CHARLOTTE, N.C. So now what?
What becomes of the 25 Seahawks whose contracts ended with Sunday’s 31-24 loss at Carolina in the NFC divisional playoffs? I wrote last night about Marshawn Lynch’s uncertain future, but what about Kam Chancellor, whose contract and cap number balloon to the highest but non-guaranteed level of his career?
The Seahawks have all that and more to settle in the coming months.
The NFL and its salary cap are set up to keep dynasties from forming, from teams being able to keep championship rosters intact for more than a couple years. Seattle and general manager John Schneider have been wizards to keep its young core intact. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin are all under contract for at least next season and most beyond. But now the fringes of that core could go away.
The list of the 25 players whose contracts have now ended, making them potential free agents unless the Seahawks re-sign them before March’s free-agency period:
Left tackle Russell Okung (injured Sunday, dislocated shoulder), defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, linebacker Bruce Irvin (who spent much of Sunday on the sidelines apparently not injured while Mike Morgan played for him), defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (whose desire to stay in Seattle I detail here), guard J.R. Sweezy, backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, punter Jon Ryan, running back Fred Jackson, Morgan, defensive back Jeremy Lane, defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs, fullback Will Tukuafu, defensive back DeShawn Shead, Bailey, center Patrick Lewis, defensive back Steven Terrell, tight end Cooper Helfet, defensive back Marcus Burley, backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre, linebacker Eric Pinkins, running back Bryce Brown, running back Christine Michael and tight end Chase Coffman.
Chancellor’s salary jumps to a non-guaranteed $5.1 million base with a salary-cap charge for 2016 of $6.1 million. Those numbers jump to a $6.8 million base and $7.8 million cap number in 2017, the final year of his deal he protested last summer with a two-month holdout. His holdout didn’t exactly please the team, as the Seahawks lost the two games he missed. He battled through another injury-filled season, and struggled at times in pass coverage. He got hurt briefly on Sunday’s opening kickoff and was on the sidelines, special-teamer Kelcie McCray in for him at strong safety, on the 59-yard run by Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart that set the tone for the Panthers’ decisive, runaway first half on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Part of the reason Chancellor held out trying to get more money this year was he knew the team held the leverage beginning now, with none of his remaining seasons of his contract guaranteed. He knows the team can cut him now for a cap saving of $4.1 million in 2016.
The remaining months will determine whether those fears were founded.