The headline matches almost verbatim the question I asked coach Pete Carroll today, the 25th day of team leader Kam Chancellor’s preseason holdout.
Carroll briefly paused then said flatly: “Nothing's changed.”
That was the same phrase he used a couple minutes earlier Monday afternoon when he was asked for an update on the strong safety’s onoing absence from the Seahawks. The holdout could cost the star strong safety and core player in Seattle fines that are now approaching the maximum $1.14 million as defined by the league’s collective bargaining agreement: $30,000 per day times 38 days of training camp that by league definition ends with the start of the regular season next month.
Article 4, section 9.a. ii. of that CBA effective from August 2011 into 2020 states if “such absence continues into the regular season... the player may be required to forfeit an additional 25% of (his prorated signing bonus) upon missing the first regular season game. If such absence continues beyond the fourth week of the regular season, the player may be required to forfeit up to...one-seventeenth (of his signing-bonus proration) for each missed regular season week after the fourth week.”
For Chancellor, that means he could get fined an addition $250,000 if he still hasn’t reported to the team by its Sept. 13 opener at St. Louis, and another $58,824 per game (1/17th of his $1 million signing-bonus proration for 2015, of the $5 million signing bonus he got on his extension before the ‘13 season) beginning after Seattle’s Monday night home game Oct. 5 against Detroit. If Chancellor drags this on past the 11th game of the regular season he would lose an accrued season of service time toward free agency; not that Chancellor will be able to play after his contracts ends with the 2017 season. Anyone that plays six games in any season has that season count as an accrued year.
The CBA article on holdouts and fines also makes clear “the maximum permitted forfeitures described below do not in any way obligate any ... Club to agree to any forfeiture.” In other words, as the Seahawks didn’t with Marshawn Lynch on his eight-day holdout last August, they don’t have to fine Chancellor for being away. Given Chancellor’s popularity in the locker room with teammates and his value to the franchise, they likely won’t. It’s the only “carrot” the Seahawks really have to offer to entice him to end his holdout.
If Chancellor didn’t know this, he’d like already have reported rather than be giving up upwards of $900,000 and counting up to this point.
But the Seahawks remain dug in on their stance of not re-doing contracts or adding current money to deals that still have multiple years left on them -- and certainly not three seasons, as Chancellor’s does through 2017. If the team were to set that precedent with Chancellor, general manager John Schneider would have a conga line of veteran starters lining up outside his door in the future wanting to get theirs now, too, demanding guaranteed cash now no matter how many seasons a player has remaining on his contract. The team that’s played in the last two Super Bowls could implode under the dual forces of salary-cap hell and locker-room resentment over who has gotten how much -- and how early.
Chancellor, meanwhile, sees his career mortality is clearer terms than ever. Though “just” 27, his body is much older. This is the first of six NFL offseasons he hasn’t had a surgery, yet that was after he played the Super Bowl Feb. 1 with a torn medial-collateral ligament in his knee. He had hip surgery before last season, then contemplated surgery to fix bone spurs in his ankles last September before playing through those. He doesn’t know how many seasons he may have left in his battered body beyond this one, so he understandably wants to get any and all cash he can while he possible can.
The Seahawks also know Chancellor’s thumping, painful style may not enable him to play many more seasons. That is why they didn’t give him in his 2013 extension any more guaranteed money beyond this season’s $4.55 million base salary with $4.45 million of it guaranteed. They didn’t want to guarantee 2016 and ‘17 seasons that the team, and even perhaps Chancellor himself, aren’t convinced he’ll be physically able to play.
Therein lies the impasse. And the reason, as Carroll said twice today, “nothing’s changed.”