It’s that time of the football year again.
No, not training camp. Not just yet. That begins for the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday morning at team headquarters in Renton.
Before then, the league is full of contract talk — negotiations, signings and rumored negotiations for hypothesized signings.
The Seahawks have all that going on this week.
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John Schneider’s five-year contract extension was first. The deal that owner Paul Allen confirmed on Twitter Sunday night is believed to put the team’s general manager, who is entering his seventh season, at or near the top of the NFL in GM salaries, near $4 million annually.
The Seahawks would not have extended Schneider’s contract, which was set to end after the 2016 season, if they weren’t ready to extend coach Pete Carroll’s deal, too. Carroll’s contract also ends after the upcoming season, and for Seattle his and Schneider’s contracts are like their partnership: a lock-step, two-part deal.
There is no way in the name of Chuck Knox the Seahawks are going to let the chief motivator and leader of the franchise’s most successful six-year run coach during the final season of his contract.
Schneider, 45, is the former personnel assistant for his hometown Green Bay Packers. He has collaborated with Carroll on the Seahawks since 2010. Their run has included Seattle’s first Super Bowl championship following the 2013 season, another Super Bowl appearance the next year and playoff games in five of their six years in charge.
Carroll’s deal he signed in April 2014 is believed to be worth about $9 million per year. His new extension, likely to be through 2021 to mirror Schneider’s, could end up above $10 million annually. That would put Carroll on par with what Bill Belichick gets with New England for the league’s top coaching salary.
Expect the Seahawks to announce soon, perhaps around the start of training camp Saturday or during the upcoming preseason next month, an extension for Carroll to keep the synchronization with Schneider intact for years to come.
One of Schneider’s first acts since agreeing to his new contract was reportedly meeting with the agent for Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett. ESPN.com reported agent Doug Hendrickson was to talk early this week with the Seahawks. The agent for retired Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch became Bennett’s representative this offseason.
For the last year, Bennett has proclaimed to anyone with ears he is unhappy with the contract he signed before the 2014 season. That four-year deal worth $28.5 million has two years remaining. It is scheduled to pay him $4 million in base pay this year. He signed it just before the market at his position jumped past him, which happens in a rich league where the salary cap has been increasing by double-digit percentages for years.
Bennett is coming off a 2015 season in which he had a career-best 10 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl. Yet he is the league’s 27th-highest paid defensive end.
Ends that have accomplished far less than his Super Bowl championship and league-leading 91 quarterback pressures last season (and 162 over the past two seasons) have signed for far more than Bennett did two years ago such as: Fletcher Cox, 25, six years and $102.6 million with Philadelphia; Olivier Vernon, 25, five years for $85 million with the New York Giants; Robert Quinn, 26, four years and $57 million from the Los Angeles Rams.
And so on.
The timing of Bennett’s agent meeting with the Seahawks suggests leverage in the possibility of holding out when he is due to report to camp on Friday. But Bennett vowed last month he will report on time, again. He has been the example of a player protesting a contract the “right” way on the Seahawks, opposite the way four-time Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor showed his unhappiness.
Bennett reported on time to training camp last summer then played in every game, often with a badly sprained toe. Chancellor held out for 54 days from the beginning of the Seahawks’ training camp that season through the regular season’s first two games. Seattle lost both games. Chancellor returned after being subject to fines of more than $2 million, with nothing gained other than animosity. Schneider stuck to his stated principle of not renegotiating contracts with multiple years left on them.
Chancellor posted on Twitter this past Sunday what a mistake his holdout was: “Don’t strive to be rich with Money, strive to be rich in Faith and your Heart!! Be a Great Role Model. we can all do that!!”
He then replied to someone who asked why he held out: “souls get lost sometimes until you remember why you do it ... learn from me.”
NFL players know once they approach or reach 30 years of age the window on their earning potential threatens to slam shut. Bennett turns 31 in November. This time last year, star running back Marshawn Lynch had just turned 30 and he was getting $5 million more up front that he and Hendrickson had negotiated from the Seahawks in 2014. The only injury-filled season of his career later, Lynch is out of football.
That’s why he wants his money now. Carroll has said he agrees with Bennett’s stance and that he wants Bennett to remain a Seahawk. Bennett is scheduled for a 2017 base salary of a non-guaranteed $6 million, and roster bonuses of $1 million this year and $1.5 million next year. Those bonuses are based on the number of games he plays the next two seasons.
Schneider’s first act since his extension may be to reward Bennett’s good soldiering. It may be to agree with Hendrickson to move some, most or all of that $8.5 million in future money into up-front guarantees, as the Seahawks did for Lynch.
And for the team, the move could coincide with an overdue announcement of Carroll getting his new deal.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle