TNT’s Gregg Bell: the cold reality of Doug Baldwin’s future, Seahawks trades, picks on day 2 of NFL draft
Doug Baldwin is done with the Seahawks, and likely with football.
Seattle announced Thursday it has terminated the contract of its 30-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver and top target for Russell Wilson for the last half-dozen years. That’s after Baldwin had three surgeries this offseason.
He missed games for the first time in 6 1/2 years last season because of injuries to both knees, his shoulder and his groin.
The move clears the way for Baldwin to retire.
General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll said two weeks ago that Baldwin had informed them following surgery last month for a sports hernia that he was considering retirement. The Seahawks then selected three wide receivers in the draft two weeks ago, including hulking DK Metcalf in the second round. It was their most taken since in any draft since 1981.
The Seahawks also terminated the contract of Kam Chancellor, the iconic safety during Seattle’s runs to the Super Bowl in 2013 and ‘14. That was a long-awaited procedural move. Chancellor essentially retired following a neck injury in November 2017.
“The Seahawks have made the difficult decision to terminate/failed physical Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in a statement the team released Thursday.
“These are two of the most iconic players in franchise history and both were instrumental in establishing our championship culture, great examples of competitiveness and leadership on the field and in the community. These legendary players will always be a part of our Seahawks family.”
Baldwin will go down as perhaps the best undrafted rookie free agent ever for the Seahawks. Dave Krieg, Euguene Robinson and Joe Nash also had brilliant careers entering the NFL undrafted. But none of those three won a Super Bowl with or got a $46 million second contract from Seattle.
Baldwin made himself in the league. He pushed and scowled from scrapping for any job on Seattle’s roster in his rookie season of 2011 to the second-best receiver in franchise history. The intense, two-time Pro Bowl receiver became known around the Northwest as “Angry Doug Baldwin.” He also became the league’s best slot receiver, in an era in which inside wide receivers matched against slower defensive backs grew to unprecedented importance.
How exquisite were Baldwin’s first moves after the snap to get open? Well...
His 493 receptions are third-most in team history, behind Hall of Famer Largent (819) and Brian Blades (581). Baldwin’s 49 receiving touchdowns in his eight years are second in franchise history to Largent (100 in 14 years with Seattle, 1976-89).
And it was when Baldwin got all his catches and scores. Wilson looked to him first when he absolutely needed a completion, and Baldwin became one of the most clutch third down receivers in the league.
Or on fourth down. This was Baldwin in what is now becoming the final game of his career:
That came at the end of a season in which he played while looking and sounding absolutely spent after games. Carroll marveled how Baldwin could even walk on two groin injuries, let alone have five catches in a comeback win at Carolina Nov. 25.
This is what Baldwin looked and sounded like after that game in Charlotte, N.C., slumped in his locker amid his teammates’ raucous celebrating.
Baldwin has become just as relevant off the field, in causes far more important than football.
For the past three years the Stanford graduate has lobbied Congress to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for low-level crimes. The son of a career law-enforcement officer while growing up in the Florida panhandle testified at the Washington State Capitol for police-reform legislation in the training and policies for the use of deadly force.
He’s met with law-enforcement officials and community leaders from across the Pacific Northwest on deescalation methods police officers can use to help prevent needless killings in confrontations. He’s met with Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson about these and other issues, as well.
Last fall Baldwin has zeroed in on a new target: Fixing what he says is our country’s “antiquated” cash-bail system. Baldwin and many others believe cash bail unfairly jails citizens of lower socioeconomic status for non-violent and minor offenses, simply because they don’t have money to pay standard bail.
He also has helped started a Seahawks players fund to benefit social causes across Western Washington.
This is an end for Baldwin. Not the end.
With his common sense and decency toward those less represented in our society, it’s not out of the question that Baldwin may have politics as his next career choice.
“He has been an extraordinary part of this program since we’ve been here,” Carroll said. “He has given us everything he has had. He’s been a great competitor and player and all that. And we believe in him and trust him so much that wherever this (retirement decision) goes, we are going to support him.
Chancellor announced in the summer of 2018 that doctors did not clear him to play football. He stated that is because of the heightened risk of paralysis if he continues to play.
“P.S. Pray for your boy,” Chancellor wrote online last summer when he decided to quit playing. “I have no clue how these head injuries will go after the game. What I do know is that my God is stronger. Peace and love”
Chancellor was still under contract to collect $25 million in guarantees he was getting in the deal he signed three months before his injury.
Bradly McDougald played last season at strong safety and played well. He will return for the 2019. But he’s no Kam Chancellor.
No one is.
McDougald showed his reverence for Chancellor on his social-media page after Thursday’s announcement.
So ends the Seahawks career of the last member of their famed “Legion of Boom” defensive secondary. Richard Sherman left last year after Seattle released him rather than paying him $11 million for 2018 following his torn Achilles. Earl Thomas signed in March with Baltimore as a free agent following a year-long feud with the Seahawks over not giving him a third contract at the top of the NFL pay scale for safeties.
Thomas was the transcendent safety. Sherman was the brash, new-age cornerback. Marshawn Lynch was the hammer. Wilson was the relentlessly positive magician making something out of nothing.
But Chancellor was the soul of the Seahawks teams that went to five consecutive postseasons, two consecutive Super Bowls and won Seattle’s only NFL championship, in February 2014.
Teammates revered Chancellor for his quiet, sage, strong persona in the locker room—and still revere him for it. He dispensed advice about football and finances and relationships and life off the field like he delivered hard hits on it. He stayed with the team throughout much of last season as a de facto coach, but more accurately a big brother.
Chancellor was named to the Pro Bowl four times after Seattle drafted him in the fifth round from Virginia Tech in 2010. He twice received the team’s Steve Largent Award for best exemplifying “the spirit, dedication, and integrity” of Largent. Seahawks teammates voted Chancellor their team captain three times.
The team expressly said that Baldwin and Chancellor had failed physicals. That designation will allow them to recoup some money remaining on their contracts.
Baldwin could get $1.2 million in injury-protection money per the NFL collective bargaining agreement because he was waived with a failed-physical designation. He had two years and $19.5 million remaining on his contract. None of that money was guaranteed.
The Seahawks stand to save up to $6.86 million in salary-cap space this year by releasing him, before the money for injury protection. They will save $11 million against the cap in 2020, what would have been the final year of Baldwin’s contract.
“He has been a great contributor, in so many ways,” Carroll said, “not only on the team but in the community and in so many ways.
“He’s been awesome.”