The hard work of an NFL offseason never really stops anymore.
Getting Russell Wilson’s future secure may have been job one for Seahawks general manager John Schneider this spring, but there is still an awful lot left in his inbox, including the NFL draft next week, and figuring out whether to re-sign the likes of Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed.
Schneider took a brief break from it all Thursday night, though, to host, along with his wife Traci, his annual charity dinner and auction for Ben’s Fund, which is named after the couple’s son and provides financial support for families impacted by autism. The event is held every April during Autism Awareness Month.
But before he headed into El Gaucho in Bellevue, he talked to reporters for a few minutes to provide some updates on where things stand with some of the team’s key remaining offseason issues.
SCHNEIDER EXPECTS CLARK WON’T HOLD, ‘UNDER IMPRESSION’ HE’LL BE A SEAHAWK IN 2019
Clark has been the subject of much discussion this offseason after being slapped with a franchise tag in March that would pay him $17.1 million for the 2019 season. That prevented Clark from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Clark would rather have a long-term deal with Seattle, and a recent contract signed by Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence appeared to set the market for Clark as likely wanting from $18-20 million a year for four or five seasons, and $50-60 million guaranteed.
One report suggested Clark will hold out through the offseason and training camp unless he gets a new deal, and the fact that the Seahawks could have difficulty signing Clark to a long-term contract has also led to conjecture he could be traded.
Asked if he could give an assurance that Clark will play for the Seahawks in 2019, Schneider said “Yeah. I’m not under the impression that he won’t. I don’t know that he won’t.’’
But Schneider didn’t deny that the team would listen to trade offers for Clark.
“We are always trying to understand what the landscape is throughout the National Football League,’’ he said. “If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing our job. We can’t ever have our head in the sand with anything. But we love Frank, obviously. That’s why we franchised him.’’
The Seahawks can negotiate with Clark until July 15, after which he can play only on the tag with no new talks allowed until after the season. However, Clark can sign the tag at any time, and as long as he is not signed he is not subject to fines if he does not attend mandatory practices and minicamps or training camp.
Schneider, though, said he does not anticipate Clark holding out.
“That’s not my understanding at all,’’ Schneider said. “We’ve had very direct conversations, both myself and Frank and people in the organization and Frank and obviously myself and his agent, Erik Burkhardt.’’
When asked specifically if he expected Clark to attend mandatory events (Clark has not been attending the team’s voluntary conditioning that began this week, having also sat out the voluntary portion last year), Schneider said “that’s obviously the expectation. But do I expect it? I have no idea. The only time we have been through this before (with a franchise tagged player) is with (kicker) Olindo Mare (in 2010).’’
Many have wondered if Wilson’s four-year, $140 million extension would make it more difficult for the team to keep Clark.
“We budgeted for Frank at the franchise number so no,’’ Schneider said. “Not necessarily, no.’’
In the same vein, some have also wondered if Lawrence’s deal changed the dynamic with Clark, who would logically have to be among the top three or four highly-paid defensive players in the NFL on a per-year basis to re-sign.
But Schneider also said that’s not a real impediment.
“Not really, no,’’ he said.” I mean there have been some things that obviously we didn’t expect. But once those things happen you’ve just go to roll with it and try to adjust everything. You have to be able to roll with the punches.’’
If none of that provides direct clarity on Clark’s status that’s to be expected with the draft — and a time when deals often happen — a week away.
But one thing worth remembering is the Seahawks don’t have to rush to anything with Clark. He’s not going to not play in 2019 and pass up a $17 million payday, and even if he plays on the tag this season, the Seahawks would still have a few months following the 2019 season to work out something with Clark.
SCHNEIDER HOPES TO GET DEALS DONE WITH WAGNER, REED, EVENTUALLY
Wagner and Reed are the two most significant players who can be free agents following the 2019 season that the Seahawks would like to sign to extensions.
Asked specifically about Wagner, Schneider said: “Yeah there are several guys we would like to extend. … Bobby has been incredible, so yeah, he’s a guy that has a year left on his contract. He is representing himself, so.’’
Wagner made the decision in the last year to serve as his own agent, following in the footsteps of former Seahawks Russell Okung and Richard Sherman.
Neither of those players re-signed with Seattle, but especially in Sherman’s case there were extenuating circumstances (such as his Achilles injury) that make it risky to read that as a trend.
Schneider said negotiating directly with a player presents some unique variables but said every negotiation has its own challenge.
“I guess we are the team to do it with you now?’’ Schneider said. “Negotiating, it’s not fun, you know what I mean? And anytime you do them with a player you are going to have those conversations that are very direct, very blunt, and it’s a process you have to go through. I look at it like it’s kind of like a necessary evil … I’ve never been involved with anybody in 27 years of doing this where you come out of a negotiation and everybody feels like it just totally, ‘boy that was amazing’ you know what I mean? It never really happens that way.’’
With Wilson done, the Seahawks will now turn their full attention to the draft. But expect talks to heat up with Wagner and probably Reed in the spring and summertime, with Seattle ideally getting any deals done in their more traditional time frame of around the time that training camp begins.
NO DECISION YET ON OPTION FOR IFEDI
A deadline that may have crept up quietly arrives May 3, the last day teams can enact a fifth-year option on players who were first round picks in 2016.
For Seattle, that means right tackle Germain Ifedi, who was the 31st overall selection in that draft.
The option would mean a salary in the $10 million range or so for the 2020 season (the salary will be set later as the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at his position). The salary would be guaranteed for injury only until following next season.
Schneider said the Seahawks have yet to make a decision on Ifedi, who is the first player they have had in this situation since Bruce Irvin in 2015 — the Seahawks did not pick up his option and Irvin became a free agent the following offseason and signed with the Raiders.
If Seattle doesn’t pick up the option on Ifedi they can still negotiate a long-term contract with him at any time.
BALDWIN STILL IN RECOVERY PROCESS
Schneider confirmed that receiver Doug Baldwin had a recent sports hernia surgery, as had been reported would occur. That’s the third surgery Baldwin has been known to have this offseason, others on his knee and his shoulder.
Schneider said it’s too soon to put an ETA on when Baldwin will be healthy.
“That’s a process we are still working through,’’ he said. “He is recovering from that right now and we will see where it goes. … he’s a tough guy, though. If anybody can recover from surgeries like this, it’s Doug.’’