Jermaine Kearse doesn’t owe Seahawks a hometown discount, nor does he need to state that
Jermaine Kearse made the NFL’s minimum over his first three seasons as an undrafted free agent. He plays in a league in which employment can be fleeting and in which short- and long-term health issues are an occupational hazard. And, as he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, he’ll probably never be in a better position than he is now to cash in.
Keep all of that in mind before you conclude that Kearse is being greedy and/or unloyal because he’s not interested in giving the Seahawks a so-called hometown discount in free agency, which he stated in a text to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“I love my hometown, but I’ve put in too much hard work to give a discount,” Kearse told Schefter. “My number one priority is to take care of my family’s future, so I will consider all opportunities.”
And you shouldn’t begrudge him for any of that. Yet some have and will out of the misguided notion that Kearse has an obligation to re-sign with the Seahawks even if they offer him less money than another team.
Why should he?
Kearse or any other player in his position shouldn’t be expected to turn down a better offer elsewhere just like you or I shouldn’t be expected to remain with our current employer if another one was willing to pay us more money. That Kearse is from the area doesn’t change that reality one bit.
Consider how things work in the NFL, where a contract is essentially a unilateral agreement to which the employee is bound but the employer is not. A team can cut a player at any point without owing him anything beyond what was initially guaranteed, which is almost never anywhere close to the full amount of the deal. Players are never assured of their next paycheck, so they’re better off getting what they can when they can.
Kearse, a month shy of his 26th birthday and coming off the best season of his career, will probably never again have the bargaining power he has now.
Consider, too, Kearse’s financial situation. Before making $2.356 million on a restricted-free-agent tender in 2015, he made minimum salaries of $390,000 then $480,000 and $570,000 from 2012 to 2014. Those were, literally speaking, the lowest salaries a team could pay a player in each of his first three seasons. There’s your discount.
This is the latest reminder of why it’s not in a player’s best interest to publicly address the subject of hometown discounts, whether he’s willing to give one or not. Each stated position has its downside.
For one, a player’s bargaining power is in theory weakened when his current team knows he’s willing to return for less money.
As Golden Tate showed two years ago, it can also set a player up to look like he reneged on a promise if his idea of a discount isn’t as large as that of the team. Tate said following the 2013 season that he’d take “a little less” money to return. Seattle’s offer, though, was a lot less than what he got from Detroit. He left and was vilified for doing so.
And, as is the case with Kearse now, some fans will invariably feel a sense of betrayal when a player says he intends to maximize his earning power on the open market — as unjustified as that feeling is.