Key guys playing big roles in contract years; who might be back?

Salary cap logoThree-quarters of the way through the season, the Seahawks are finally starting to look like the Super Bowl contender we all expected.

Well, not exactly like we all expected.

Having lost three star defenders and their preferred starting running back, while dealing with a variety of other injuries and issues (penalties, offensive line shuffling, etc.), they have had a lot to overcome and have changed in unexpected ways. That explains why it took them 12 games to look like one of the NFC’s top teams.

They have gotten the typical contributions from prime-timers such as Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin, but a lot of new players have chipped in as they ramp up.

“I wish it was a done deal and we knew exactly how everything fits together,” Pete Carroll said, “but we can only go with what we have. But we feel positive about it. We are fairly healthy and we are entering the fourth quarter of this season with hopes of really doing some good work.”

Many potential short-timers figure prominently in the final quarter — Sheldon Richardson, Jimmy Graham, Luke Joeckel, Bradley McDougald, et al. As they help the Seahawks contend for a Super Bowl title, they will be playing for new deals, too.

Before Richard Sherman was injured (and thus guaranteed to be on the team in 2018), we looked at which guys the Hawks might want to try to keep after this season. Some things have changed in the last month, so let’s take another look at which of those guys might be part of the 2018 Seahawks.

SHELDON RICHARDSON
His case: Richardson has been stellar in the middle, vs. both the run and pass. He has made his own plays, like the pick vs. the Rams and the touchback fumble vs. the Eagles, and has helped teammates such as DPOY candidate Wagner make many more. Young Sheldon’s sack numbers aren’t what they were in New York, but he has been involved in a career-high four takeaways.
Carroll said: “Sheldon is really a factor. He is a factor in forcing the line of scrimmage. Think about how much he has been around the football already. Go back to the Rams game and here he is now again (vs. the Eagles). He has been a great facilitator for other guys’ sacks. He has been close, causes the problems and other guys make the sacks. We see the value there.”
His value: Young Sheldon will be double-digit-millions expensive, whether on an extension or the franchise tag (which was $13.5 million this year).
Re-sign? Hopefully. The Hawks can’t count on Malik McDowell to ever play, and Richardson would be a great keep, if possible. But, if they think Nazair Jones and Dion Jordan or Quinton Jefferson will do (for much less), they might cap their offer to Richardson and look forward to the 2019 comp pick if he leaves for a more lucrative deal.

JIMMY GRAHAM
His case: Since a rough first month to this season, Graham has lit up the end zone. The Seahawks have finally figured out how to use him in the red zone — he leads all NFL players in RZ targets (25) and touchdowns (9). He has set team TE records for season and career TDs (17), becoming the weapon John Schneider thought he would be when he traded for him in 2015.
Wilson said: “He’s hotter than ever. … He’s hot as can be and he’s making plays and just doing his job really, really well. … He’s a touchdown machine.”
His value: The 31-year-old is making $10 million, which is still top of the TE market, and he now can argue he should stay at the top.
Re-sign? Possibly. The Hawks could afford to keep him for maybe $9 million a year for another three years. It’s worth trying, especially now that they have finally started using him to better effect. But no reason to give him a raise.

LUKE JOECKEL
His case: Joeckel’s five-game absence after knee surgery was not a big surprise, considering his injury history. He has been called for two penalties all season and has given up two sacks (one vs. the Eagles). The Seahawks want him and Duane Brown to develop some veteran rapport on the left side. If they do, the Hawks will be interested in bringing Joeckel back (Brown is signed through 2018 and figures to get an extension at some point next year).
Carroll said: “You can see the mix of Luke working with Duane over there. … We have the opportunity to improve our play up front and get better and keep getting better. We have been improving as we have been going here, particularly in the pass protection stuff, and I’m hoping that we can keep making that move. It’s only natural that that should happen.”
His value: The Hawks probably aren’t going to pay Joeckel $7 million or $8 million again, but they could afford to bring him back at maybe $5.5 million, plus GP incentives. That would still pay him (APY) among the top 10 left guards (although not in the top 20 guards overall).
Re-sign? Maybe. If he plays well next to Brown and is willing to come back on an incentive-heavy deal, he could be worth it. If not, the Hawks will have to find someone else for left guard next year.

