RENTON The Seahawks still “love” Kam Chancellor -- and it sure sounds as if the team is going to give him a contract extension.
Jimmy Graham’s contract status is definitely on the team’s radar, and its coach is “excited for him to come back.”
“Outbursts” this season by Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and others took “us to a place we don’t want to be” -- and were a product of the environment the head coach has created.
DeShawn Shead has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and other injuries in his knee from Saturday’s season-ending loss at Atlanta, and faces a long road to being back.
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Plus, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett should be back from broken legs in time to begin the 2017 season on the field.
And -- you’ve been asking for it -- improving the offensive line will be a strong consideration in the upcoming draft and free agency. But not a guarantee.
Those were the high points of coach Pete Carroll’s expansive 50 minutes of answers in the Seahawks’ final press conference of the 2016 season Monday at team headquarters.
Chancellor turns 29 in April. The four-time Pro Bowl safety holds the franchise record by playing in his 14th postseason game on Saturday. He missed multiple games due to injuries in each of the last three seasons.
He has one year left on his contract that is currently scheduled to have a charge against Seattle’s 2017 salary cap of $8,125,008. That’s pricey for a player whose thumping style has resulted him not playing an entire season without missing games because of injury since 2013.
”I think every case is an individual case and we’re on it,” Carroll said. “We love Kam and he’s a significant part of everything that goes on around here. I was so proud of him when we were done the other night for all the leadership that he had brought us in such a magnificent way. Coming out of whatever happened last year and to turn things around and really be all in and just be the epitome of what leadership is all about.
“We know what is going on. And we’re involved with all that stuff.”
Chancellor saw teammate Michael Bennett, 2 1/2 years older, get what he’s wanted since the summer of 2015: a three-year contract extension worth up to $31.5 million with $17.5 million guaranteed. That may or may not be the money the Seahawks will want to pay Chancellor, who could be approached with a new deal that is more cap friendly in 2017.
When I asked Chancellor Saturday night on his way out of the Georgia Dome if he believed he’d be back with the Seahawks, he said with a grin: “Day to day.”
Carroll also said the team is aware Graham is entering the final season of a deal that is scheduled to count $10 million against Seattle’s salary cap. None of that money is guaranteed, and the Seahawks could release Graham by this spring with no cost against its 2017 cap.
More likely, the team will ask Graham to re-negotiate a new contract with a lower cap charge in 2017.
“We know how that's going and those conversations come up when we can get to them,” Carroll said of he and general manager John Schneider.
“I'm glad you reminded us,” Carroll added with a grin, “but John is on that.”
Graham has 48 and 65 catches with two and six touchdowns in the two regular seasons since the Seahawks traded two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans for what had been the league’s most prolific pass-catching tight end the previous four seasons with the Saints. Graham averaged 89 catches and 12 touchdowns from 2011-14 with New Orleans.
“I thought Jimmy had a terrific year,” Carroll said of Graham’s return from a torn patellar tendon in November 2015 then surgery. “He was explosive. He was dynamic. He blocked like he's never blocked before. He became a factor on the perimeter blocking stuff. And he's a highlight film.
“So I'm excited for him to come back. Imagine how much better he'll feel. Look what he had to undergo last offseason to get back and be in the phenomenal shape that he was. This will allow him to come back again. He should be stronger this year and more fit this year.”
Carroll said Monday was the first time he was told of Bennett berating a Seattle television reporter in the locker room in Atlanta following Saturday’s 36-20 loss to the Falcons in the NFC divisional playoffs.
The coach did not approve.
“I think that's just another example of not being poised at the time,” Carroll said. “I know Michael is a very remorseful guy when he makes his mistakes. I haven't talked to him about it at all. I didn't know anything about it until today. I don't even know what took place. I haven't even read the article."
Asked if he was surprised about that or Richard Sherman threatening to ruin the career of a Seattle radio host during a press conference last month, Carroll said: "Not necessarily surprised. But I'm disappointed we weren't able to control it, that guys weren't able to keep it inside. These guys have been very emotional players, and it's part of the thing that we like about them. But there's a point where you can go too far.
“Our guys are working at figuring that out."
