Seattle Seahawks

Start of NFL free agency reinforces why Seahawks wait, why Russell Wilson is going to get PAID

Once again, the beginning of the NFL’s negotiating period for free agents is showing why the Seahawks would rather wait through the madness.

Nick Foles — 26 career regular-season wins, four playoff victories, 11,165 yards and 68 touchdowns passing with one Pro Bowl—reportedly agreed to an $88-million, four-year deal on Monday to be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new quarterback. With bonuses, Foles could earn up to $102 million from the Jaguars, according to NFL Network. ESPN said Foles’ eye-catching deal includes over $50 million in guarantees.

Russell Wilson — 75 career regular-season wins, eight playoff victories, 25,624 yards and 196 touchdowns passing with four Pro Bowls—just waits.

And smiles.

At this absurd rate ($22 million per year for Foles), there won’t be an existing bank large enough for Wilson to break with the Seahawks. His deal with Seattle ends after the 2019 season.

Wilson is now the third-highest-paid quarterback within his 2012 draft class.

One year after Wilson re-signed with the Seahawks for four years and $87.6 million, Andrew Luck re-signed in 2016 with the Colts for $122.97 million.

Now Foles, who was a backup to Carson Wentz for most of the last two years in Philadelphia.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said talks have already started on an extension for Wilson. Coach Pete Carroll has said “everything is lined up” to eventually get a new deal done. It is very likely to top $35 million per year and be the richest contract in the league. That is based on what Aaron Rodgers got last summer from Green Bay: $134 million for four years ($33.5 million per year), with $98.2 million guaranteed.

“We’ve been in communication with his agent Mark (Rodgers), and I’m sure we’ll continue to talk,” Schneider said Feb. 27 at the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“Obviously, he’s incredibly important.”

The soaring-again free-agent market doesn’t stop at quarterbacks.

Landon Collins, the thudding, 25-year-old safety the New York Giants did not keep after his rookie contract just ended, agreed to sign with Washington for $84 million over six years. The deal will become official when free agency officially begins Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Then former Texans, Cardinals and LSU safety Tyrann Mathieu was on his way to signing for up to $42 million for three years with Kansas City.

Collins’ and Mathieu’s top-of-the-market jackpots have to make Earl Thomas smile almost as much as Wilson, his now-former Seahawks teammate.

The Seahawks and Thomas separated months ago, leaving the three-time All-Pro entering free agency for the first time this week. Collins getting $14 million per year sets the market for safeties. That, plus Mathieu’s $14 million per more than put in play Thomas’ year-long demand to be paid more than $13 million per year, with about $40 million guaranteed. Thomas has three times as many All-Pro selections and twice as many Pro Bowls as Collins, with a Super Bowl ring Collins does not have. But Thomas is five years older, and is coming back from his second broken leg in three years.

Those facts and Thomas’ contract demand were why the Seahawks never extended Thomas’ contract last year, and likely why Seattle could not trade him during and after he held out into September.

Collins’ agreement with Washington Monday only reinforces why the Seahawks are letting Thomas walk.

Justin Coleman isn’t a Seahawk for the same reasons—nine million of them per year, in fact.

Coleman reportedly agreed to a $9 million-per-year deal with the Detroit Lions on Monday. That will make him the league’s richest nickel defensive back.

Coleman was brilliant in two seasons as Seattle’s nickel back mostly covering inside, slot receivers while playing about two-thirds of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps; in that sense he was more a starter than Seattle’s strong-side linebacker. Now he is reuniting with Lions head coach Matt Patricia. He was Coleman’s defensive coordinator in New England, before Schneider traded for Coleman at the start of the 2017 season.

On his way out of Seattle, let’s pause to appreciate what remains perhaps the funniest moment on the field the last couple Seahawks seasons: Coleman jumping into the Salvation Army holiday kettle at the end of his interception return for a touchdown on a Christmas Eve at Dallas.

The Seahawks now have a new need, at nickel defensive back, but it’s not a shock. They figured Coleman was leaving last week when they agreed to re-sign restricted free-agent cornerback Akeem King. King has worked inside against slot receivers this past year.

Coleman would have been nice for the Seahawks to retain, but not at $9 million annually. In addition to Wilson’s, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner’s contract ends after 2019.

And we haven’t even mentioned here Seattle’s need to find money to satisfy 25-year-old Frank Clark beyond the top pass rusher’s $17,128,000 franchise tag and salary-cap hit for 2019.

Carroll and Schneider have shown year after year their Seahawks strategy in free agency is to wait. Wait for the frenzied pace and mind-boggling money to overpriced talent to pass. Wait to more judiciously wade into the secondary phases of free agency for bargains such as 2018’s, guard D.J. Fluker for one year and less than $2 million.

Now Fluker may be worth almost three times that much for this year. That’s how good he was while perfectly fitting Seattle’s move to a new offensive line coach Mike Solari’s more physical, man-on-man-blocking last season.

The Seahawks continue to try to re-sign Fluker.

“I’m counting on him. Yeah, I’m counting on him,” Carroll said two weeks ago.

“He fit us just right. Attitude wise you couldn’t imagine a guy having more of an impact. His aggressiveness, his toughness his desire to keep getting better and pushing it and fighting through the hard things and the difficulties. He was banged up some during the year and then he was just a monster playing.

“I think he played better than he did the year before for Mike with the Giants. He was more consistent and more effective I think because we ran the balls much more, you could see his style come to life. He was a big part of it.”

So while the wowing deals for the likes of Foles and Collins—for left tackle Trent Brown going from New England to Oakland for $66 million with $36,750,000 guaranteed—get everyone’s attention this week, the Seahawks will likely be where they’ve been for most of the last decade during the opening of free agency.

Waiting.

Waiting for sanity in an insane (again) market.

MIKE DAVIS TO CHICAGO

Now-ex-Seahawks running back Mike Davis got his first big NFL payday by agreeing to a free-agent contract with Chicago.

The deal is for two years for up to $6 million, NFL Network reported.

The Seahawks signed Davis off waivers from a 2-14 San Francisco team before the 2017 season. He rushed for 240 yards his first season with Seattle, and 514 yards with four touchdowns and 34 receptions last season.

He earned $800,000 in base pay last season at age 25.

With 1,151-yard back Chris Carson entrenched as the Seahawks’ lead runner and 2018 first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny the No. 2 rusher looking forward to being injury free compared to his rookie season, Seattle wasn’t in the market to bring back Davis.

STEPHEN BACK TO VIKINGS

Monday night, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported defensive tackle Shamar Stephen was leaving the Seahawks after one season to return to the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year deal.

Stephen, 28, earned $2.1 million in his lone season with Seattle. He played in 15 games, 14 of them starts, with 14 tackles and two sacks. He had one sack in four years with Minnesota before he signed with the Seahawks last spring.

Finding a run-stopping defensive tackle remains a big priority this offseason for the Seahawks, most likely in a draft that is deep in premier defensive linemen.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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