BRADLEY McDOUGALD
His case: The veteran safety has proven his versatility, filling for both Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. He had his best game against Philadelphia and has proven to be worth every cent of the $2 million the Hawks gave him in a one-year deal. With Chancellor’s future up in the air, McDougald would seem to be a priority re-sign.
Carroll said: “I think Bradley is showing you that he is a legitimate football player and he can step in and do stuff.”
His value: McDougald’s value could soar into the $7 million range. Although, two good starting seasons in Tampa Bay didn’t get him much last offseason, so the Hawks might be able to retain him at more like $3 million plus incentives.
Re-sign? Yes, if possible. If Chancellor retires, it will give the Hawks $2.3 million more to use on McDougald. Even if Chancellor does not retire, the Hawks will be able to afford McDougald if he has the same tepid market as this year.

PAUL RICHARDSON
His case: Richardson picked the right time to have the best season of his heretofore injury-plagued career. In his contract season, he has set career highs with 37 catches, 592 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers should get even better over the final month.
Carroll said: “He is really doing well. Oh jeez, he continues to make spectacular plays. … The contribution is obvious. It is really fun to see him so confident now. He has just grown so much. … He really believes in himself and he knows that we believe in him as well. All of that has fit together really well, and it has made him a really special player in the program.”
His value: The former second-round pick has earned himself some money this year, probably something around $6 million a year.
Re-sign? No. The Hawks can’t afford to re-sign both Tyler Lockett and Richardson, and Lockett doubles as their return guy, so he probably will get the offer. Amara Darboh was drafted in the third round for a reason — to replace Richardson.

JUSTIN COLEMAN
His case: Acquired from New England just before the season, Coleman has been a stellar nickel corner. He returned a pick for a TD vs. Indy and came up with a blitz sack against Philly. He will be a restricted free agent, so the Hawks can retain him at a reasonable price, if they wish. And they should.
Carroll said: “He has done a great job. He has been active and very tight and very aggressive in his coverage. He has been a great addition. That is really John (Schneider) and his guys figuring that out. They pulled him off the film and got him to us, and it’s worked out really well.”
His value: A second-round tender was worth $2.75 million this year, so figure it might be around $3 million next year.
Re-sign? Yes. Should be an easy call to bring him back.

MIKE DAVIS
His case: It’s a small sample so far, but Davis sure looks like he should be in the top two, with Chris Carson, next year (barring a draft pick who beats out both). Davis showed his full repertoire against the Eagles, catching six passes and rushing for 64 yards. On a nifty 22-yard run, he showed something the Hawks haven’t had since Marshawn Lynch and 2015 Thomas Rawls — quick feet and tackle-breaking ability.
Carroll said: “Mike plays really aggressive. He demonstrates his quickness and toughness. He’s got a nice combination and the fact that he catches the ball well, too, gives him a chance to be a well-rounded player. We haven’t had a lot of shots at him showing us his stuff, but we saw enough in preseason, and his preseason stuff has carried over to the few opportunities he has had.”
His value: He’ll be an RFA, so the Hawks could tender him at original-round level (he was a fourth-round pick by San Francisco in 2015). That might cost $2 million. Or perhaps the Hawks won’t bother to spend money at this position, figuring they can keep Davis for the minimum and have him battle Carson and a rookie.
Re-sign? Yes, but not for much. He hasn’t show enough yet to be tendered, but he could over the next month and the playoffs.

Note: DeShawn Shead’s contract should toll, meaning the Seahawks would get him for $1.2 million again in 2018. If the CBA is wrong on that count, the Seahawks would have to decide what Shead is worth.
Non-priority/minimum UFAs: Luke Willson, Eddie Lacy, Byron Maxwell, Marcus Smith, Blair Walsh, Michael Wilhoite, Oday Aboushi, Terence Garvin, Matt Tobin, Austin Davis.
Non-tender RFAs: Dion Jordan, Dewey McDonald, Thomas Rawls.
Top ERFAs: J.D. McKissic, Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson, Tyler Ott.

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2 thoughts on “Key guys playing big roles in contract years; who might be back?”

  1. I wonder whether Seattle will move on from Bennett, who will be 33 next season. Dead money will make him tough to cut, but the way his contract is structured might make him attractive as trade bait to a team with cap room. Admittedly, they wouldn’t get much other than freeing up cap space.

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  2. Bennett is playing very well this year despite his plantar fascia injury. Considering he just signed a new deal, I think he stays another year and maybe retires after 2018. I think the Hawks expect him to end his career with them.

    Liked by 1 person

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