I’d make an awful GM.
I’d draft mostly linemen and then overpay all the broken-down veterans out of a sense of obligation for services rendered.
Joe Nash and Mack Strong might still be Seahawks if I ran the place.
So I’m cautious about telling John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll what they should do to get the Seahawks turned back toward the Super Bowl again.
But if they asked, I’d say the next course of business is to extend (with great ceremony) the contract of strong safety Kam Chancellor, but to sit pat for the time being on tight end Jimmy Graham.
My logic is vague, and weighs the ineffable value of presence.
The Seahawks, for instance, would not be the Seahawks without Kam Chancellor. His play, his leadership, his image is inextricable from the identity of the team at its best.
Graham, meanwhile, still has significant value. But eventually using the money elsewhere doesn’t seem such an outrageous offense.
Making such decisions can be gut-wrenching, literally. Schneider tells the story of when he told his son that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was going to be leaving the Seahawks, and his son hauled off and punched him in the gut.
In the case of Chancellor, how is it possible to dispassionately judge the present and future value of a player who has won games for you and played with enormous heart while bringing honor to the franchise?
But then you have to recognize the realities of age (29 in April) and the bruising style of play that makes him a shaky bet to stay healthy over the length of the next contract.
And there’s the case of the 30-year-old Graham, who rehabbed with such dedication from a serious knee injury that it was considered inspirational to the entire team.
These two are under contract for the next year, and each could play out the final season at values considered pricey but not unreasonable: Chancellor at roughly $8 million, Graham at $10 million.
Nothing needs to be done with either of them before the end of next season.
But Schneider has made a habit of giving early contract extensions to players who are considered part of the foundational core of the team.
For instance, they recently added three years ($31.5 million) to the contract of defensive end Michael Bennett with more than a year remaining on his current contract.
To not do the same for Chancellor, particularly, would carry the feel of a snub. Bruce Irvin and James Carpenter, particularly, were not extended early. Then they were gone.
Other Seahawks are about to become unrestricted free agents, and their values will need to be considered — Steven Hauschka, Luke Willson, Mike Morgan, Marcel Reece, etc. But their situations don’t have the big-money impact of Chancellor and Graham.
Nothing can be done without weighing the opportunity costs of spending salary-cap money (rising to roughly $170 million) elsewhere.
Obvious focus must be on the offensive line, and collecting depth and future-replacement parts across the defense.
Carroll suggested after the season that they’re not inclined to throw big free-agent money at the offensive line on the theory that they’re willing to grow with the young players they have — players who still require an enormous amount of collective ripening.
But there’s no question about Chancellor’s value to the team. His toughness and physical play are hallmarks for the Seahawks. When he speaks in the locker room or on the sidelines, it carries a level of authority that is unquestioned and universally respected.
He missed seven games to injury the past two seasons, though. He surely can be among the league’s best run-stuffing safeties for another couple of seasons. But if he loses a step, will he be a coverage liability?
More worrisome, can his body keep delivering/absorbing the hits he has for seven seasons?
At the end of the season, Carroll reiterated the significance of Chancellor’s presence. So the sense is that something will get done.
The Seahawks could cut or trade Graham with fiscal impunity, but two immeasurables work in his favor.
Graham seems to have become more tightly bound with the Seahawks through his hard-fought rehabbing from a serious knee injury, and also his willingness to become a better on-line blocker.
At times this year, the Seahawks desperately needed his help in run- and pass-blocking, and his improvement and effort was clear and laudable.
Does he earn $10 million for that? Well, no, but you throw in 65 catches and six touchdowns, it’s pretty valuable.
His 14.2-yard average per catch last season was a career high. And if there are questions about his reception numbers, some of the issues could be the result of the team’s inability to fully exploit his skills.
It’s not hard to imagine Graham as a 10-TD a year guy for the Seahawks next season.
Maybe he would rather go elsewhere when his contract here is up. There’s no insult to waiting to see what happens with him in the fall before making a longer-term decision.