Mo Money, Mo Problems

I would love to talk about Pete Carroll’s assumed contract extension & plans beyond 2016, but they’re giving us nada there from the VMAC. Just speculation at this point.  I have some guesses as to what’s going on currently and what Pete’s future holds, but it horrifies 12s to even broach the subject, so… Let’s talk about No-Longer-Angry Doug Baldwin instead! He is awesome and a spicy topic brimming with currency, so here goes!

First we need to review what is now becoming a strong resume for Doug, & balance that with what the Seahawks long-term goals are likely to be. Doug came to the Seattle as a cheap, passionate, overachiever by any measure. I’m sure he knew he’d be successful all along, but while passionate and overachiever still apply, he is cheap no longer! He will look to secure a bright future for his family on the next deal. There will be no hometown discounts, no fondness for teammates or sympathy for chemistry in our passing scheme. He deserves to get PAID. And paid he shall be. But what is “paid” as defined by Doug? But also what will the market bare, and what can Seahawks afford?

This is the sentimental feeling of most 12s, including myself. Doug is a #1 WR legit baller in our hearts. I recently quizzed Doug about the situation & the following includes his responses. This is what he was willing to share, which wasn’t much…

Now, if you follow my Twitter timeline you know I always seek to get the hidden story and keep it real. Maybe Doug found a connection there with his approach to truth, justice & the American Way. I don’t know. But I recently noticed he followed my pre-draft blog @HawksDraftNews closely and began sliding into my DMs with responses to his contract situation and how that may effect the Seahawks draft strategy. I would lay out some scenarios, and Doug, like a good editor, would let me know if I was hot or cold. Here is what we think might be going on.

“Slidin’ into your DM’s like…”

CfOGUY4UEAA4-Mt

In fairness to Doug, he himself doesn’t know what-up with his contract because Pete & John aren’t sharing their plans with him at the moment. All he’s heard is what we’ve heard, which is, “We’ll see what’s up after the Draft.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. In fact, THUD. Despite Schneider saying PR-ish things on the radio like, “Doug Baldwin is everything the Seahawks are about,” they aren’t talking contract.

Now, it could be the sides come together any day & a deal gets done going into OTAs, but its unusual that they haven’t approached him earlier. In fact, Seahawks are approaching the Baldwin deal in the same fashion as they have with others they intended to let test free agency. And it makes sense. The guys you really believe are going to maintain production, you lock them in early at a discount. Others, you let simmer.

It may be that the Seahawks believe Doug’s asking price will be too high. Baldwin insists that this line of reasoning is not accurate. What he does seem to acknowledge though, is that the team is likely to make him a Golden Tate-type offer which he will be forced to beat elsewhere.

Doug Baldwin Jr

“Smartest things I’ve read in a long time. I applaud you.”

Doug Baldwin – Mar 25

I inquired about whether a team that throws so little, and is looking to feature their big-ticket TE more, could pay both Doug & Tyler long-term. It’s a giant question mark, but naturally, Doug feels it is doable, maybe understanding that this whole thing rests on the health of Jimmy Graham, because you know Tyler Lockett is gettin paid!

One interesting element here that could provide hope for a Jimmy, Doug & Ty triplets in the future is the rise of Garry Gilliam at LT. It was suggested recently by another Seahawks blogger, Evan Hill, that a good move financially for the Seahawks this offseason would be to lock-up Gilliam at LT cheaply, right now. I agree.

What John absolutely can NOT have happen is for Garry Gilliam to have a breakout season in his contract year. Couple that with Doug’s free agency next March, and that would spell financial and/or roster disaster for the offensive cap. Essentially, the additional money to pay Baldwin could come from the vacated LT cap afforded them by Okung leaving & rewarding Gilliam cheaply. A huge gamble. But a smart gamble, and one that wouldn’t cost them a lot to try. Worst case scenario, Gilliam is below-average and becomes the swing man. They are still looking for a LT but have kept Baldwin & Jimmy intact, until you need Jimmy’s money for whatever other pressing need upon expiry. Judging by how Gilliam stacks up athletically to the other top LT prospects in this year’s draft, as well as the way he is looking coming into OTA’s? Mercy. I think you can take a flyer on him, expecting him to be a useful piece across the OL for a few years at least.

