STACY ROST

Seahawks Breakdown: What the hurdles to DK Metcalf extension are

Jun 11, 2022, 10:37 AM | Updated: 2:12 pm
Seahawks DK Metcalf...
DK Metcalf looks on from the Seahawks sideline during a game against Arizona on Nov. 21, 2021. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

You know what the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf sees when he looks at the wide receiver market?

How Cooper Kupp’s big extension impacts the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf

It’s not a debate about whether run-heavy offenses need elite pass catchers, nor is it some philosophical argument about whether a great receiver can lead a team to a Super Bowl, or who can claim the title as being that receiver – the best in all of football.

Those are, of course, the conversations critics and fans have been having this offseason. But if you’re Metcalf, the offseason is simple: five of the six largest wide receiver contracts in terms of average annual salary were signed in just the last three months. Put even more simply, his biggest job is to make plays as a pass catcher, and the cost of doing that job just went up.

It’s not hard to say that Metcalf has blossomed into one of the league’s best receivers considering he’s 6 foot 4, 229 pounds, and commanded the league’s attention from the start of the combine to draft day. When the Seahawks took him in the second round, a slip that surprised many, the thought was he could be a spectacular matchup nightmare… or a bust. Turns out the gamble was worth it, and as is rarely the case, a player whose measurables seemed too good to be true, in fact, were not.

Here’s what was a sure thing, though: that a young player who became a star and outperformed a rookie contract would want to be paid when it came his turn, and that a team – in an effort to get as much talent as possible under the salary cap – would want to find a more cap-friendly number.

What’s the number right now?

After A.J. Brown’s deal with Philadelphia, it felt like that number was hovering around $25 million per year. Just four receivers would be earning more: Tyreek Hill (Miami), Davante Adams (Las Vegas), DeAndre Hopkins (Arizona) and Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams). But whatever the number is right now, it’s certainly not one the two sides – Metcalf and the Seahawks – have agreed on.

“There’s been conversations, some, and we’re in a pretty, kind of a standard, kind of semi-quiet (spot) right now knowing that camp’s coming up,” head coach Pete Carroll told reporters Thursday after the end of the mandatory three-day Seahawks minicamp that Metcalf did not attend. “These are crucial weeks to get something done. We’ll see what happens and hope that we can work something out. We really intended to get that done.”

Related: Carroll optimistic Seahawks will get deal with Metcalf

Asked whether he was surprised Metcalf didn’t show, Carroll said only that he hoped Metcalf might attend (especially since, given his rehab post-foot surgery in February, he’d be unlikely to risk injury).

ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler, who joined us Thursday on Seattle Sports’ Jake and Stacy, was more open about being a bit surprised by Metcalf’s absence.

“When you looked at the landscape of all the wide receivers that are up for contract, Seattle was pretty firm, or sending the message, that they were ready just to sign him,” Fowler said.

“That that was an offseason priority. And I still believe that it is. But I kind of had it flip-flopped. I thought if anything (San Francisco’s) Deebo Samuel would be the one to miss minicamp, and then DK was the one. Now, those two share the same agent (Tory Dandy). You know, there’s something to be said for a player who wants to maximize his worth but also has a rehab situation that apparently he’s working on on the west coast. So I think for him, missing out on $93,000 (of potential fines by missing minicamp) isn’t a huge deal when you’re talking about a deal that will probably be in the range of $25 million a year. Plus, they can always rescind those fines down the road if they agree to a deal.”

What could a deal look like – and would it be worth it?

The first part of the question is easy: somewhere between $25 million and $28 million per year. If Metcalf is asking for more than Tyreek Hill, who sits at around $30 million per year, you could understand Seattle’s hesitation. If he’s been offered less than $24 million, a number which falls short of that string of new deals, you could understand his disappointment. A year away from free agency, Metcalf could fetch more in an offer from another team.

Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill – who all received new contracts this offseason – all finished with more yards than Metcalf in 2021. Granted, they were also all top 10 in targets (with Hill the only one out of the top five) while Metcalf was 18th. Even with fewer targets, Metcalf finished fourth in touchdowns (12).

Those targets aren’t destined to skyrocket without Russell Wilson under center for the Seahawks, which is where Seattle faces another conundrum: How much is wide receiver talent worth on a team that doesn’t lean into the pass and is still trying to pin down its future franchise quarterback?

I’d argue the answer here is still pretty valuable. Metcalf is an exceptional talent. Just as importantly, he’s an exceptional talent already on the roster. As wide receiver classes grow deeper, so too does the temptation to find a cheaper option. Again, who could blame a team for that? Having a top-tier talent on a rookie deal is infinitely more team-friendly than having a top-tier talent at $20 million or more per year. But “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” could just as easily apply to drafting. That, and through a pure business lens, more star players means more eager fans in seats.

If you’re Metcalf, the answer might be that it’s worth it because the league has made it so. The market dictates the asking price, and the asking price for his services went up. And depending on what happens with Samuel in San Francisco and eventually Justin Jefferson in Minnesota, it might not stop there.

More Seahawks coverage from SeattleSports.com

Is this the fastest Hawks team like Carroll says? Brock Huard buys it
What’s next for K.J. Wright? He talks about his – and Seahawks’ – future
Mike Salk’s 10 Seahawks minicamp observations
Salk: Metcalf’s minicamp absence not a big deal – yet
Jake Heaps: Metcalf not reporting for minicamp is “red flag” for negotiations

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