Larry Stone: Chancellor can only hope to out-wait the Seahawks front office, but that’s a costly proposition — potentially $30,000 a day in fines, plus a big share of his $5 million signing bonus.
It is a testament to both the charisma and influence of Kam Chancellor that even in absentia, reverence for his role on the Seahawks flows from both sides.
From teammates, there is no visible bitterness over the fact that while they sweat and toil in Renton, Chancellor’s holdout is now seven days old and counting; indeed, quite the opposite. I think it’s fair to say that players’ attitude toward Chancellor is reflected in Richard Sherman’s comments the other day.
“I support him in whatever he’s doing,’’ Sherman said “Whenever you take a stand like this, you don’t get a lot of support from fans because the fans feel like, ‘You know about honoring contracts.’
“But we understand it’s a business. We understand the things he goes through week in and week out, and the trauma he puts his body through, and the sacrifice he made.”
The thing is, the Seahawks understand that, too. They know how much Chancellor has meant to their success, what a vital role he plays not just on the field, as a feared strong safety, but in the locker room.
Whereas Earl Thomas leads through his work ethic, and Michael Bennett fills a niche as an emotional leader, Chancellor is the fixer, the peacemaker. If there is a problem, he can have the ear, and instant respect, of anyone on the team.
So it’s quite the fine line the Seahawks are straddling with Chancellor, who is unhappy with the five-year contract extension he signed in April of 2013.
They must figure out a way to rebuff Chancellor without alienating him. And in working out a potential compromise, they must do so in a way that doesn’t embolden other players down the line who might feel similar dissatisfaction with their own deals.
I wouldn’t blame the Seahawks for drawing a line in the sand. They simply can’t go through this every time a player feels that he’s outplayed his contract — and the Seahawks have assembled a team so talented that there are plenty of candidates. By maintaining a harder line with Chancellor than they did with Marshawn Lynch (who was one year from the end of his deal, not one season into it, like Chancellor), they may dissuade those mulling holdouts in the future.
Yet I think those who are harrumphing about “a contract is a contract” are missing some of the nuance. Chancellor’s deal does not include any guaranteed money after this season; if they suddenly decide he’s expendable, for whatever reason, the Seahawks aren’t beholden to the contract. They could cut him without recompense. A contract suddenly isn’t a contract.
Yes, those are the rules of the game, and what the NFLPA signed off on. Chancellor himself was thrilled when he signed his contract: “I’ve got so many words it’s hard to throw them out there,’’ he said at his news conference that day. “I just feel great right now. The Seahawks organization has blessed me. I’m a happy person right now,”
But Chancellor’s style of play — the fierce hitting for which he’s renowned, and the extent to which he pushes his body to the limit — may come with the cost of shortening his window of greatness. It’s hard to fault him for wanting some sort of financial reward for the physical sacrifices he’s made in the service of brilliant play that advances the cause of the Seahawks.
Wanting and getting are two different things, however.
Chancellor can bull his way out of any rough patch on the football field through skill, strength and sheer force of will. He is, as Pete Carroll said on the first day of Seahawks training camp, “a champion warrior football player.”
But Chancellor may have finally found a predicament for which there is no exit strategy. He can’t outwork, outsmart or out-tough this opponent. He can only hope to out-wait them, but that’s a tremendously costly proposition — potentially $30,000 day in fines, plus a share of his $5 million signing bonus up to $1 million.
This isn’t a case, as in the Super Bowl, where Chancellor can be told two days before the game that he won’t be able to play because of a torn MCL and a bone bruise in his left knee — and find a way not only to play, but to make 10 tackles, seven of them solo. “It was a superhuman thing that he pulled off,’’ Carroll said afterward.
At this point, Chancellor needs to fashion an endgame that allows him to save face with some concession that will let him justify his holdout. But the Seahawks need to make sure it’s not enough to whet the appetite of Sherman, Thomas or whomever is the next potentially disgruntled Seahawk.
Now that’s a superhuman feat.