But the question remains: What is Doug Baldwin worth? And, what can Doug expect to get? Well, he’s certainly worth more on the open market, and, he isn’t likely to get anything near that with the Seahawks. In 2015, a set of rare circumstance occurred that propelled Doug’s production into the Seattle stratosphere. It’s unlikely to be the case again. With Graham, Lynch and Rawls sidelined, Baldwin finally got a moment in the sun. Those moments don’t last for Seahawks receivers, sadly. But could Baldwin have gone into November as Deion Branch and emerged in December as Andre Johnson? I think it’s safe to assume that Doug’s numbers will likely regress back to the mean in 2016, which is still a darn good player, but a return to “bully status” for the Seahawks likely means less passing than the historic 51% of plays by Pete’s offense in 2015.

Wisely, the VMAC jury on what Doug’s production (not value to the locker room or what kind of UDFA feel-good story he is) might be, is still out. We all agree that a team with Doug Baldwin on it, has gritty attitude and will never ever give up or take their eyes off the prize for a moment.

Uhhh, like… Numbers?

Now, it’s easy to throw numbers around, but at some point it just sounds stupid to me to split hairs over whose a $7M guy, but not a $8M guy. So let’s look at the cap situation for clues in interpreting some of the projections we’re hearing. Doug recently signed for 3 years at $13M. So basically, he’s been a $4M guy. It was his 2nd deal with the Seahawks as a RFA in 2014. At that point, they knew who he was and what he could do. So even by factoring in cap inflation, how would it be possible for a $4M guy to potentially become a $10M guy? It’s a long road. But here’s how that would work within today’s NFL.

Though spending on WRs, as a measure of total cap %, has doubled between 2014 & 2016 (numbers courtesy Sportrac.com) from approximately 4% to 8%, Seahawks still remain in the bottom third of spending on WRs league-wide. Even in the biggest cap years for Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice, spending on receivers has never exceeded 8% of the total salary cap. Even when the Seahawks relatively splurge on a WR, the % of spending remains constant. What this suggests for Baldwin is that, even though the total salary cap continues to rise, the importance of the WR position and the money allocated to his position is unlikely to change significantly.

Doug Baldwin’s 2016 cap number is $6.325M which is already more than half the total spending by the Seahawks on the position in total, holding steady at the expected 8.03% of total cap expenditure. This feels like a ceiling for the Seahawks, and historically has been, regardless of who’s been catching balls for them.

As I’ve suggested in the past, John Schneider isn’t a talent evaluator. He’s a talent appreciator. He assigns contract values to Pete Carroll’s talents as a measure of scheme importance in the overall process of roster building. It’s a cost control mechanism that allows them to plan for and continue to field what they believe is a Championship contending team for years to come. Breaking the bank for one player at a non-critical position doesn’t seem to be in the Seahawks DNA. Regardless of Doug Baldwin’s talent, there are precious few possible valuations on his scheme-importance that could exceed a certain % of John’s cap.

I understand comments that value Doug’s locker room leadership, but I give him less credit for this than most. This team does not lack leaders. I believe it has value, but I’m not specifically tryna pay for that element of the player, if I’m John Schneider and the Seahawks.

Further, I would hesitate to pay a premium for Baldwin’s brand of leadership, that leads to confrontations & casts a shadow on Russell Wilson & Pete Carroll. Didn’t we all watch as RGIII was slain in the media this past week for his “Unacceptable” speech to his Redskins coaches? I ask you, how is what Doug Baldwin does on sidelines and in tunnels beneath stadiums any different? We all assume it’s coming from a good place, a competitive place. Steve Smith has been cited as an example of an irreverent guy on the good side of being outspoken.

