In a move that had become expected but no less stunning when it arrived, the Seahawks announced Thursday that they have terminated the contracts of two of the most pivotal players of the Pete Carroll era — safety Kam Chancellor and receiver Doug Baldwin.
The contracts were terminated with the designation that they had failed a physical.
“The Seahawks have made the difficult decision to terminate/failed physical Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in a statement released by the team Thursday. “These are two of the most iconic players in franchise history and both were instrumental in establishing our championship culture, great examples of competitiveness and leadership on the field and in the community. These legendary players will always be a part of our Seahawks family.”
The move was no surprise as Chancellor did not play last season and had essentially announced his retirement via social media July 1. He revealed that he is suffering from spinal stenosis, an injury suffered in a game at Arizona on Nov. 9, 2017. He has been on the roster since for salary-cap purposes.
Baldwin had been considering retiring in recent months as he dealt with knee, shoulder and sports-hernia injuries in 2018 and had surgeries on each in the offseason.
Carroll hinted again Friday that Baldwin would be unable to return, saying “I was with him today in the training room. He’s working out and working hard, trying to get himself right. It’s a big challenge and, you know, he’s got a lot to overcome.’’
Baldwin had no more guaranteed money in his contract. Getting cut, instead of retiring, he will not have to pay back any of the $7 million in bonus money received in a four-year deal he signed in 2016. The final two seasons of that contract would have paid him $9.25 and $10.25 million. Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, he could get $1.2 million in an injury protection payout for the 2019 season, another reason that the team made the move Thursday. If he had retired he would not have been eligible for that payout.
Chancellor had injury guarantees paying him $5.2 million for 2019. The Seahawks are not on the hook for any more money with Chancellor, whose contract also went through the 2020 season. The moves mean the Seahawks will save $2.3 million against the cap this year and $12 million next year with Chancellor and $6.8 million and $11 million on Baldwin, though there could be an additional $1.2 million for the injury protection payout.
Put more simply, the two moves mean the Seahawks have an additional $9.1 million in cap space (but potentially minus the injury protection money) for the 2019 season. The Seahawks had roughly $26 million before the agreement with defensive end Ziggy Ansah and the signings of three other players Thursday.
The moves also mean there are just three players remaining on the roster from the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season — quarterback Russell Wilson and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Chancellor arrived as a fifth-round pick in 2010 — the first year for Schneider and Carroll — and earned a starting spot at strong safety the following season when the famed Legion of Boom secondary first burst into prominence.
Baldwin, who turns 31 in September, made the team in 2011 as an undrafted free agent receiver out of Stanford.
Baldwin finishes his career third in team history in receptions (493) and receiving yards (6,563) and second in touchdowns (49). He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017.
The only Seahawks receiver to score more touchdowns is Hall of Famer Steve Largent who has 100. The two formed something of a mutual admiration society after Baldwin reached out to Largent for receiving advice — something Largent said didn’t happen as often as one would think.
“His competitive spirit,’’ Largent told the Times of what impressed him most about Baldwin. “I mean, nobody wants to win more than Doug Baldwin does. He’s a small receiver (listed at 5 foot 10, 192 pounds), but he makes big plays.”
Baldwin suffered through myriad injuries in 2018, including a knee issue that held him out of the preseason and a sprained MCL suffered in week one. He also had an abdominal/sports hernia issue that caused him to miss three games — the first he had missed since 2012.
Baldwin had seven receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown — the final TD of his Seahawks career as it turns out — in a late-season win against the Chiefs.
“Ha, this year has been hell,” Baldwin said following the game. “This year has been absolutely hell. I’ve been … oh my goodness. We don’t have enough time for that. It’s been hell. But I’m so grateful to be healthy enough to be on the field with my teammates to celebrate victories and just enjoying playing football again, just like a kid.”
Baldwin had talked increasingly frankly as the year progressed about the reality that his playing days were coming to a close. Before a game against the 49ers in San Francisco in December, he said he couldn’t help but think that his career was nearing its end.
“Oh, I am on the downside of my career,” Baldwin said. “I am 30 years old.” Asked that day if he gave thought to the idea that the 2018 season could be his last as a Seahawk he said simply “I do.”
Rumors that Baldwin was seriously considering retirement had circulated all offseason but grew during the NFL draft via an ESPN report which was confirmed by Carroll and Schneider.
“He has been an extraordinary part of this program since we’ve been here, and he has given us everything he has had, been a great competitor, player and all that,” Carroll said during the draft. “We believe in him so much and trust in him so much that wherever this goes, we’re going to support him forever. He’s been a great contributor in so many ways, not just on the team but in the community and everything else. He’s been awesome, so we’ll see what happens. He’s working through it and we’re going to follow Doug on this one.”
Baldwin has not officially said he will retire, and as of Thursday afternoon had not made a comment on his release. He could get healthy, pass a physical and return to play.
The Seahawks took steps to replace Baldwin during the draft last month, selecting DK Metcalf in the second round out of Ole Miss, Gary Jennings out of West Virginia in the fourth and John Ursua out of Hawaii in the seventh.
The Seahawks also re-signed Tyler Lockett last year to an extension through the 2021 season. Lockett responded with career highs of 57 receptions, 965 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the first player since Golden Tate in 2013 to lead the team in receptions or yards other than Baldwin.