The next few days figure to be pretty critical in determining where things go with Kam Chancellor and the Seahawks this season.
Asked Monday during a radio interview on ESPN 710 Seattle if there was a deadline for holdout strong safety Kam Chancellor to return, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said no.
If there is at least something of a key period for Chancellor to be able to play in the regular season opener against the St. Louis Rams, however, it may be the next 24-48 hours.
Teams install their gameplans during the Wednesday and Thursday practices of a normal NFL gameweek (meaning, the game on Sunday) with the coaches usually preparing those plans on Monday and Tuesday.
While Chancellor may be the rare kind of player who could just show up and play, you’d think the Seahawks would pretty much need to know by Wednesday if Chancellor is going to be around. Recall that Carroll said in that same interview that “this is a big week to see where we are.”
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Which, of course, makes it sort of interesting that ESPN published a story this morning indicating a bleak outlook for Chancellor’s return and quoting a team source saying “it’s a lose-lose for him.” The story also quotes an unnamed player saying the team thinks Chancellor may not be back all year.
But if the team is making a last-ditch effort behind-the-scenes to get Chancellor back into the fold, what the Seahawks apparently are not doing is veering from their stance of not altering his contract. The team has stated it will not renegotiate Chancellor’s deal largely because they do not want to set a precedent of redoing contracts with more than a year remaining — Chancellor’s has three. The team also feels it is a fair contract, with Chancellor being paid $4.55 million this season as part of what was a $28 million, four-year extension he signed in April, 2013.
While OvertheCap.com lists that eighth among safeties this season, Chancellor’s salary is basically tied for the most to a strong safety, essentially even with Miami’s Reshad Jones.
One league source told the Times that the Seahawks have let Chancellor know that they would drop many of the fines he has incurred to this point —more than $1 million when you add up the $30,000 daily fine during camp and being able to recoup up to $250,000 of his signing bonus — but that Chancellor rejected that. Chancellor and his agent, a source said, “have dug in.” Chancellor reportedly wants, at the least, for some of his future base salaries — $5.1 million in 2016 and $6.8 million in 2017 — to be guaranteed.
What the Seahawks have also publicly stated, through the comments of Carroll on Monday, is that they have no interest in trading Chancellor. Carroll, recall, said some teams have called the Seahawks to inquire about Chancellor but that “we’re really not interested in talking to them about that, so we don’t.”
So the Seahawks also seem prepared to dig in and let Chancellor either sit or play for them (though recall that there have also been reports that Chancellor has not asked to be traded and that getting out of Seattle is not perceived to be a goal of his in this). Also, trades this time of year are not easy with rosters and salary cap numbers pretty much set — a team would have to renegotiate Chancellor’s deal and come to an agreement on compensation with the Seahawks, to make it work.
It sounds bleak, indeed. Still, one person with knowledge of the situation who called the situation bad also noted that the Seahawks contract talks with Russell Wilson were regarded as basically dead at about 5 p.m. on the Thursday before camp started, and that by 11 p.m. Wilson was famously calling Ciara to tell her the deal was done.
Things can change quickly.
As Carroll has said over and over since this began, though, the Seahawks also have no choice but to move on. Carroll has said it’s no different than if a player were injured — next man up.
For now, that man is Dion Bailey, who is due to start at strong safety after starting the final three preseason games at that spot. Seattle also sent something of a signal when it traded a fifth-round pick over the weekend to Kansas City for safety Kelcie McCray. Carroll said Monday McCray can play both free and strong safety. A fifth-round pick is regarded as fairly hefty price for a safety who has yet to start an NFL game in two full seasons in the league playing for three teams (Seattle being his fourth).
The team seems increasingly comfortable going with Bailey — you’ve seen a couple different national reports this week praising Bailey’s play. You also heard Carroll say on that same ESPN 710 Seattle interview that how the Seahawks start out the season won’t change their stance on Chancellor.
Making this an especially big week in this saga is that Chancellor will forfeit weekly checks if he misses games. Players are paid 1/17th of their base salary each week, so in Chancellor’s case that works out to $267,647 per week. He already could be fined more than $1 million for missing training camp. Those are at team discretion, though, and as noted earlier, potentially negotiable. Game checks, though, will just be lost money. (Per the rules of the CBA, the Seahawks could also recoup another 25 percent of Chancellor’s signing bonus for missing the first game, which would be another $250,000, meaning Chancellor could be at risk of losing another $517,647 for skipping the St. Louis game).
Chancellor has been on a reserve/did not report list since training camp started and his salary does not count against the salary cap. And while his base salary for this season is guaranteed, that guarantee was voided when he did not show up to camp, according to former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes about salary cap issues for CBSSports.com. Chancellor’s base salary would become guaranteed again once he shows up, Corry said, adding that as long as Chancellor is on the 53-man roster for the first game of the season then his contract for the rest of the year would be guaranteed.
The clock is now ticking ever faster to that point, a destination few could ever have imagined really becoming a reality when training camp began.