I’m willing to give “Angry Doug” the benefit of the doubt, but he’s walked a very thin line on the heels of the Percy Harvin rebellion. Marshawn too, had continually tested the bounds of what was acceptable behavior in the locker room and on the field in challenging the coaching staff. It may not seem like a big thing when a player of Lynch’s status wants to make a statement like flipping-off Darrell Bevell in the midst of a goal-line stand (and YES, they should have ran it pretty much every time, including SB49), but does the organization benefit from that when every player with an opinion feels it’s his turn to speak up or act out?

Doug has crossed the line, likely more than once, but has been forgiven. But is that welcomed? Will that be invested in? Are we to expect tantrums & altercations every time there is adversity within a season now from Baldwin? And will coaches and teammates continue to forgive him? This is not pure leadership, but it’s certainly emotional baggage that Pete & John may wish to distance themselves from in a bright new future at the position.

A Whole New Man!

This is a future in which Baldwin sees himself as Seahawk, and following a marriage this spring, could also explain why he is turning away from the Angry Doug personae. He’s now, somewhat less-than- angry, I guess? But I don’t believe there is any losing your edge as a player. Not for someone as natural a competitor as Baldwin. He can repress it, but we know the dawg is still in there somewhere, champing to get loose. And it should. It makes him special.

But also, another 8%-of cap-guy is waiting in the wings of this future as well; one Tyler Lockett. This then becomes a question, not of Doug’s talents but one of opportunity cost. What would Baldwin give you that couldn’t be replaced by the even faster and more scheme-flexible Lockett? Ultimately, not much beyond the fiery competitor thing, taking nothing away from either of them. Any long-term deal that provides Baldwin financial security in Seattle would have to take him into his 30’s, as he will turn 28 during the 2016 season.

Based on how Schneider likes to structure contracts, Baldwin would be hitting hardest on the salary cap right about the same time as potential 2nd contracts for Clark & Lockett are likely to be done. Additionally, there is the looming resignings of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas & Michael Bennett to what will be gigantic modern deals as well. So as a traditional 4-5% of cap WR for the Seahawks, ideally fitting in along side Lockett in years 2,3,4 of a new deal, how can the Seahawks keep Baldwin and maintain their ceiling of 8% total cap expenditure? Short answer is, they can’t. The numbers simply don’t work.

As a coach or GM, you have to expect success. Success from Doug’s position is a measure of the cap allocation, 8%. Just like the Seahawks OL, spending is low, because the positional value is just not paramount to overall success. If it were, more resources would be allocated to it. It’s simple economics that get ignored way too much by sports journalists (*whispers* because these people aren’t that good at math. Shhhh). But the money does not lie. Follow the money in the NFL and it will tell you exactly what is real, and what is fantasy. Yet, not all hope is lost. There is a glimmer here but it’s dependent on other factors and it’s not likely to lead to a deal with Baldwin being possible prior to next February. Let’s explore.

OK, so how does Baldwin become not only a piece of the future 8%, but a full 8% guy in his own right, along side other imminent Seahawk deals? While the money in the WR pool is likely to be earmarked for the ascension of All Pro Wide Receiver, Tyler Lockett, there is yet another pool of money that is tapped regularly by Schneider and Carroll for only the most special of circumstances. We know how highly they value difference-makers at the skill positions, and we’ve seen them time & time again go to that well to make deals for true superstars like Lynch, Harvin & Graham. This is grandma’s rainy day funds I like to call the Wildcard Cap Slot.

