The new contract affects Curry’s future beyond 2011, though. It recognizes the reality that this is not going to be the long-term marriage both sides hoped for when Curry was chosen with the No. 4 overall selection of the 2009 draft.
The original deal was for six years with a maximum potential value of $60 million. Curry was guaranteed to receive $34 million. The new contract now expires after 2012, but even that is not a given as the final year of Curry’s salary is no longer guaranteed. That gives more flexibility to both the player and the team, and makes it very much a question whether Curry is a Seahawk in 2012.
Here’s what you need to know regarding this deal:
1. This was a mutual decision
That makes it different from many contract restructurings, which essentially amount to a team requesting the player take a pay cut. Well, actually they don’t request it so much as ask the player take a pay cut or be cut. That is the kind of “restructuring” Lofa Tatupu was asked to accept.
Curry’s situation is different. Seattle was not going to cut Curry. Not with the amount of money that was guaranteed under the terms of that contract both in 2011 and 2012.
So why did this get done? Well, Curry was willing to give up the provision that his 2012 base salary was guaranteed in order to have the final two seasons of the contract removed. Seattle may have seen that like selling the sleeves off a vest as Curry was unlikely to remain on the team for the final two years of the contract as it was. But this kind of forces the issue with Curry’s future and creates a clearer timeline that Curry may be able to find a new role — likely with a different team — after this season and certainly after 2012.
2. Role playing
At the core of this discussion is that Curry is playing a role for the Seahawks that is not commensurate with the size of his salary. This is not entirely Curry’s fault. There is a school of thought that he could excel as a weakside linebacker. He remains firmly a strongside ‘backer in Seattle’s scheme.
The Seahawks tried Aaron Curry as a pass rusher last season. They rushed him off the edge and even placed him at defensive end in some nickel situations. This was an experiment of sorts. He did not rush the passer in college, and was not particularly successful at it in the NFL outside the first five games of his rookie season. It was an attempt by this Seahawks’ coaching staff to try and find a more valuable role for Curry than simply playing strongside linebacker.
That’s what he is this season: he is strictly a linebacker and is on the field in nickel situations. And given Seattle’s hybrid-type defense, he is playing a role that is similar to a strongside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, not a particularly valuable position.
That doesn’t mean he won’t be effective at that spot. In fact, his ability to manhandle the tight end on rushing plays lets Seattle set the edge on its rush defense. From the team’s perspective, that role doesn’t justify the size of his contract. From Curry’s perspective, that role doesn’t let him fulfill all of his potential.
3. Arranged marriage
This Seahawks’ front office did not draft Curry, and the coaching staff did not stand on the table and beat the drum to choose him. Both sides are trying to make this work, and so far, he’s not in a role that measures up to either the expectations he has of his play or of the draft and contract considerations for Curry.
4. Curry expects better days ahead
Curry gave up the provision that his 2012 salary of about $5 million be guaranteed. This doesn’t mean he’s necessarily giving up that money, though. He could play well enough Seattle wants to keep him or Seattle can trade him to another team, which likely would want to offer him a new contract, or he could wind up a free agent and signing elsewhere.
Players do not usually give up a guarantee of that size, and that Curry would amounts to a vote of confidence that he can excel in a different situation and potentially recoup that money.