What will the Seahawks do with Kam Chancellor, Justin Britt and Jimmy Graham? That's one of the key questions facing the team as training camp nears.
With the Seahawks set to open training camp Sunday, one big question is what will happen with three key players who can become unrestricted free agents after the 2017 season — safety Kam Chancellor, tight end Jimmy Graham and center Justin Britt.
The Seahawks have considered contract extensions for all three — it’s common to give new deals to key players before they enter the final year of their contracts. But as of now, nothing appears imminent.
Here’s a look at each situation with comments from former NFL agent Joel Corry, who now writes for CBSSports.com:
As Corry said, re-signing Britt “got more difficult’’ this week when the Jacksonville Jaguars re-signed center Brandon Linder to a five-year, $51.7 million extension with $24 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid center in NFL history. The average of just over $10.1 million per season far exceeds the previously highest-paid center, Dallas’ Travis Frederick ($9.4 million).
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Britt, who is in the final season of his four–year rookie contract that will pay him $891,399, may not be considered on par with Frederick or Linder. Both ranked last year among the top five centers in the NFL by Pro Football Focus (Britt was 16th). But that doesn’t mean his agents wouldn’t push for a similar contract.
Corry said he thinks the Seahawks might have been wanting to pay Britt somewhere in the neighborhood of the $5.88 million earned by Cleveland’s JC Tretter.
But now with the center market being re-set, “This deal just gave confirmation to the agent that that would be the wrong neighborhood.”
Corry said he was “surprised’’ Jacksonville gave such a hefty contract to Linder and added that it will be the baseline for top centers going forward.
“You’re going to make him the highest-paid center by that much?’’ Corry said. “That’s a pretty huge jump.’’
One he thinks might cause both Britt and the Seahawks to show even more hesitancy.
Though Corry said he’s not sure Britt is worth what he’d be asking, he also said “the center market is kind of haves and have-nots to a degree,’’ meaning there’s a pretty wide gap between the good ones and bad ones.
Seattle struggled mightily at the position in 2015 after trading Max Unger before moving Britt there in 2016. Britt made a successful transition, starting all but one game, with his one absence only seeming to further illustrate his worth — a 14-5 loss at Tampa Bay.
Britt stands as an interesting test case of Seattle’s willingness to pay offensive linemen.
The Seahawks have famously (infamously?) not re-signed any offensive linemen to significant contracts since Unger in 2012, stating they didn’t feel it made fiscal sense to match the deals the players (specifically, James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung) ended up getting elsewhere.
But Britt has no significant injury history, will be just 27 entering next season and could be the foundation of a line the Seahawks feel will start to turn a corner this year for seasons to come.
Given that a few other centers also are coming up on possible extensions, Corry is among those who thinks if the Seahawks are going to do something with Britt they might want to do it sooner rather than later.
Graham is entering the final season of a four-year, $40 million deal he signed with the Saints in 2014 that Seattle inherited when it acquired him for Unger in 2015.
That contract continues to make Graham the NFL’s highest-paid tight end — Kansas City’s Travis Kelce is next at $9.368 million per year.
Though the Seahawks could try to extend Graham, who will turn 32 during the 2018 season, an increasingly popular thought is that Seattle might just place the franchise tag on him.
The franchise-tag number is calculated on the average of the top five salaries at that position, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is higher. In the case of Graham, that means Seattle could keep him for one more year at not a lot more than he is already making without committing for the long term.
“Exactly,’’ Corry said. “That makes sense.’’
How happy Graham would be about that is uncertain, and the threat of the tag often leads to negotiations that result in new contracts. But having the tag option means the Graham situation isn’t one that’s urgent for Seattle.
Chancellor, a founding member of the Legion of Boom and one of the more iconic players of the Pete Carroll era, might represent the biggest quandary on this list.
He is finishing a four-year extension signed in 2013 that pays him an average of just over $7 million per season — 10th among all safeties in the NFL according to OvertheCap.com.
Chancellor still is playing at a high level. But he also turns 30 next April, missed four games last year due to injury and plays a position that takes a lot of punishment and sometimes sees players’ careers drop off, if not end, pretty quickly once they get past 30.
So the Seahawks should just sign him to a two-year deal or something, right?
Well, if you’re Chancellor you also have every right to wonder why the Seahawks wouldn’t give him the same deal that Miami handed Reshad Jones last March — a four-year, $48 million extension with $33 million guaranteed that takes him through the 2021 season.
Jones is nearly the same age as Chancellor — born about a month earlier — and has had injury issues of his own, missing 10 games last year due to a rotator cuff issue.
“If I’m his agent I’m saying, ‘Don’t talk to me about someone who is hurt when they are doing that in Miami,’ ’’ Corry said.
What further complicates things for Seattle, Corry says, is that safety Earl Thomas is making $10 million a year on a contract that goes through 2018, and that cornerback Richard Sherman can also be a free agent following the 2018 season.
“Whatever you pay Kam, and I assume it’s going to be more than Earl Thomas, then you potentially have an Earl Thomas problem,’’ Corry said. “Now you’re setting a new floor for Earl Thomas, and he’s going to want to be paid in his contract year.
“And then you have a corner (Sherman) who will be in a contract year as well. So someone out of those three is not getting paid. At least one of those guys won’t get paid. I don’t know which one. But you can’t keep everyone.’’
As Corry notes, Seattle drafted two safeties and two cornerbacks last April to give them options as the veterans come up on contract years.
He also says the way the Seahawks played last year without Chancellor and Thomas undoubtedly will play a role in decisions.
Seattle went 2-1-1 without Chancellor, but among the victories was a win over Atlanta, with the tie a game in which the Seahawks held the Cardinals to six points in overtime on the road.
But without Thomas the defense fell apart, allowing 34 or more points in three of the six games he sat out (he had also missed a game earlier in the season), including the playoffs, as well as 34 in a home loss to Arizona.
“It did show the defense wasn’t the same,’’ Corry said.
Now we’ll see what the Seahawks will do.