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?
I’m not even a Seahawks fan and @DougBaldwinJr you are my favorite receiver #1 in my book
— Matthew Cantu (@MatthewCantu22) May 19, 2016
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…”
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.
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.
Off season gains. Shhhh just wait on it 😎 pic.twitter.com/2G9E8keGJL
— Garry Gilliam Jr. (@Garry_Gilliam) April 1, 2016
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.
@jeromeSwatson my goal this year is to be the best teammate I’ve ever been.
— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) May 18, 2016
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!