JERSEY CITY, N.J. – What price to put on the memory of a lifetime?
That was a question Seattle backup free safety and special teams standout Chris Maragos asked himself last summer when the team approached him about restructuring his contract — meaning, take a pay cut — or risk being released with no guarantee of returning.
The answer, when it came, was as Maragos expected.
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That realization was reinforced in the happy aftermath of the NFC Championship Game victory over the San Francisco 49ers that sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday against Denver.
Among those celebrating on the field with Maragos, sharing in the din of the 68,000-plus at CenturyLink Field and the joyous handshakes and backslaps on the turf, were his wife, Serah, and 2-year-old son, Micah.
“Ah man, that’s what it’s all about right there,’’ Maragos said this week, recalling that moment. “In 10 years, 20 years, 40 years from now, when you are old and you are all done playing, you are going to look back on those moments, and those are the moments that truly last.
“The contract, the money, the games that you win, even the rings that you get, that stuff will fade away. But those moments that you spend with your teammates and your family, those are the ones that really last forever.’’
Maragos decided last August he didn’t want to miss out on one of those moments, which helped clinch his decision to stay with the Seahawks.
Even if it meant having his salary essentially cut in half.
Asking a few players to restructure their deals as the rosters start to take shape is a common tactic in the NFL, where contracts are not guaranteed, and teams are always trying to create more flexibility with their salary cap.
Maragos, in his third year from Wisconsin, was initially due to make $1.323 million this season after signing last April. As the season neared, the team asked him to take a new deal of $700,000, with a $155,000 bonus. Long snapper Clint Greshman agreed to a similar restructuring, and the team cut defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, only to then bring him back a week into the season at less money.
Maragos’ options were to stay and take the new, lesser deal, or decline the offer and then be released and become a free agent, with the chance of making more money somewhere else, but also no guarantees as to where he might land, or his role.
Maragos is confident he would have found another team and likely for more money, so he said the decision was “extremely tough.’’ He and his wife thought about their options for days.
“I know my value. In my opinion, I am one of the better special-teamers in this league,” Maragos said. “ I think when you turn on the tape and see what other teams are doing, they would agree with that, too.’’
But Maragos joined the team early in the 2011 season as a free agent, and his family enjoys Seattle. His wife is about to give birth to their second son and won’t be able to attend the Super Bowl.
“When you look at the opportunity to play on a good team, that’s what I wanted to do,’’ he said. “And the bond that we built with these guys the last three years, I wanted to be part of that. I knew how special this team could be, so I definitely wanted to be here.’’
Although he is hardly a household name, his teammates and coaches understand Maragos’ contributions to the second Super Bowl team in franchise history.
He is a key member of every special team, including serving as the up back (or the punt protector) on a punt team that threatened to break an NFL record for fewest return yards allowed.
“He kind of runs the whole show there,’’ said special-teams coach Brian Schneider of Maragos, who finished the season with 10 special-teams tackles to go with three more as Earl Thomas’ backup at free safety.
Maragos also is regarded as one of the team’s fastest players, which he proved often this year on kickoffs. Players race to the 25-yard line, and then if it’s a touchback, to the end zone. Schneider tracks who finishes first at each spot, and gives a point to that player. That player is recognized at the Monday special-teams meeting. Maragos was the season points leader.
“He’s very valuable to me, and that’s something I always tell him, how he impacts all of our guys by the way he prepares,’’ Schneider said.
Maragos has a one-year contract. So after the Super Bowl, he will have an uncertain future, and at some point, another decision to make.
He can only hope it turns out as well the one he made last summer.
“I definitely made the right call,’’ he said. “It’s been fun to be a part of this.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.