Here’s another reason teams don’t often reach consecutive Super Bowls, let alone three in a row.
From the Don’t-Forget-About-Me corner of the Seahawks: NFL Network reported Wednesday that thumping strong safety Kam Chancellor wants more money, and to get it, he is considering a holdout from training camp, which begins Friday at team headquarters in Renton.
That’s right. Two days before training camp begins, in the middle of trying one final time to get a tricky, long-awaited contract extension done for franchise quarterback Russell Wilson — and with Michael Bennett complaining about his cash one year into a four-year deal, Bruce Irvin irked that Seattle didn’t pick up his option for next year, and All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner also needing an extension that may cost at least $10million per year — the Seahawks have another potential issue.
This one, if the report is accurate, could be with their hugely popular and productive strong safety just as Seattle’s quest for a third consecutive NFC championship begins.
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No team has reached three consecutive Super Bowls since the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills led by Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas. The end of Buffalo’s run was a year before the NFL instituted its first salary cap. That changed forever franchises’ ability to keep core players happy on championship teams for years and years, and spawned the current era of general league parity.
Chancellor has three seasons and $16.45million in base salary remaining on the four-year extension he signed in April 2013. All of his $4.45million salary for this coming season is guaranteed. His base pay of $5.1million for 2016 and $6.8million for 2017 is not guaranteed, and that could be the source for sending up this flare.
He turned 27 in April, which, of course, isn’t ancient. But with his hard-hitting style and the myriad injuries he’s had — a hip surgery before last season, bone spurs in his feet for which he contemplated surgery last September, balky ankles and knees, then a medial-collateral ligament injury two days before February’s Super Bowl, for which he avoided surgery this offseason — Chancellor may be seeking Marshawn Lynch-like, additional guaranteed money transferred from later to now, while he can.
Chancellor may be the most respected player inside the Seahawks’ locker room. The team’s 2014 season took off from 6-4 mediocrity to a 12-4 finish, another NFC West title and the conference’s top playoff seed for the second consecutive year after Chancellor uncharacteristically stood in front of the team just before kickoff of a key November home game against Arizona. He gave what teammate K.J. Wright called the best, most fiery and impassioned pregame speech he’d ever heard.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has made it a team policy to not renegotiate deals that have multiple years remaining. He made something of an exception before last season — by adding more guaranteed money from later to an up-front payment — to get Lynch into training camp a week late.
That crack in the GM’s door is what Chancellor may be seeking to push through.
The Seahawks have about $9.3million remaining under the 2015 salary cap, with Wilson and Wagner still priorities 1 and 2 — and the quarterback the most high-pressure issue over the next two days. That wouldn’t appear to leave more than a couple of nickels left for anyone else.
As for Chancellor’s mates in Seattle’s star-packed secondary, the only other concern entering camp is free safety Earl Thomas. He played the second half of January’s NFC championship and then Super Bowl 49 on Feb. 1 with a separated left shoulder and torn labrum. He had surgery Feb. 24. The estimated recovery time then was six to eight months — which would be Aug. 24 to Oct. 24. The Seahawks’ opener is Sept. 13 at St. Louis.
Thomas is entering his sixth NFL season (all with Seattle). He has yet to miss a game in 80 regular-season and eight postseason starts.
Thomas took part in some individual position drills last month while wearing a helmet and no pads during organized team activities. In late June, coach Pete Carroll said Thomas was “seemingly great.”
“He’s really excited about where he is and his ability to do all the stuff and run around. They just want to wait all the time that they can,” Carroll said of Seahawks doctors.
“He should be ready and raring to go.”
But last week Thomas told ESPN that he wasn’t sure he’d be ready when the season starts.
“I’m unsure about everything at this point,” Thomas told the network. “I will find out more when I get back to Seattle on (Thursday) when I take my physical.”
Those are the examinations that players will undergo in Renton upon reporting for training camp.
Richard Sherman had a great offseason while preparing for his fifth Seahawks training camp. The All-Pro cornerback welcomed a baby boy in February, days after playing in the Super Bowl. Sherman is relieved that he avoided the ligament-replacement surgery he initially thought he would need on his left elbow. Chancellor banged into Sherman’s arm while both were trying to make a sideline tackle in the second half of the NFC title game against Green Bay.
Sherman has a new starter on the right side opposite him. Seattle signed free agent cornerback Cary Williams from Philadelphia, and before that from a Super Bowl championship team in Baltimore, to an $18million, three-year contract to replace Byron Maxwell. The Seahawks guaranteed all of Williams’ $3.5million salary for 2015 after Maxwell left for the Eagles in free agency.
The new nickel back, at least for the first few games this season, appears to be Will Blackmon. The 30-year-old formerly with Jacksonville signed a nonguaranteed, one-year deal worth $950,000 to fill in for Jeremy Lane. Lane sustained a compound fracture in his arm and needed knee surgery after getting tackled on an interception return early in Super Bowl 49.
Lane is likely to begin camp and the regular season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list. If so, he would be eligible to return following the sixth week of the regular season.
Cornerback Tharold Simon is returning from a shoulder injury and an up-and-down 2014 season in which he was often penalized and, after Lane got hurt in the Super Bowl, burned by New England’s Tom Brady for two touchdowns. Marcus Burley, back this season after a trade with Indianapolis at the end of the 2014 preseason, was a surprisingly effective fill-in at nickel when Lane was injured earlier last season.
Versatile DeShawn Shead, who can play cornerback and safety, is getting increasing roles on special teams and thus is a candidate for a spot on the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason.
The Seahawks used May’s draft to get some potential depth. Coaches like the cover skills of Tye Smith, a 6-foot cornerback from Towson who Seattle selected in the fifth round.
The most intriguing undrafted rookie to watch in the secondary during camp: Keenan Lambert. The former Norfolk State strong safety is Chancellor’s half-brother.
The 6-foot, 209-pound Lambert impressed his big brother enough during OTAs and last month’s minicamp that Chancellor said it looked like “he belongs here.”
Legion of Boom, 2015
How staff writer Gregg Bell sees the depth chart in the Seahawks’ secondary entering training camp (listed in rank order):
Jeremy Lane (likely to PUP list to begin season)