Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville Jaguars did the Seahawks no favors Thursday when they blew up the receiver market by lavishing a rich contract on Allen Hurns.
The four-year deal that reportedly could be worth $11 million a season figures to complicate contract talks between Seattle and Doug Baldwin.
It has always been expected that Baldwin would seek at least $10 million a year, based on his career-best 2015 season, which featured 78 catches, 1,069 yards and an NFL-best 14 touchdowns.
But, to Seattle, Baldwin really isn’t worth more than about $8 million a year. And now the Seahawks will have to decide whether to overpay Baldwin the way the Jags seemingly overpaid Hurns.
The difference: The Jaguars can afford to blow money — with few star players, they have tons of cap space to burn (and have to, per the CBA).
Hurns, the Jags’ No. 2 receiver, joins a mostly elite bunch in the $10 million club: A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb. Baldwin surely will seek to join that crew.
NFL teams have long overpaid wide receivers, failing to realize most are a dime a dozen. The Seahawks have fallen into that trap as much as anyone, breaking the bank for Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin over the past decade. Not one of those guys was worth the outlay. Schneider himself overpaid both Rice and Harvin, and he also traded for $10 million tight end Jimmy Graham.
Schneider gave Harvin a contract worth $11 million a year because the GM expected a unique game changer (it was a major gamble that he lost), and he was willing to accept Graham’s contract because the tight end was among the top players at his position. But is Baldwin worth it?
Baldwin has turned into an excellent receiver — especially from the slot. And he has matured greatly from the chucklehead who scored a “turddown” in Super Bowl XLIX and defiantly refused to admit how wrong he was until weeks later.
Baldwin and Russell Wilson got into the zone during the second half of last season, playing better than just about any quarterback-receiver tandem. But odds are they won’t do that again.
The Seahawks have added a lot of new weapons for Wilson — C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins, Nick Vannett — and Paul Richardson is back from injury. Add them to Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse — and Thomas Rawls and Graham when they are healthy — and it’s pretty hard to see Baldwin repeating his 2015 numbers.
Besides, the Seahawks are a running team, and they used almost their entire draft to bolster that part of their game. They have no reason to pay a receiver $10 million.
Of course, Schneider has been more than fair when re-signing homegrown players. He overpaid Red Bryant and Kam Chancellor and paid top dollar to deserving guys such as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Marshawn Lynch.
But he also kept Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril at below-market prices while eschewing big deals for Golden Tate, Byron Maxwell, Bruce Irvin and others because their market value did not fit the Seahawks’ budget.
Schneider has made it clear that Seattle will proceed judiciously with its cap. Even though the Seahawks will have good cap space in 2017 and probably could pay Baldwin more than $8 million, would they be willing to overpay him?
Baldwin recently said he expects to start talking about an extension very soon (he told 710 ESPN today that those talks have not begun), but the Hurns deal figures to make those talks even tougher.
Assuming he does indeed ask for $10 million or more, it seems pretty likely that Baldwin will have to play out his deal and prove he really is worth $10 million.