incredible working relationship.

Allen rewarded Schneider for his six years of service and what he will do in the future. But it was interesting to see the difficulty for successful general managers to get bigger paydays. They handle the roster budgets and player salaries, but it’s a battle for them to secure the lucrative deals themselves. Strange.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on

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