Doug Baldwin; NFL Offensive Player of The Year

John’s Offensive Wildcard could be worth up to 10% of the cap in any given year if the Harvin deal could be used a reliable indicator of the top end. It’s not inconceivable that Baldwin may be able to swim in the financial waters of a much bigger sea elsewhere, with a team like the Bears, Falcons, Redskins or Jets who spend incrementally more on the WR position as a whole, up to 20% of the total cap. Baldwin could be another team’s Harvin with a top-end value of $13M+ APY. In that event, he’s just gone. And good for him! We must wish him well. But with the Seahawks, and aligned with his inference regarding his self-valuation not being an insane number like that, he’s more likely to be in the $9M-$10M APY range. That is still a somewhat modest 6%-8% measure of the total cap, and gets more affordable as the deal goes on thanks to a growing salary cap picture in future years.

But is Doug Baldwin that league offensive MVP candidate that you reserve this unique chunk of change for? 1000+ Yards Receiving and 14 TDs suggest that, yes, he could be that guy. But any wildcard deal for Baldwin would almost certainly be precipitated by the exit of the current wildcard, Jimmy Graham, and, prevent any future splash moves by Pete & John in free agency for an additional game-changer down the road. You retain Baldwin, but you lose Jimmy and future cap flexibility for the offense.

An appropriate question when considering the opportunity cost of firing your silver bullet for Baldwin might be; Do the Seahawks already have all the weapons they need on offense? If the answer is yes, there’s no need for future cap flexibility in seeking that missing piece, when Pete has homegrown one in the form of Baldwin coming into his own. They invested heavily in the draft for Lockett and seem vigorously reinvested in returning to a run-based game plan. More evidence of this is their focus on OL & shoring-up the RB position in free agency and the draft this year as well.

It’s too soon to make a prediction regarding the outcome of the Baldwin contract situation. So many moving pieces, and in any event, his play on the field in 2016 will be the single most clarifying element. Doug has his future in his hands. We know he will make the most of every opportunity that comes his way, as he has in the past. He has vowed that his only goal this season is to be the best teammate he can possibly be. Let’s hope Russell Wilson returns the favor and just throws him the damn ball! Haha. Go Hawks!

15 Responses

  1. Nikolai

    Is a half season of production really worth it? I’d rather pay an OL where games are really won.

    • Josiah White

      I agree, Nikolai. Even if I love Doug, he’s likely to command what Fitz and Maclin are making — 11M a year. So unless we can keep him for what Edelman’s making — 5M a year — I think it’s wise to let him go, for cap reasons. And the same can be said for Jimmy G, who’s making 10M a year. They’re great players, and they’re worth that much money, but Seattle has more pressing needs along the O line.

      KC picked up Cleveland’s outstanding RT, Mitchell Schwartz, for the bargain price of only 6.6M a year. So even if the best OT’s are often making more than 10M a year, it’s possible to find an excellent one for much less.

      It’s not the lack of quality receivers which is holding Seattle back. Last year our WR’s were among the best in the NFL. If they’re a bit worse — only in the 70% range instead of the 90% range, will it really hurt us that much?

      We need to save money where it’s not so essential, and spend it where we desperately need it.

      • monkey

        While you may see “more obvious needs” on the offensive line, it appears the Seahawks do not agree with your assessment.
        They are obviously relying heavily on inexpensive options such as, Gilliam taking over at LT, and the two free agents they signed, as well as young guys they’ve drafted who are still on inexpensive rookie contracts.
        I think that should give us reason to hope they may yet bring back Baldwin actually. The fact they are intentionally being cheap with their O-Line, (whether you or I think that’s good strategy or not), should ultimately be good for guys like Baldwin, who, as Schneider said are, “Heartbeat guys”. They could very well use some of that money saved from not overpaying for a LT (like most of the league does) on a “heartbeat player”.
        We shall see.
        I myself am not quite 100% convinced that the strategy they’re employing with their O-Line is going to work yet, but I’m moving that direction. I do know that it SHOULD help to keep the core group of guys, (whoever the front office determines that to be) together just a little bit longer though.
        Now, the only question is if, “heartbeat player” is the same thing as “core player”. We shall see.

