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Seahawks Contract Game Plan Working, But For How Long?

Stephen Brashear
AP Photo
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws the ball to newly-acquired tight end Jimmy Graham during training camp on Friday, July 31, 2015, in Renton.

The Seahawks may have started training camp, but there seems to be more activity going on in the front office than on the field. Team officials are busy negotiating contract extensions and dealing with a key holdout.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the NFL’s salary cap dictates how far they can go.

Wilson And Wagner Done

The Seahawks have managed to sew up their two biggest contract extensions with quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner.

"It was quite a feat," Thiel said. "I think there was a lot of skepticism. And I think there were a lot of NFL clubs that were hoping the Seahawks would fail.

"The biggest feat in the NFL is to win a Super Bowl. But the even bigger challenge is sustaining success. And teams that can sustain success do so by managing the salary cap."

What Is The Salary Cap?

"The salary cap is the maximum amount a team can pay its entire roster for a given year," Thiel said. "It’s the same for every team. It also has a minimum floor. So teams play between the minimum and the maximum.

"It makes for a parity that is unparalleled in modern professional sports because most teams with the similar amount of money then let brains decide.

"And a lot of teams have at least some degree of success in the NFL – more than they do in other sports.

"In the case of the Seahawks, they paid premium dollars - $87 million to Russell Wilson over the next four years and they paid Bobby Wagner $43 million over four years, which are at the top of their positions in the NFL."

Enough Left?

"They now have secured most all of their premium players," Thiel continued. "The question is do they have enough money left over to pay the rest of the team to make then ‘NFL average’ players?

"That is the challenge for every successful team."

But Thiel noted there were consequences.

"They had to get rid of a very good defensive tackle, Tony McDaniel, who was making $3 million this year at age 30. The Seahawks cut him because they couldn’t afford to keep him and his salary and still have enough to pay Wagner and Wilson.

"So those are the consequences and there may be more as the camp progresses and the Seahawks see young players who come along who are better than the most expensive veterans. So, those guys are vulnerable to being cut too."

Kam Chancellor Holding Out

Safety Kam Chancellor is trying to renegotiate his contract and is staying out of training camp right now.

"Kam is a vital part of the Seahawks defense. He’s their most ferocious player," Thiel said. "He’s in the second year of a four-year deal that no longer looks as good as it did when he signed it.

"I understand him wanting to get what he thinks he has to get because all of these players are on the clock of biology, basically.

"They know that their window to make most of the money they’ll make in their lives is the three-to-four-year-average NFL career. So they want as much as they can get when they’re at the apex of their physical health.

"Kam Chancellor looks at his deal and realizes ‘I don’t have any guaranteed money after this season.’ So if he gets hurt this year, he’s out of luck," he said.

Can't Always Get What You Want

"I understand where he’s coming from," Thiel continued. "But the hard cap in the NFL means you cannot give everybody what they want because you won’t be able to manage it.

"It’s not because the NFL owners are going to go broke if they give everybody what they want. They’re making so much money above and beyond the expense of players’ salaries that there’s no threat to the empire.

"The pressure is on the teams to manage the same amount of money. And the more success you have, the less chance you have to do it," he said.

Seahawks' Game Plan Working

Thiel said he's impressed with how the Seahawks have kept much of their Super Bowl-winning team together.

"They’ve lost a lot of talented people but the core guys are still here, including Kam Chancellor. And they’ve managed it very, very well.

"I think they’re going to be a formidable team again this year and a lot of it has to do with what’s going on in the front office and not so much what’s going on, on the field."


You can find Art Thiel’s work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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