INDIANAPOLIS Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett are doing “great” in their rehabilitation from broken legs.
DeShawn Shead’s serious knee injury from January indeed has the Seahawks in the market for a new cornerback.
Kicker Blair Walsh’s recent signing doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Steven Hauschka in Seattle.
The Seahawks will continue to seek to take care of their core guys with new contracts -- and Kam Chancellor remains one of their core guys.
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Those are the highlights of what team general manager John Schneider said Wednesday in making Seattle’s secondary a primary news point during the first morning of the NFL’s scouting combine here.
Schneider, speaking to the media for the first time in months, said of Thomas, the three-time All-Pro safety who broke his tibia Dec. 4, and Lockett, the zooming wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner who broke his leg Christmas Eve: “They are doing great. Those guys are doing great.
“Tyler, he is an amazing kid. Earl’s doing great. Tyler is up there (in Seattle) right now. Earl is supposed to be coming back for just a checkup here in the next month.”
Coach Pete Carroll has said he expects Lockett to be ready for the start of training camp in late July. The second-year star broke his tibia and fibula and had teammate Doug Baldwin praying next to him on the field Dec. 24 against Arizona.
Thomas broke his tibia colliding with Chancellor, his partner at safety, while they tried to intercept a pass against Carolina on Dec. 4. Carroll, who is scheduled to speak here Thursday morning, has not put an exact timeline on Thomas’ recovery. Schneider didn’t either on Wednesday, but his optimism suggested Thomas will return in time for the 2017 and not retire, as he mused on social media immediately after his injury in December.
Chancellor recently had what the team is characterizing as “clean-up” surgeries for bone spurs in his ankles. It’s something the 28-year-old veteran has had done in previous offseasons.
“I’m not going to go into the surgeries and stuff,” Schneider said, “but it went well.”
Chancellor has one more season left on his Seahawks contract. It is scheduled to include $6.8 million in base pay and $325,008 in per-week roster bonuses during the season, with a salary-cap charge of $8.125,008 for 2017. He’s wanted a new deal for two years, and infamously held out for two months into the 2015 regular season in vain to get one.
Chancellor was the first player Carroll mentioned in his postgame press conference following January’s playoff loss at Atlanta as the foundation for the Seahawks’ strong leadership base. He is beloved in the locker room for his intensity, his wisdom and his hard-hitting style of play.
I asked the GM how big a priority it is for the team to get Chancellor a new contract before the 2017 begins. It would likely be for a more team-friendly cap number in 2017, with signing-bonus guarantees and a back-loaded deal beyond this year the Seahawks could easily shed if Chancellor’s performance declines into his early 30s.
“We’ve got several guys we’ll get to,” Schneider said. “We want to be able to take care of our team -- and obviously he is a huge part of that.”
When I asked Chancellor as he was leaving the Georgia Dome following Seattle’s playoff loss about his future and whether he expected to remain a Seahawk contract, he smiled and said, “day to day.”
Shead tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee cutting on the Georgia Dome turf trying to stay with a Falcons receiver near the sidelines late in that loss at Atlanta in the divisional playoffs Jan. 14. He posted on Twitter pictures Jan. 27 coming out of surgery.
Schneider said the Seahawks are assuming Shead won’t be back until deep into the 2017 season, if then.
“Probably, yeah. ACL. Late,” the GM said.
He is a restricted free agent to whom Seattle must decide whether to make a qualifying offer by March 9. Indications are strong the Seahawks will do just that to retain their starting cornerback last season opposite Richard Sherman -- and a player Carroll and the team admire for selflessly working his way up from undrafted free agent scrapping on special teams for years.
Schneider said Shead’s injury makes cornerback a more pressing interest for the Seahawks both here at the combine and in free agency.
“Well, yeah, it pushes it up. We have to…but not at the combine,” Schneider said. “We are watching everyone.
“It’s just a matter of how free agency goes. We had some young guys that stepped up and did a pretty good job (DeAndre Elliott as an undrafted rookie, Neiko Thorpe after Seattle acquired him last year. “We had guys that we re-signed and we are excited about, too.
“DeShawn is a great kid. He’s got really strong faith. You’d want him to be your son, you know what I mean? His mindset is like, hey, I’m going. I say he’s probably not going to be there right away; that’s just me. He’s probably got a different mindset. He’s crushing his rehab right now.”
Per the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players, Seattle would have three options if it decides to tender Shead. The lowest level tender would give Shead an offer of around $1.75 million (the league will set the exact amounts for tender offers just before the league year begins March 9) and would provide the Seahawks the right of first refusal to any offer Shead would receive from another team. The second-round tender would be a 2017 contract for what is expected to be about $2.6 million and the Seahawks the compensation of a second-round pick should another team sign him. A first-round tender would be a contract for 2017 of about $3.7 million or so, with Seattle getting a first-round choice as compensation should another team sign him.
Garry Gilliam, the Seahawks’ starting right tackle the last two seasons, also could become a restricted free agent. He’s in the same situation as Shead.
Because of Shead’s injury, the Seahawks aren’t likely to need to use the top level tender on him.
The Seahawks got insurance against Shead’s injury in late January when they signed 30-year-old veteran Perrish Cox for one year and $855,000. None of Cox’s money is guaranteed. So if Shead returns more quickly than expected, or if Seattle drafts or signs another cornerback it likes better, Cox may not even make the team this fall.
As for Walsh, the Seahawks signed him to a one-year contract with $800,000 in base salary last month. Minnesota cut its former All-Pro kicker in November because he never did get over as a Viking his shank of a short field goal at the end of a wild-card playoff game in January 2016 that gifted Seattle a win in Minneapolis. That seemed to signal the end of Hauschka’s Seahawks tenure, given Hauschka is four years older and far more expensive heading into unrestricted free agency next week.
That may still be true. But GM didn’t rule out re-signing Hauschka to compete with Walsh this preseason for Seattle’s kicking job,
“No, it doesn’t mean that (Hauschka is automatically gone),” Schneider said. “I think it’s just really, quite honestly, it’s an aspect of unrestricted free agency. You have all your boxes to check. I know it seems kind of cold. We take it personally, because we have such a personal relationship with these guys. Steven’s been phenomenal for us, has done a lot of great things for the Seahawks. We had an opportunity to kind of check a box in free agency with Blair.
“We’ll be looking at somebody else to come in and compete, as well, too. It could be Steven. I’m not sure.
“But with Blair, he was a guy that we call reserve-future signings. He was still out there. A number of teams wanted to sign him. We brought him in, worked him out, got a deal done. It’s kind like checking that box and, OK, take a deep breath and we can move on to what’s next. You go into free agency you have Plan A—but there are 25 other letters in the alphabet. We’ve got like a whole slew of things going on.”