When Tyler Lockett was growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma—which, as evidenced by his boyish face and youthful energy, wasn’t all that long ago—he dreamed about this.
The Seahawks just made his dream come true.
They announced Wednesday during practice they had re-signed their 25-year-old wide receiver and punt returner to a three-year contract extension.
The new deal for the Pro Bowl punt returner three years ago, before his broken leg, is worth $31.8 million in base pay with $20 million guaranteed, according to a first report by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. It runs through 2021.
That’s $31.8 million ways for Lockett to now set up him and his family for life, given to him by coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and the team that drafted him in the third round in 2015 out of Kansas State.
“This is something that we all dream of as kids, being able to get to this position and being to know that our family is set and our life is set,” Lockett said.
The Seahawks stuck with him through a career-altering injury in 2016 that affected his 2017, too.
When Lockett broke his leg on Christmas Eve of 2016 in a home game against Arizona, teammate and fellow receiver Doug Baldwin was kneeling next to him on the field, praying.
“For me, words can’t even explain how I feel. I love this organization. Pete, John, everybody’s been so amazing to me,” Lockett said Wednesday. “Everything that I’ve needed has been here. They traded pick to come get me (in the draft). They wanted me here. From what I know in the draft they were the only team that told me I could do both, play both returners and receiver.
“They allowed me to grow as a person, and they also allowed me to develop into a receiver that I am continuing to be every, single day.
“You know, we are in a business, so it’s hard for businesses to be able to extend people. And the fact that they were able to give me an extension because they see me in their future, I mean, that says a lot. They’ve given me all of them, and each and every day I’m giving them all of me.”
This appreciation is obviously mutual. Wednesday’s extension is another message sent by Carroll and Schneider to the rest of the Seahawks that are still missing holdout Earl Thomas, who like Lockett is entering the last year of his current contract.
The message from the bosses is they want to take care of the guys who do it their way, the Seahawks way.
“You’ve exemplified everything that we want in a Seahawks player,” Carroll told Lockett, according to the receiver. “We don’t want you to be any different. We don’t want you to change. We want you to continue being the person that you are, because being the person that you are is why we want you to stay here.”
Lockett was selected to the Pro Bowl his first season for his slithery, accelerating kick and punt returns. He broke his leg in December 2016, just as he was emerging as the team’s No.-2 wide receiver behind Baldwin.
Lockett said this summer he didn’t feel fully healed and himself last season, when he had 45 catches and two for touchdowns in 16 games, eight starts.
“When I broke my leg the first question I asked was, ‘Can I still play football?’” Lockett said. “I realized at that moment if I couldn’t play anymore there were so many regrets I would have had. So many things that focused on that I shouldn’t have focused on or even thought about; I should have just come out here and enjoyed playing football.”
The son and nephew of former Kansas State and pro receivers said he’s doing that now, with a new appreciation of how fortunate he is.
He’s gained 2,008 yards from scrimmage in his short career, plus another 2,407 yards on kickoff returns and 859 returning punts.
That’s 5,274 total yards, or three miles, Lockett has gained for the Seahawks since 2015. That’s the most total yards from any one player in the league in that span. He’s scored 13 total touchdowns.
Richard Sherman is gone. Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril are gone, too. Thomas, 29, is at an impasse with the Seahawks over wanting a new contract five weeks into his holdout that has no end in sight.
It’s certifiable now that Lockett is part of Seattle’s new core the team wants to keep, just as it kept Sherman, Bennett, Chancellor, Avril and Thomas with extensions starting five and four years ago.
“This is no different than what we’ve done in the past,” Carroll said Wednesday. “Tyler has been a great Seahawk, an incredibly productive player. Check his numbers, nobody has done more than he’s done in the years that he’s been in the league, in terms of total yards. He’s just been such a great competitor for us.
“This is great chance to reward him accordingly, and make him a Seahawk for a long time.”
This summer the Seahawks have re-signed left tackle Duane Brown (three years, $34.5 million, $16 million guaranteed) and now Lockett.
Who’s going to be next?
The team has other veterans entering the final year of their deals: Pro Bowl outside linebacker K.J. Wright, defensive end and leading returning sack man Frank Clark and Thomas.
Based on need for pass rushers, youth and market, odds are the 25-year-old Clark could be next. He’s been out this week after he hyperextended his elbow. That was after wrist surgery in June. This will be his first season without Pro Bowl ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on the team freeing Clark to take on offenses’ single-man blocking. Clark, who has 19 sacks the last two seasons with Bennett and Avril rushing with him, is likely to get double-teamed by offenses this season.
By extending Lockett, the Seahawks are obviously prioritizing youth, and relative simplicity in getting a deal done. His contract demands—or knowing the personable, soft-spoken Lockett, requests—presumably weren’t nearly as expensive as Clark’s and especially Thomas’.
The Seahawks have been preserving Lockett all summer. They’ve limited his plays in practices and the three preseason games, and had Cyril Grayson, David Moore and others returning punts and kicks instead of him.
Carroll confirmed following last week’s preseason game at Minnesota that the Seahawks are purposely saving Lockett to expand his role during the regular season that begins Sept. 9 at Denver.
Carroll reiterated Wednesday that Lockett is fully ready for his usual workload to begin the regular season.
“Really, it broke my heart to have to watch him fight through the rehab (from his broken leg) throughout the year, because he’s a guy who wants to be on the field every minute,” Carroll said of Lockett is 2017. “He’s the first guy and the last guy off. ... It was a really bad injury, and he came roaring back, played every game, did everything he could. And he played great.
“He’s in great shape now. He’s ready to go. Really happy to be able to reward him with this recognition.”