The least-discussed contract impasse with the Seahawks is arguably the most important one. John Schneider is entering the final year of his deal, and there has barely been a peep about it. One would hope that would change before training camp begins a week from Saturday. Pete Carroll remains unsigned beyond this year as well. It occurs to me that both men may be holding off on signing a new deal until others are taken care of. Let me explain.
Schneider is a selfless leader
John Clayton, and more recently, former GM Mark Dominik on the Brock & Salk radio show, have talked about Schneider “resetting” the market for general managers. Dominik threw out a five-year, $25M contract as an appropriate number for Schneider to be looking for. That would make him the highest paid GM in the game. Only 45, and with arguably the NFL’s best roster, that compensation is more than justified. If it were up to me, the team would lock him up for ten years.
There is a chance that Paul Allen and crew are playing hardball with Schneider, as they have with some Trail Blazers and Seahawks front office employees in the past. More likely, they are willing to reward Schneider with the league’s top deal. If that’s the case, what could be holding things up?
There are 16 men who work for Schneider in the Player Personnel department for the Seahawks, led by Co-Directors, Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner. It would come as no surprise if Schneider is making raises for his personnel department a prerequisite to him signing his own new deal.
After doing a bit of research, I found an article with estimates for what different positions in the personnel department make in an NFL front office. It talks about spending commensurate with a corporate Research & Development department. The standard there is to spend about 15% of revenue on R&D. These estimates were made back in 2011, so you could assume some inflation, and not all NFL front offices are built or pay the same way, but these seemed to be a reasonable place to start. I did some double-checking on salary websites like Glassdoor, and they appeared to be in the range of reality.
Typical NFL Front Office Salaries & Positions
Director of Player Personnel: $455,000
Director of college scouting: $275,000
Pro Personnel Director: $250,000
Assistant to Pro director: $95,000
7 area scouts: $95,000 per scout on average. Total: $665,000
Miscellaneous assistant: $45,000
Total yearly salaries: $1,835,000
Now, let’s look at the Seahawks staff, and apply these estimates:
If Schneider wants his whole department to be rewarded when he does, the question becomes how much? You can see in the table above that a 25% raise would only be an additional $600K per year, assuming these salary estimates are somewhat accurate. That does not seem like a number that would hold up negotiations, but it is hard to say. The top-paid GM in football is said to make $3.75M per year, per Clayton. A half-million dollar figure is pretty significant in context. Schneider is not likely to accept $600K less in salary to make up the difference, so something would have to give.
There is not much information about what Schneider’s current salary is, but if he were to reach the $5M/year number that Dominik threw out there, it could mean as much as a 100% raise. If he wanted his department to get a similar boost, you would be talking about another $2.5M dollars, or thereabouts. Many GMs in the league don’t make that much money, so it would be the equivalent of the Seahawks hiring a second GM in terms of cost. You can be sure there would be serious pushback if that was the case.
Nobody has said giving raises to his department is holding up negotiations. Knowing Schneider, though, it would almost be more surprising if he was not negotiating on behalf of his guys than vice versa. He does not thrive in the spotlight. He is a scout at heart, and remembers vividly the days when he was grinding on the road for the Packers. The idea of standing up in front of the press and being lauded for getting a huge raise without being able to talk about the raise given to his staff almost certainly would not sit well with Schneider and his values. There is also the pragmatic side to this, which includes other teams interviewing Kirchner twice in the past two years for GM positions. A little bump never hurt.
Carroll has all the leverage
Take this thought experiment a step further. Carroll has been cagey about discussing his contract situation thus far. What if he has made it clear that he will not enter into negotiations until Schneider is secured?
Carroll has absolute confidence in his ability to get whatever salary number he wants from team’s on the open market. He also is not particularly motivated by the money and is completely comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Heading into the season without a new contract would not bother him one bit. You can bet it would have the Seahawks brass uncomfortable.
That gives him a lot of leverage. Most people would use that to drive up their compensation. Carroll could very well be using it to drive up Schneider’s. Coaches have been relatively well compensated in the NFL. Carroll is rumored to make around $9M per year. Schneider makes nowhere near that, and won’t, even after a big raise.
Carroll would want to ensure he would be working with his bosom buddy and partner in draft larceny before he agrees to stick around. It makes sense that he would apply whatever influence he has to get Schneider on board.
Something to watch this week
The last contract extension Carroll signed was in April of 2014. It is now late July, and camp is right around the corner. Do not be surprised if news breaks shortly that Schneider has signed a new deal, followed closely by news that Carroll has as well. It may be that both men sign at the same time. Neither has wanted to discuss their contract situations, even after signing, in the past.
This deserves a moment of celebration if, and when, it happens.