A closer look at SeaHawks’ contracts

Published on December 28, 2010 by     T.C.

The Seattle Seahawks have an opportunity on Sunday night to end a two-year drought and go to the playoffs for just the 11th time in franchise history. For many long-time members of the Seahawks—Matt Hasselbeck, Sean Locklear, Craig Terrill, Jordan Babineaux—it could be the last time they patrol the home sidelines at Qwest Field.

Below is a position-by-position contractual breakdown for the Seahawks:

Quarterback

Signed (Through): Charlie Whitehurst (2011)

UFA: Matt Hasselbeck, J.P. Losman

Notes: Hasselbeck will be a free agent after this season, and could be making his final appearance on the home sidelines at Qwest Field on Sunday night. Signing Hasselbeck to an extension wouldn’t necessarily preclude the Seahawks from keeping Whitehurst and/or drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Whitehurst’s two-year, $8 million contract was actually a one-year extension worth $6.824 million, of which only a $2 million roster bonus from last March was guaranteed before the 2010 regular season began. Whitehurst is set to earn $4 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2011, and if Seattle re-signs Hasselbeck and drafts a quarterback in April, and Whitehurst doesn’t earn the starting or top back-up job, Seattle can release or trade Whitehurst with no cap implications for 2011.

That flexibility may hinge upon whether or not the NFLPA agrees to sacrifice the rookies in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Currently, first-round picks receive the bulk of their contracts in the second year and beyond. For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, the 17th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, received a 5-year, $36M contract that included just $1.38 million in total compensation as a rookie.

Under the NFL’s proposal for a more team-friendly “rookie wage scale”, which they allege would steer $200 million annually towards veteran and retired players, first-round picks will receive standardized signing bonuses and base salaries, but will be locked into five-year deals (six for quarterbacks) with the league requiring them to three years before they can renegotiate their contract. (Current rookie contracts can be negotiated after two years.)

Running Back

Signed (Through): Justin Forsett (2011), Marshawn Lynch (2012*)

UFA: Chris Henry, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington

Notes: According to NFLPA records, Lynch is signed through the 2012 season. By achieving minimal playing-time requirements, however, that season will void, making 2011 the final year of his rookie contract. With two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, Lynch will add $1 million to his scheduled $1.14 million base salary next season.

Robinson signed a one-year deal in September, and while he’s not a traditional fullback, has played well at times on offense and is a core special teams player. Acquired from the New York Jets, Washington has returned kicks at his Pro Bowl level from 2008 while earning $1.759 million in base salary under the restricted free agent tender. Washington hasn’t received much playing time on offense, and could look for an increased opportunity elsewhere in the off-season. At the very least, Washington’s agent will be looking for a contract similar to what Cleveland Browns wide receiver/two-time Pro Bowl return specialist Josh Cribbs signed last off-season. (3-years, $20M, $7.5M guaranteed).

Wide Receiver

Signed (Through): Deon Butler (2012), Golden Tate (2013)

Exclusive Rights: Dominique Edison, Patrick Williams

UFA: Ruvell Martin, Ben Obomanu, Isaiah Stanback, Brandon Stokley,Mike Williams

Notes: Obomanu is playing under the one-year restricted free agent tender, and with a new collective bargaining agreement, will be an unrestricted free agent in the off-season along with Williams. Because both signed new contracts, Obomanu and Williams have been eligible to receive contract extensions during this season. Given that this was the first year Obomanu has produced on offense, and Williams’ self-admitted bouts with laziness, along with him missing games with various bumps and bruises, the Seahawks have been smart to take a prudent approach to extending these plays.

A new CBA will presumably contain a franchise tag mechanism, which could be used on Williams, though recent contract extensions, particularly the one signed by Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin, would push the value of the wide receiver tag to nearly $12 million guaranteed for one season.

Tight End

Signed (Through): Chris Baker (2011), John Carlson (2011), Cameron Morrah (2012), Anthony McCoy (2013), Jameson Konz (2013)

Notes: After using 2-TE sets on less than 16% of the offensive snaps during 2008-09 seasons, the Seahawks have used 2-TEs on 42.7% of the snaps in Jeremy Bates’ system. Given the prominent role the position plays—elevated slightly by the injuries to Michael Robinson and Mike Williams, which pressed Carlson into a fullback role and Morrah into a wideout role—this crew figures to remain intact during the off-season.

Carlson, Morrah, McCoy, and Konz are earning the league minimum. The only decision facing the front office concerns Baker, who has a $500,000 roster bonus due on the 7th day of the league year, which will begin when a new CBA is reached.

Offensive Tackles

Signed (Through): Russell Okung (2015), Breno Giacomini (2011), William Robinson (2011)

Restricted: Tyler Polumbus

UFA: Sean Locklear

Notes: Okung is scheduled to receive a significant chunk of his six-year, $58 million contract in 2011. Seattle acquired the final year of Polumbus’ contract, and will presumably bring him back to compete for the right tackle job. Locklear agreed to a restructured contract in September, slashing his 2010 base salary and voiding the final two years of the five-year, $32 million contract he signed in February of 2008.

