Walter Jones is in his third, stubborn off-season with the franchise tag and no long-term agreement. On the horizon are QB, Matt Hasselbeck and RB, Shaun Alexander as they both enter their final contract year.
All three played in this year’s Pro-Bowl at the marquee offensive positions in the modern NFL. The challenge the Seahawks face is how to fit all three All-Pro contracts – and their signing bonuses – under the salary cap without hampering the growth of a team that’s on the verge?
So far, neither side has blinked in the Walter Jones negotiations despite the fact that $36 million was sitting on the table. Personally, I’d have blinked… but that’s me.
Jones has lost some leverage now that he’s on the backside of his prime having turned 30 this year. He also had his worst season as a pro and many believe his Pro-Bowl invite this year was based more on reputation than actual production on the field. Missing two consecutive summer training camps (do I hear three?) will do that.
Jones gains leverage as his franchise tag one-year tender contract increases by 20% with successive each year. His cap figure for 2004 is over $7 million. That’s a healthy chunk of change to be sure, but even with a 20% annual raise it provides no long-term security against the possibility of a career-ending injury. The other factor on Jones’ side is that the aforementioned Hasselbeck and Alexander contracts expire soon…
The good news for Seahawk fans is that Hasselbeck’s agent, David Dunn, and Bob Whitsitt already had early discussions about a contract extension during the league meetings in Miami last week.
The good news for Matt Hasselbeck is that he’s about to hit the jackpot. He’s finally the franchise quarterback Seattle has never had, he’s in his prime, and… oh, by the way… one year before his contract expires Peyton Manning signed a record $98 million dollar deal with a record $34.5 million signing bonus. Manning and Brett Favre were the only two NFL QB’s who threw for more TD’s than Hasselbeck in 2003. The only question here is if Hasselbeck will get to keep the armored truck too.
Nothing against his QB coach, Jim Zorn, or Dave Krieg, but the quarterbacking history of the Seahawks is not long and illustrious. Mostly, it’s just long. ALL the leverage is on Hasselbeck’s side and only the most delusional detractors will be wishing that Zorn could still be on the field.
Dunn says that Hasselbeck and his family are very happy in Seattle (stop the presses!) and wants to be a Seahawk for years to come.
This deal will get done first.
Because Alexander reached a variety of incentives that were built into his rookie contract over the last two years, he’ll make a little over $3.8 million in 2004. A fair figure considering the numbers #37 has put up.
Entering his contract year it stands to reason that Seattle fans can expect great things out of Alexander in 2004, but questions hang in the air and swirl around him. Whispers have him wanting a featured role that running backs don’t normally find in the west coast offense. Coach Mike Holmgren, in not-so veiled terms, has wished aloud that his star ball carrier would run harder and more decisively. There have even been hints that it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if trade scenarios have been discussed.
That’s an awful lot of smoke. There’s no telling which way this one will go. We might know this weekend, or more likely, the ‘Hawks will let him play out his contract year and make a strong playoff run, and then deal with it.
The wildcard in all this, of course, is club President Bob Whitsitt. It was Whitsitt who was the architect of the record six-year, $33 million deal that Wistrom signed including a $14 million signing bonus that nearly doubled any previous Seahawk scribbled scrip.
Whitsitt brings with him the baggage from his days as GM of the Portland Trailblazers and their free-spending ways and local NFL fans are understandably worried about the Seahawk’s salary cap. The realities are that Whitsitt’s next few contract are likely to be bigger still.
Cap space isn’t free
but it can be bought with the right figures spread over the right number of
years. Whatever those numbers will be they’re guaranteed to be the biggest
in Seattle Seahawks history. They key, as always, is to invest wisely. How these
three deals are made – or not made – will dictate the next several
years of the Seattle Seahawks’ future.
Kristopher Jones is the Executive Editor of, and a regular contributor to, Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him your feedback at Kristopher@Seahawks.Net.