    • pkgoode

      Seattle is committed to building an OL on the cheap. That isn’t going to change, regardless of their valuation of Doug Baldwin.

      BTW, it’s more than a half season: DB has been the team’s best receiver since he was a rookie. This comes down to how much the team wants to invest in the position v. DB’s assessment of his market value.

      • WDFORD

        Yes, but it would be hard for his agent to argue for $9M per year based on his service time prior to the last half of 2015. I think we can all agree on that.

  2. TatupuTime

    Great article – thanks!

    I have a lot of trouble picturing Doug moving on. I’m actually surprised that he hasn’t been extended already. He’s the second most important guy on the offensive side of the ball and its not even close for me. There are a lot of leaders on the defensive side of the ball. On the offensive side? Its RW and Doug. RW needs someone to get in his face once in awhile and on this team that’s Doug. No younger player or outside guy is going to be able to bring that if Doug leaves.

    Pete values efficiency and ball control. Doug’s a big reason you can control the ball on an 8 minute drive. RW doesn’t seem comfortable throwing open a big physical receiver, he does seem comfortable hitting open receivers – like Doug who gets open on elite route running.

    I get the money thing, but Lockett is two years away from getting extended. He is three years away from a big cap hit. That’s if he stays healthy and continues to deliver. Jimmy Graham? Amazing offensive weapon. If he’s on this team with a cap hit of $9M in 2017 and Doug is gone? That’s batshit crazy.

    I agree with everything you wrote above, and obviously the Seahawks appear willing to let it play out. I was fine with the Tate decision, I thought they should have moved on from Marshawn a year ago. Kam is my favourite Seahawk of this era, but if they decide to part ways after this year it would make sense to me. It would surprise me if this was Black Santa’s last year in Seattle, but its not crazy talk. To me Doug is one of the 6 guys on the team that needs to be there for the next 4 years.

    I agree with everything you wrote above, and obviously the Seahawks appear willing to let it play out. The one thing working in their favour is that I don’t think the market is ever going to pay him what he’s worth. The NFL (wrongly) cares about pedigree and he is a small, UDFA without elite speed.

    There is lots of time for it to play out still, but count me as pretty disappointed if this is his last year in Seattle

    • monkey

      I tend to agree with you about the importance of Doug on this offense.
      It’s clear, and has been from day one, that Russell and Doug have really gotten onto the same page. That is not something easily replaced.
      I will say though, that there is a player on this team, who has spent much of this last off season, (and the last half of last season) attached to Wilson’s hip, so to speak, and has been working VERY hard with Wilson on developing that same kind of oneness.
      Tyler Lockett.
      That guy could not only replace, but upgrade significantly, everything that Doug does. They are similar in stature, similar in ability and smarts, similar in attention to detail, similar ability to get open in scramble drills, and so many more ways, and yet Lockett is FASTER.
      Lockett, I truly believe, is soon going to surpass Doug as the best WR on this team. Even while Doug himself, is breaking out, having a 14 touchdown year, and being just awesome, Lockett was busy having himself an amazing rookie year, (especially for a guy who was drafted primarily for his kick return ability) , the kind we Seahawks fans rarely see from our WR’s on a run first team.
      I think this year Lockett will very likely become either 1A or 1B along with Baldwin as the Seahawks best WR, and by next year, he’ll have taken the role completely.
      If that happens it would be a lot easier to justify letting Doug walk, no matter how much I like the guy, and think he’s basically the Seahawks own version of Steve Smith.
      Lockett is just SO QUICKLY becoming a phenom. He can play in the slot or out wide, and his routes are so polished that it’s hard to remember that he was just a rookie last year. His ability to get off the line though…there’s only a handful of WR’s in the entire NFL with that ability…actually Baldwin is one of them.
      Either way this works, whether we keep Doug or not, I absoluerly believe that Lockett is going to be a star.

