As the NFL’s free agent signing period grows ever closer — the negotiating window opens March 14 — there will be increasing speculation over how aggressive the Seahawks will be in their spending.
Especially with the Seahawks having $36.4 million in cap space for 2022, eighth most in the NFL according to OvertheCap.com.
But it’s worth remembering that the biggest contract Seattle is likely to dole out this year figures to go to one of its own players — receiver DK Metcalf.
Now that Metcalf has completed the third season of his four-year rookie deal, he is eligible for an extension.
And the only question figures to be what it will take to get done.
Pro Football Focus this week guessed that Seattle better be prepared to pay an awful lot, projecting Metcalf as worth a four-year deal totaling $84 million, or $21 million a season (he is due to make $3.9 million in 2022 in the last season of his rookie deal).
That would be the third-highest ever given to a receiver in terms of average value behind Arizona’s Deandre Hopkins ($27.3 million) and Tennessee’s Julio Jones ($22 million).
The Seahawks and Metcalf, though, probably won’t get into serious negotiations until late spring or summer, after the team gets through this year’s free agency period and the draft, the same general time frame Seattle has used for most of its previous big extensions, such as Jamal Adams last year.
And by that point, Green Bay’s Davante Adams is likely to have set a new mark for highest-paid receiver in NFL history.
Potentially complicating things is that Metcalf is one of a handful of receivers from the draft class of 2019 now in line for extensions, including his former Ole Miss teammate A.J. Brown of Tennessee, as well as San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, Washington’s Terry McLaurin and Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson. PFF estimated all as worth deals of at least $17 million a year.
That could result in a game of chicken for the agents of the players involved, as whoever signs first will help set the market for the others.
In apparent anticipation of what will be a life-making deal, Metcalf last year changed agents and is now represented by the football division of entertainment powerhouse Creative Arts Agency.
But potentially further complicating things, Samuel and Brown are also listed with CAA, and represented specifically by Tory Dandy, who also handles Metcalf.
What that also undoubtedly means is to not expect Metcalf to give the Seahawks anything resembling a hometown discount, even if he has consistently said he hopes to stay in Seattle.
“Why would I want to leave and go to a new place?” Metcalf said in an interview with Bleacher Report‘s Taylor Rooks last week, noting that the Seahawks drafted him when every other team “passed me up twice. So they hold a special place in my heart.”
In that same interview, Metcalf revealed that he had surgery on his left foot after the season, which he referred to as getting “everything cleaned up.” The NFL Network later reported that part of the surgery involved removing a screw.
Metcalf injured the foot in practice following the third game of the season against Minnesota, when he had a season-high 107 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. That he never again topped the 100-yard mark may not be a coincidence, though he downplayed the injury to Bleacher Report saying “I don’t think it affected me that much.”
Still, something about Metcalf’s game in 2021 was a little off as most of his numbers dropped from his historic sophomore campaign in 2020, when he set a team record with 1,303 yards receiving.
Metcalf finished with 967 in 2021, when he dealt with not only his own injury but also playing three games without Russell Wilson, all of which helped contribute to a 7-10 record, Seattle’s first losing season since 2011.
The frustration visibly caught up to Metcalf on several occasions, notably when he was ejected against Green Bay after an altercation with two Packers players and then tried to reenter the game. TV cameras then caught him in an animated conversation with Wagner on the sidelines.
It was the kind of scene that some might point to and wonder if Metcalf, at 24, is worthy of Seattle handing him a contract that if it really came in at the $21 million a year or so mark would be the second-largest in team history behind only Wilson’s $35 million a season. The counter to any argument of Metcalf’s worth is that he has more receiving yards, 3,170, than any player in team history, and which ranks 20th overall in NFL history.
Metcalf, though, has never shied away from understanding how some of his on-field outburst may be perceived.
“We were losing and I was battling with a lot of old habits,” Metcalf said to Rooks.
And in that same interview, Metcalf said he has been going to therapy regularly since May — though he joked “it probably didn’t look like it during the season” — and also has taken up meditation.
“Going through a lot of therapy and mental help with my coaches and everything,” he said. “So I mean, it’s going to be easier next season, I believe.”
Metcalf referred to the Green Bay game as a turning point.
“A lot of eyes on me now and I didn’t realize that until I got ejected out of the Green Bay game and I was like, ‘OK, DK, you’ve got to chill now,'” he said.
Also helping was a long talk with Wagner on the plane after the game, who told him that he wasn’t a rookie anymore.
“’You are a superstar,'” Metcalf said Wagner told him. “’Start acting like one.'”
In the Bleacher Report interview, Metcalf cited the season-ending 38-30 win over Arizona as proof that the therapy is working. Metcalf said he went into the game hoping to get the necessary yards to break 1,000 for the season. Instead, he had 58 to finish with 967, saying he realized on the final couple series his goal was likely to go unreached.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get it,” he said. “There was like 12 minutes left and we were running the ball and it’s like, ‘This is a team game. We are winning. Just chill out. It’s not about me.’”
Intriguingly, the Seahawks this week also announced a change to their wide receiving coaching staff.
Nate Carroll, son of head coach Pete Carroll, has been the receivers coach since 2018, and last year Kerry Joseph was the assistant receivers coach.
Tuesday, the Seahawks announced Nate Carroll has moved to a role of senior offensive assistant and Joseph to assistant quarterbacks coach.
Taking their place are Sanjay Lal, who is receivers coach and offensive passing game coordinator, and Brad Idzik, who is assistant receivers coach.
Lal was a senior offensive assistant with the Seahawks in 2020 — Metcalf’s best season — working with receivers while Idzik also was assistant receivers coach in 2020 before assisting with quarterbacks last year.
Metcalf wasn’t asked about specific coaching changes in his Bleacher Report interview, but said in general “they have made a lot of coaching changes this offseason. I’m just waiting to get back up there to see what those coaches are going to do to change the culture and change (to) the way that we used to play football up there.”
What won’t change is Metcalf being a foundational piece of the offense, with the Seahawks undoubtedly at some point between now and the start of the 2022 season securing his future for years to come.