Offensive Guard/Centers

Signed (Through): Stacy Andrews (2014), Mike Gibson (2011), Paul Fanaika (2011), Max Unger (2012)

Exclusive Rights: Lemuel Jeanpierre

UFA: Chris Spencer, Chris White, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts

Notes: Andrews lost his starting right guard job and has been a healthy scratch the last two weeks, making it unlikely that the Seahawks bring him back at the $5.75 million in total compensation he’s due to make in 2011. Gibson has started at both guard spots, and Fanaika was signed off the Browns’ practice squad earlier this month. Unger, the team’s second-round pick in 2008, could make the move to center this off-season if Spencer is allowed to depart in free agency.

Defensive Ends

Signed (Through): Chris Clemons (2012), Dexter Davis (2013), Red Bryant (2011)

Exclusive Rights: Derek Walker

UFA: Raheem Brock, Jay Richardson

Notes: Acquired along with a fourth-round pick (E.J. Wilson) for restricted free agent Darryl Tapp, Clemons has been productive (team-high 10 ½ quarterback sacks) at a bargain rate ($1.2 million base salary) this season. Clemons’ base salary is scheduled to be $2.3 million (non-guaranteed) in 2011, a figure that could increase by as much as $800,000. Clemons also has a $100,000 workout bonus and nearly $2 million in performance incentives next season.

Defensive Tackles

Signed (Through): Colin Cole (2013), Kentwan Balmer (2012)

UFA: Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill, Amon Gordon, Junior Siavii

Notes: An extension for Mebane has been high on many fans’ wish-lists this season. But the “30% Rule” limiting the amount a player’s “salary” (defined by base salary plus amounts not treated as a signing bonus) could increase or decrease in an extension likely has prevented a deal. For Mebane, this limited the amount his salary could increase to $138,000, or 30% of his $460,000 base salary from 2009, in any extension signed during 2010.

Though several teams (Philadelphia with Kevin Kolb, San Francisco with Patrick Willis, and Washington with Donovan McNabb) demonstrated multiple ways to navigate around the 30% rule, the Seahawks apparently prefer to wait for a new CBA to address Mebane’s contract situation. Through playing-time incentives in his rookie contract, Mebane’s base salary did increase from $550,000 to $1.101 million for this season.

Cole is scheduled to earn $3.75 million in non-guaranteed base salary in third season of a five-year, $21.4 million, a modest $500,000 increase over this year’s rate. Balmer is entering the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal, and in addition to a non-guaranteed $622,000 base salary, has in-season roster bonuses totaling $150,000.

Linebackers

Signed (Through): Lofa Tatupu (2015), Aaron Curry (2014), David Hawthorne (2011), Anthony Heygood (2011)

Exclusive: Joe Pawelek*, Michael Johnson, Vuna Tuihalamaka

UFA: Will Herring, Matt McCoy, Leroy Hill

Notes: Hawthorne signed a one-year extension in late November, which may prompt Herring to take the Niko Koutouvides Expressway out of Seattle by seeking a starting opportunity elsewhere in the off-season. After an injury-plagued 2009 season, and several high profile off-field incidents, Hill dramatically restructured his contract and didn’t play a down on defense before landing on injured reserve.

Signed to a one-year deal, McCoy has a team-high 15 tackles on special teams this season. In addition to being part of the “Core Four” special teams units (kick/punt return coverage), the 28-year old has a history with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and possesses the versatility to play several linebacker positions.

Pawelek was activated from the practice squad, and is likely signed for 2011, as well.

Cornerbacks

Signed (Through): Marcus Trufant (2013), Walter Thurmond (2013), Marcus Brown (2011)

Exclusive Rights: Roy Lewis, Kennard Cox, Josh Pinkard

UFA: Jordan Babineaux, Kelly Jennings

Notes: Trufant is scheduled to earn a non-guaranteed $5.9 million base salary in the fourth year of his six-year contract extension, which is just a $200,000 increase over what he’s earning this season. The now 30-year old corner has $16 million coming in 2012-13, which means a restructure is likely coming after next season.

Babineaux, 28, was released and re-signed before the season, but brings size, experience, versatility, and play-making ability to the table, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Seahawks bring him back.

Safeties

Signed (Through): Earl Thomas (2014), Kam Chancellor (2013)

UFA: Lawyer Milloy

Notes: Like Okung, Thomas will receive a significant portion of his five-year, $21.1 million contract this off-season. Milloy  turned 37 last month, but if he’s interested in returning, it’s hard to imagine that the Seahawks wouldn’t want his veteran presence back to help influence the younger members of the secondary.

Specialists

Signed (Through): Jon Ryan (2015), Clint Gresham (2012)

UFA: Olindo Mare

Notes: Three of Mare’s five missed field goal attempts have been from 40+ yards, and the 37-year old still ranks in the Top 5 in touchback percentage on kickoffs.

Signed Through Breakdown, by Position

Position 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
QB 1 0 0 0 0
RB 2 1 0 0 0
WR 2 2 1 0 0
TE 5 3 2 0 0
OT 3 1 1 1 1
G/C 4 2 1 1 0
DE 3 2 1 0 0
DT 2 2 1 0 0
LB 4 2 2 2 1
CB 3 2 2 0 0
S 2 2 2 1 0
ST 2 2 1 1 1
Total 33 21 14 6 3

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