      • Brenda

        But will Lockett be as durable? Pay Doug!!!!

  3. Scraps

    This is an excellent piece. I am a big Baldwin fan since his first season. I don’t want him gone. He’s better than Tate. But you’ve presented a argument that makes sense that I had better get used to Baldwin leaving…. sigh.

  4. Greenhawk

    Whatever happened to Brian? Haven’t seen an article from him in a while.

  5. Yu-Shan

    I imagine hoping to keep ADB for $5M will be a pipe dream. After all, we just signed Kearse to a 3 years, $13.5M contract ($4.5M/yr). Golden Tate signed $31M/5yr when he was a much less accomplished WR than Doug. Doug is way better & more valuable to the team than both.

    Here’s a possible scenario that might make sense for Doug and for the team:
    4 years, $42M ($10.5M/yr) with $15M guaranteed

    For Doug, he can claim legit #1 WR money. Comp: Jeremy Maclin signed his 5yr $55M deal last year at 27, with $22.5M guaranteed. Doug’s also 27.

    Now many fans will scream that’s way too rich and we should let Doug go. But let’s dig a little deeper:
    2016: $3M base, $3M bonus, $6M cap hit
    2017: $6M base, $3M bonus, $9M cap
    2018: $9M base, $3M bonus, $12M cap
    2019: $12M base, $3M bonus, $15M cap

    He’s already due $6M+ in 2016, so it’s a wash cap-wise for 2016. But for Doug, he gets to take home $6M extra in 2016 as an incentive to sign and forgo FA.

    Realistically, it’s really a 2yr, 21M deal, replacing his the $6M remaining on his 2016 contract. If he performs at least similarly as he did last year (in effectiveness, not necessarily in stats), he’s worth $10.5 per. You’re unlikely to find a comparable replacement at this rate. And with his work ethics (and the underrated ability to stay healthy), he might even outplay the new contract after the first 2 years (still only 29).

    Year 3 (2018) is when it gets tricky, and it’s when it starts to tilt in the team’s favor. Final year is unlikely earned anyway unless he sets the league on fire, stays healthy and stay in peak athletic shape.

    Year 3 is also when Lockett can sign his contract extension. So there’s a hedge. If the team feels Tyler can take over the #1 spot, and the younger draft choices & UDFAs are developing nicely, Doug could be cut for just $3M dead money in 2018. But if he continues to outperform, Jimmy Graham’s contract runs out after 2017. Either way the team has options.

    Thoughts? I’m not a capologist, just another 12 trying to make sense of it from both sides. Given the team’s likelihood to keep him in 2017, they might even drive up the guarantee closer to $21M (and closer to Maclin’s deal), so there’s some wiggle room there.

  6. pkgoode

    “he’s walked a very thin line on the heels of the Percy Harvin rebellion.”

    You’re comparing DB to Percy Harvin? Aside from some sideline camera angles, what is the actual evidence for this?

    • WDFORD

      Comparing the two and likening the two are different things. I’m not really doing either here. Just stating that there may be less tolerance from the coaches and front office for being outspoken and confronting teammates in the wake of Percy Harvin being such an obvious jerk, and Marshawn also publicly challenging playcalls and decision-making. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify that.

  7. Scot

    I think they pay Doug more than Seahawks sensible money because I’m not sure I agree with the premise that the Seahawks are going to give up the magic of the new passing game in favor of using the new stable of running backs. The reason we were on fire the last half of the season is because of the passing. I’d be surprised if rushing percentage goes up more than a shadow this season given the passing success and crazy talent we have at the receiver position.

    • WDFORD

      Doug agrees with you. He asked me rhetorically, “But what happened when there was no Jimmy or Lynch?” He doesn’t feel he needs others to make opportunities for the passing game or set him up. He’d be perfectly happy if it was the Russell & Doug Show each Sunday. LOL And who could argue? They were on fire when the divas got the hell out of the way. He might be right! Cheers

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