The coach said he takes responsibility.
"I do, because it's important for me to tap into these guys, their emotional side. And it becomes part of their play that when it fits the person and that's how they operate,” Carroll said. “But sometimes, like I said, we make mistakes. I needed to do a better job of helping them head that off. This is a game that calls for guys to play at the edge and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But I think there's a mistake when they go too far."
Is that caused by the culture of letting the players be themselves?
"That's why I say I'm taking responsibility for it."
Shead’s leg buckled and he fell to the Georgia Dome turf trying to make an outside cut covering a Falcons receiver during the second half on Saturday. He left the locker room on crutches and teammates were offer consolation and support for what they know can be a grueling recovery from a knee reconstruction that will likely last through next summer into if not past the fall. Carroll said it wasn’t just a torn ACL but involved other damage.
Shead’s contract expired with Saturday’s loss. He could become a restricted free agent; if he would sign elsewhere the Seahawks would be entitled to draft-pick compensation.
“Yeah, that's a significant injury,” Carroll said. “It's going to be all the way until next season before he really gets to start seeing how far along he is and if he can come back. So we have to think like we got to pull from the ranks of the guys and see how they do. I thought DeAndre Elliott did a nice job in the bits that he played (Saturday replacing Shead). Neiko (Thorpe) did some nice stuff for us, too. There's a couple other guys there on the roster that have looked good and looked competitive, but we're going to have to do a really good job of coaching in the case that DeShawn doesn't make it back ready to go.
“I thought he had a very, very good year. He was challenged a ton. Being on the other side of Sherman can wear anybody out and he hung in there tough throughout the season, made a considerable amount of plays and all that. He's a terrific team guy so if he is not available, we're going to really miss him but we've got to go for it with the other guys. Obviously, there will be a chance to address that in the draft, too.”
About Thomas (broken shin Dec. 4) and Lockett (broken tibia and fibula Christmas Eve), Carroll said of his three-time All-Pro free safety and Pro Bowl kick returner/wide receiver: “They should make it now. They really... the docs said that they're going to make it it's just going to take a few months here in the offseason. Tyler has really jumped in the early stages of return and so both those guys are phenomenal athletes and great competitive guys about doing stuff.”
Now for your favorite topic: the offensive line. The inexperience of having first-time starters in three of the five positions plus the facts it was the league’s lowest-paid line and it got quarterback Russell Wilson hurt with a high-ankle sprain and sprained knee in the season’s first month are why the offense was so inconsistent.
Indeed, inconsistency is the one word that describes the Seahawks entire, unfulfilled season.
“We’re going to work really hard this offseason to make sure that we make that spot really competitive again,” Carroll said of the O-line. “We’re not going to rest on anything or sit back (where) we think, ‘We’ve got it now.’ We’ll continue to work.
“There’s opportunities, of course, in the draft and free agency and all of that, that we’re open to. We’ll never turn away from any of those chances.”
Carroll then added: “But if nothing happened these guys are coming back, and they’re going to get after it. They’re going to be farther along than they were. It couldn’t be more obvious. That’s just a natural thing that’s going to happen. We need that natural occurrence to take place and help us be better from the start” of 2017.
The Seahawks have about $35 million in salary-cap space devoted to 41 players for the 2017 season. An active roster during the regular season has 53 players. So there is room -- and need -- to make moves.
They also have 14 players who could become unrestricted free agents in March.
Asked about the overwhelming majority of Seattle salary cap being devoted to the core of Wilson and No. 1 wide receiver Doug Baldwin plus defensive stars Sherman, Thomas, Bennett and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, Carroll said: “That’s the way it’s come out because the guys have been such impacting players, you know.
“It’s not about where the money’s going. It’s we’ve got to make the right investments as we move forward. I think we have a really cool formula here, and I think we’ve demonstrated that. It’s demonstrated in consistency over years that is pretty obvious. But this is a whole ‘nother one. Here we go again. We’ve got to keep going. Our roster is pretty well set right now. We’re in pretty good shape. Money-wise we’re in good shape. We’re solid. We know where were are. We’re going to add a draft class to it and see how far those guys can take us again.”